As Pam points out, the revelations in CNN anchor Don Lemon’s new book Transparent aren’t significant just because a major news anchor is coming out — though that is huge in and of itself and has the potential to help a lot of people — but also because he’s a gay black man, because “it will generate conversations that have only recently been broached about the double minority status of being gay and a person of color.” From The New York Times:
“People are going to say: ‘Oh, he was molested as a kid and now he is coming out.’ I get it,” he said.
Few national television news anchors or hosts have publicly acknowledged being gay. Rachel Maddow is perhaps the best known. Her MSNBC colleague, Thomas Roberts, has also come out as gay.
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.”
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.
That’s what it takes to break down those walls, though. The more that people like Don speak up and tell their stories, the more the “taboo” is broken, and ultimately, the more people it helps. Incidentally, Don is dedicating his book in honor of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide last fall after being bullied. So congratulations and a big thank you go out to Don Lemon, that he may be an inspiration to gay kids who feel alone, and especially to African-American gay kids. Hell, living with courage and integrity is a lesson for everyone.
This of course broke just after news came out that high ranking NBA exec Phil Welts had come out, breaking another barrier in another world where too few have been broken up to this point.
I’m sure some wingnuts will react to this, so when they do, I’ll share them if they’re funny.
[photo via Getty Images]