When Anderson Cooper announced on Monday that he was in fact a gay man, and proud of it, he was showered with supportive tweets. But the CNN anchor didn't exactly out himself in the most hostile industry. There are plenty of openly gay and lesbian cable stars, from political commentator Rachel Maddow and talk-show host Suze Orman to CNN newscaster Don Lemon.
Other sectors aren't so accepting, have few openly gay employees, and are frequently mired in discrimination suits. This isn't just bad news for gay workers, but their employers too. Closeted employees are 73 percent more likely to say they'll leave their company in the next three years, according to a 2011 study by The Center for Work-Life Policy. Almost half of college-educated professionals aren't open about their sexual orientation at work, and only a third of closeted employees said they were satisfied with their careers, compared to two-thirds of their openly gay co-workers.
Still, there have been leaps of progress over the past 15 years. Until last September, gay men and women couldn't openly serve in the military by law. And last month, gay troops sipped champagne with their commander-in-chief at the Pentagon's first gay pride reception. But there are a handful of industries that lag behind the rest. Reporting suggests these five are among the worst offenders:
5 Hardest Industries To Come Out In
5 Industries Still Hostile To Gay Workers
In July 2012, U.S. Olympic soccer star Megan Rapinoe came out publicly as gay (she was already out to her family and teammates). In doing so, she joined a crowded club. There are plenty of openly lesbian sportswomen, but distinctly fewer openly gay male athletes, especially in the biggest money-making sports: football, basketball and baseball.
"The climate is much different for men," Rapinoe told USA Today. "That stigma is only going to be broken when people come out and see that there is a positive response."
Wade Davis chipped away at the stigma in June 2012, when he became the fourth former NFL player to come out of the closet. No NFL player has ever admitted to being gay while still playing the game. "The NFL has a reputation," retired lineman Roy Simmons told The New York Times in 2002, "and it's not even a verbal thing -- it's just kind of known. You are gladiators; you are male; you kick butt."
"You can be a wife-beater, do drugs, get in a car wreck, and the team will take care of you," said Butch Woolfolk, a former running back who played with Simmons. "But if you're gay, it's like the military: Don't ask, don't tell."
In April 2012, the Boy Scouts of America told Jennifer Tyrrell that she would no longer be needed as a troop leader, or a member at all. She would no longer take her scouts to a soup kitchen or help them collect canned food. She would no longer teach them the values of compassion, citizenship and respect. She didn't meet the Boy Scouts' "high standards," they said. She was raising her four children with another woman.
The Boy Scouts of America's policy against openly gay leaders and youths has attracted a lot of attention recently. Tyrrell's Change.org petition garnered over 300,000 signatures. Both President Obama and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney have urged the 3.7 million-strong organization to change its ways. Even actor Chuck Norris chimed in, chastising the president for his "pro-gay Boy Scouts of America" agenda.
Although the Boy Scouts recently proposed allowing gay youths to join as members, it doesn't plan on changing a ban on gay adults.
Industries that are hit frequently by sex discrimination lawsuits often aren't the best places for gay men and women either. Macho cultures tend to work that way. And there are few cultures as manly as Wall Street.
In the mid-1990s, trader Walter Shubert tried to hide his sexual identity. "I was going through the motions and as unhappy as you could possibly be," he told High Brow magazine. "My spirit had died." When he finally came out to his sister as gay, she put him in touch with a therapist. "I'm the only gay man on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange," Shubert told him.
Of course, that wasn't true. Joe Daniel, a vice president at Dresdner Bank, actually sued his employer for $75 million in 1998 after he came out -- and was fired in a "company-wide downsize" in which he reputedly was the only victim. The outcome of the suit is confidential, but its ripples spread, slowly making the financial world more aware and welcoming of the gay men and women in its midst. But it still hasn't totally reformed from what it was in the '90s, when "there was no way to build a career on the trading floor as an openly gay man," as Shubert put it. "It was a locker-room environment. [Gay] jokes were rampant."
Appeal is the greatest asset of a leading man or lady, and the bigger it is, the higher the box office. That's why the movie-making machinery is still a little nervous about casting an openly gay person in a major role. Big chunks of America might boycott the film, and teen girls might be less likely to buy posters of the hunky star if they know that he doesn't have a thing for girls at all.
"There are no openly gay stars in Hollywood, so someone is telling them to shut up," Ian McKellen told Popeater. "In Hollywood," film industry "spin doc" Howard Bragman told the LA Weekly, "most publicists keep their clients in the closet. And I'm the guy people tend to come to when they want to come out of the closet."
Bragman helped "Bewitched" star Dick Sargent come out, as well as "Party of Five" actor Mitchell Anderson. But there are still no A-listers on the level of a Will Smith or Brad Pitt willing to take the plunge. Although rumors, of course, are rampant. And lore has it that such cinema icons as Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, had surreptitious same-sex liaisons.
In the 1960s, police would regularly raid gay bars, arrest the patrons, and out them publicly in local newspapers. Given this history, it's little surprise that many police forces across the country remain hostile to sexual minorities.
In March 2010, three officers sued a North Carolina police department, claiming that it had a pervasively homophobic work environment presided over by a chief who retaliated against those who spoke out. "There's just a culture of permissiveness," said plaintiff Darin DeFreece. "If somebody has an anti-gay ideology, they can and will say things that are really offensive, and they are never called on it."
In June 2011, Andrew Johnson, who worked at a women's correctional institute in Chino, Calif., was denied a request to march in the annual L.A. Pride Parade in West Hollywood. He was told that it would bring "discredit" to the department, he claimed. But once noted lawyer Gloria Allred took up his cause, the department quickly relented.
And as recently as March 2012, an officer with the St. Cloud, Minn., police department received a $73,000 settlement after he claimed that he was discriminated against when he asked to work a booth at a local gay pride festival.
Despite these lawsuits, many police forces are profoundly tolerant, with their own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations. And while some may discourage members from participating in pride parades, some march en masse.