Anderson Cooper was 45 years old when he came out publicly in 2012, but this week, a CNN viewer wanted to know what age the newsman was when he first realized he was gay and accepted it for himself.
In his answer, Cooper explained that those were two very different things that happened at very different ages.
“I was probably ... I don’t know ... 7, when I kind of realized,” he explained on Monday’s episode of “Full Circle.” “I’m not sure I knew the word ‘gay’ at the time, but I realized something was up, something was different. It was probably, yeah, 6 or 7.”
As he grew older, he understood more about what it meant and even opened up to friends in high school about his sexual orientation. But ultimately, he said he “struggled” with it as a teen.
Cooper discovered there were things he simply couldn’t do, like join the military at a time when homosexuality was considered grounds for discharge or travel abroad to areas where it remained illegal and often dangerous to be gay. And that wasn’t all.
"It wasn't what I envisioned for my life," he said. "I imagined a family and getting married and all those things, which weren't possible at the time."
But he began to refocus his vision of the future after attending Yale University.
“I think I really, truly accepted it — and just kind of, really not just accepted it but fully embraced it and came around to really loving the fact that I was gay — would probably be right after college," the now-53-year-old said, adding that it was “about a year after college (when) I realized, 'I don't want to waste any more time worrying about this' and sort of wishing I was some other way.”
And that personal sense of acceptance changed everything for him.
"I think being gay is one of the great blessings of my life,” he continued. “And it's made me a better person; it's made me a better reporter. When you grow up feeling that you’re on the outside of things, you’re kind of an observer of things or not necessarily in the mainstream, you see society from a slightly different view. And I think that can be very valuable and can impact how you treat other people and how you see things. It's enabled me to love the people that I've loved and have the life that I've had. So I'm very blessed."
As society began to catch up with that sense of acceptance, many of the things he once thought of as impossible became reality in his life — like starting a family of his own.
In April of last year, he welcomed his son, Wyatt, to the world via surrogate.
“When I was 12 years old and I knew I was gay and thought about my life, it always upset me, because I thought, ‘I will never be able to have a kid,’” Cooper told People magazine shortly after Wyatt’s birth. “This is a dream come true.”