New York City’s annual Gay Pride Parade Saturday is a chance for the LGBT community to come together and celebrate. For Bravo’s Andy Cohen, 48, it’s a moment to reflect on what it was like coming out to his family and friends 26 years ago.
“It’s hard to believe I was ever in the closet, nobody knew,” Cohen told CNN at Ford’s Escape the Room NY experience at Moynihan Station, which is open to the public through June 26. “I went abroad to London and that’s when I came out. I started to say to people, ‘I’m gay,’ and they were strangers … it was very freeing. When I came back to St. Louis over break I told my parents.”
Cohen, who was 22 when he told his family he was gay, says that he kept it a secret because he was scared of not being accepted. “There’s probably no gay person that you could ever talk to who wasn’t familiar with people using gay slurs,” Cohen said. “It happened to me all the time, which is why I was closeted until I was 22. I didn’t think my friends would accept me because I heard them speaking in a certain way.”
Cohen says that unlike many individuals who are shunned by their family and friends, his parents couldn’t have been more understanding. “They were so wonderful. My mom immediately got involved with this AIDS hospice in St. Louis,” he said. “They were kind of the dream parents to come out to. But so many people aren’t so lucky, and still today there are families who turn their kids away, and kids who don’t feel safe who are near suicidal about not being accepted.”
When asked his reaction to the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando this month, Cohen said it strengthened his commitment to fight for gun control. “Orlando hit very close to home for me. I go to gay bars, they are a place where we have a sense of community that we don’t necessarily have elsewhere.”
The host of “Watch What Happens Live” reveals he plans to have children someday and teach them the importance of acceptance. “I have thought about having children, it’s just important to teach your kids that we are all people. Everybody has their own battles that they are fighting. And that we have to be kind to everybody. That is something that my parents taught me … everybody has their own stuff they are dealing with, and we have to find a way to be accepting and walk for a minute in their shoes.”