The CNN journalist appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Thursday for the first time in 10 years, prompting DeGeneres to note that the last time she interviewed him, he hadn't yet publicly come out as a gay man.
"I came out in high school to my friends and my family and stuff, and was open at work. But yes, in a public way, I was not. I hadn't made a statement about it. I never said I wasn't gay or tried to hide it or pretend that [I was] anything else. I just... didn't want to talk about it," Cooper explained.
"But it got to a point in my life where... by not saying something, that seemed like I was indicating that I was somehow ashamed of something or not happy being gay," he continued. "And the complete opposite has always been the case."
Cooper came out in July 2012, describing how "happy, comfortable with myself, and proud" he was.
"I consider it, along with [my son] Wyatt, one of the great blessings of my life to be gay," he told DeGeneres in Thursday's interview. "So, even though I'm kind of painfully shy, an introvert and stuff, I thought, 'OK, well, I want to say something.' And so I did, and I couldn't be happier."
"Even though you think you're out, and even though you think everybody knows and it doesn't matter, it does matter, and it makes a difference," Cooper noted. "And I think it's important for me to have said the word gay, that I am gay, and I'm proud of it. It's fantastic."
"It's important for people too see somebody and to be represented," DeGeneres added. "So that's, to me, the reason to do it."
During the interview, Cooper also recalled seeing DeGeneres speak out at an event in Los Angeles in the '90s. She came out publicly in 1997. "I just felt so proud of you, and I still to this day do, when I see all you've achieved," Cooper said.
"I wish I had done it sooner. It's made things more difficult where I work and where I travel. I travel to a lot of countries where it's illegal and they kill people because of it, or jail them, so that's something I have to take into consideration, but I wouldn't change it for the world," he continued, adding that he's glad that as a CNN journalist, his message is seen "around the world."
"I'm proud of you, I'm happy for you, and it is important," DeGeneres told Cooper.