By Patrick Gomez
June 05, 2019 at 03:00 PM EDT
Carter Smith for EW

In Entertainment Weekly‘s 2019 LGBTQ special issue, our cover stars — Neil Patrick Harris, Ruby Rose, Janet Mock, Anderson Cooper, Wilson Cruz, and Melissa Etheridge — share their coming out stories, and so much more.

Below is CNN anchor Cooper’s story of coming out the first time, having to come out again later as a public figure, and the funny reaction he got from his mother, author/fashion designer/heiress Gloria Vanderbilt.

“I came out in high school to my friends. I was in love with this guy and I was so desperate, I just asked all my friends how I could get him. And I sort of always felt like I was out, I had boyfriends, I’d go dancing, I’d go to bars and stuff. But reporters didn’t really talk about their personal lives. And then, with Twitter and the internet, suddenly you could access something about anybody. And the expectation became, ‘You’re a public person, you should be public.’ And in the world of journalism, that was kind of still… I don’t know. It was a difficult thing to navigate.

“I was traveling in the Middle East a lot. I spent most of my early years in war zones. And I’d gone to a lot of countries where it’s illegal and where, at the time, I had no security. I was by myself in Somalia and all these places and it was just easier not to say something. But I reached a point where, by not saying something, I realized I was saying something. Oftentimes you hear, ‘Well why should I have to come out? I’m open in my private life. I’m not hiding anything. I never pretended.’ But it does make a difference.

Anderson Cooper and mom Gloria Vanderbilt
Jenny Anderson/WireImage

“So, I thought about it a long time. I spent a lot of time writing out an explanation, a letter. And I decided not to try to make a big deal about it at the time. I just published it on a website of a friend of mine, Andrew Sullivan, and that was it. It was actually funny because I was in Africa shooting something when it was published and I didn’t realize I was in a place that had absolutely no cell phone service for three days. But as soon as I got to Johannesburg, my phone lit up. And I’d realized I’d forgotten to tell my mom I was making this announcement. I’d come out to her a long time ago, but she was like, ‘Oh, you could’ve given me a heads up!'”

Celebrate 50 years of gay pride with Entertainment Weekly’s special LGBTQ double issue, on stands Friday. You can buy all six covers now, or purchase your individual favorites featuring Anderson Cooper, Wilson Cruz, Melissa Etheridge, Neil Patrick Harris, Janet Mock, and Ruby Rose. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW. And if you want to get involved in LGBTQ causes, donate to The Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, a non-profit that seeks to eliminate the social intolerance affecting members of the LGBTQ community.

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