UPDATE: Don’s official statement has been added to this post.
This is awesome news and it’s another milestone reached as CNN’s Don Lemon, puts not only his sexual orientation on the record, but bravely navigates the third-rail territories of colorism and sexual molestation in his new book Transparent, which officially drops on June 16.
The New York Times has a piece, “Gay CNN Anchor Sees Risk in Book,” that breaks the news about the 45-year-old reporter’s decision to go public.
[H]ehas no illusions about what he is getting himself into with the book he has written about his career – and life. In “Transparent,” Mr. Lemon has a lot to say about reporting for television and about journalism in general. But he knows enough about news to recognize what will get this book noticed.
Mr. Lemon has not made a secret of his sexual orientation in his work life; many of his CNN co-workers and managers have long been aware that he is gay. But he still acknowledged that going public in his book carries certain risks.
“I’m scared,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m talking about something that people might shun me for, ostracize me for.”
Let me be one to say it loud and clear – we have your back, Don. Coming out is a life-changing event, be it to yourself, those close to your or to the public at large. You’ll never know how many young black gay or lesbian people you are giving the strength to do the same. It’s one step at a time, and all need to bolster themselves for the possible consequences — good and bad. But no one ever regrets coming out in the end.
As a gay black men, Don Lemon’s coming out is particularly powerful — it will generate conversations that have only recently been broached about the double minority status of being gay and a person of color:
Even beyond whatever effect his revelation might have on his television career, Mr. Lemon said he recognized this step carried special risk for him as a black man.
“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” he said. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.” He said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women.
UPDATE: Don’s official statement…
“Today I chose to step out on faith and begin openly living my own truth. And let me say right up front that I hope many of you will be inspired to do the same thing in your daily lives. Some of the things I’ve chosen to reveal in my book Transparent were very difficult to share with even those closest to me.
There was a time when I was terrified of revealing these things to the person I love most in this world – my own mother. But when I finally mustered the courage to tell her that I had been molested as a child and that I was born gay, my life began to change in positive ways that I never imagined possible. Yet I still chose to keep those secrets hidden from the world. I, like most gay people, lived a life of fear. Fear that if some employers, co-workers, friends, neighbors and family members learned of my sexuality, I would be shunned, mocked and ostracized. It is a burden that millions of people carry with them every single day. And sadly, while the mockery and ostracizing are realized by millions of people every day, I truly believe it doesn’t have to happen and that’s why I feel compelled to share what I’ve written in Transparent.
As a journalist I believe that part of my mission is to shed light onto dark places. So, the disclosure of this information does not inhibit in any way my ability to be the professional, fair and objective journalist I have always been.
My book is dedicated to the memory of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death from a bridge after his dorm mates streamed his private business over the Internet for the world to see. Tyler might still be with us today if more gay men and women had chosen to live proudly and openly. It is also dedicated to the millions of young, gay people who believe they are alone when dealing with their own sexual identities. You are not alone! There are people, like me and many others, who are thriving in their personal and professional lives and although we sometimes have a hard time with it ourselves, we are here to show you by example that you too can overcome any obstacle as long as you stay strong and, most of all, stay alive.”
With love and honesty,
May 16, 2011
NOTE : Don Lemon will be on The Michelangelo Signorile Show on Tuesday. I can’t wait to hear what Don has to say on not only coming out, but the phenomenon of colorism, something I’ve blogged about for quite some time. Milestone “alsos” (in the past week!):
* Milestone: NBA top exec comes out – president and chief executive of the Phoenix Suns Rick Welts
* Tammy Baldwin may run for retiring Sen. Herb Kohl’s seat
* Guest column by Irene Monroe: All about Chaz
* NY Rangers winger Sean Avery supports marriage equality – and what it means
* Presbyterian Church To Allow Gay And Lesbian Ordination / Rev. Dr. Janet Edwards: What Today’s Vote Means for the ChurchFYI, the description of Transparent from Amazon:
In this unique memoir, Primetime CNN anchor Don Lemon takes readers behind the scenes of journalism, detailing his own struggle to become one of the most prominent African American men in television news-and inside some of the biggest stories of our times.
Never one to stop at the surface of the story, Lemon digs deep, exposing his own history with wealth and lack, with family secrets and painful revelations–and explains how those painful early experiences shaped his ambitions and gave him the tools of empathy and fearlessness that he brings to his work. Then Lemon turns the same searing honesty on the news industry itself, taking the reader behind the scenes of September 11, 2001, the DC Snipers, the epidemic of AIDS in Africa, Hurricane Katrina, the election of Barack Obama, and the death of Michael Jackson among other events.
With his clear and compelling storytelling and the rich detail of an Emmy-winning journalist, Lemon reveals his own painful journey from a little boy who dreamed of broadcasting in segregated Baton Rouge in the early 70s, to his current perch at CNN in a fascinating and compelling look at the world of television news and his own experiences reporting in it.