'I think being gay is one of the great blessings of my life,' the CNN host said

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Anderson Cooper
| Credit: Robin Marchant/Getty

Anderson Cooper is opening up about when he realized he was gay — and when he "really, truly accepted it."

Answering viewer questions on CNN's Full Circle Monday, Cooper, 53, said that he first knew "something was up" around the age of 7. 

"I mean, I was probably, I don't know, 7, when I kind of realized — I'm not sure I knew the word 'gay' at the time, but I realized something was up. Something was different," he said, responding to someone who asked him how he learned to accept being gay and how old he was when he did. 

The news anchor said that while he had told people in high school, it wasn't until after college that he "came around to really loving the fact that I was gay."

"I think I really, truly accepted it — and not just accepted it, but fully embraced it and you know, came around to really loving the fact that I was gay — would probably be right after college," he said. 

Anderson Cooper and Wyatt
Anderson Cooper and son Wyatt
| Credit: Melanie Acevedo

"You know, I kind of struggled in my teenage years, certainly, but even a little in college," the father of one continued, explaining that "a lot of the things I wanted to do at the time, you couldn't be gay."

Cooper said he was interested in joining the military, but couldn't, and felt limited in places he could travel for "safety reasons."

"It felt like there were a lot of limitations on it, and it wasn't what I envisioned for my life," he said. "Or, I imagined a family and getting married. All those things which weren't possible at the time." 

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"So it took me a while to kind of fully embrace it," Cooper continued. "But then at a certain point, I think about a year out of college, I thought, I don't want to waste any more time worrying about this and sort of wishing I was some other way." 

"And I wanna embrace who I am, and as I've said before, I think being gay is one of the great blessings of my life," he said, adding that his perspective has "made me a better person, and it's made me a better reporter."

"Especially when you grow up, kind of feeling like you're on the outside of things, and 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. So yeah, 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."

Cooper came out publicly in 2012, saying in a statement at the time that he "couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud." In 2016, the journalist was the first out gay man to moderate a presidential debate

Cooper welcomed his first child, son Wyatt Morgan, in April of last year, and said last month that being a dad is "truly the greatest thing ever."

"I wish I had done it sooner," he said of parenthood, speaking on an episode of SiriusXM's Quarantined with Bruce.

"When I was 12 years old and 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 said in June for PEOPLE's first-ever Pride issue. "This is a dream come true."

Cooper co-parents Wyatt with his former partner Benjamin Maisani.