Don Lemon prepares to briefly become the story.
Rumors began swirling late last week that a major media personality would be coming out this week with the help of specialist Howard Bragman. And tonight comes news that CNN’s Don Lemon has come out as gay and a survivor of abuse in his new book Transparent. But he never set out to write that story. From The New York Times:
Mr. Lemon said he had been on a panel a couple of years ago called “The Black Man in the Age of Obama,” and was approached afterward by a publisher’s representative about writing an inspirational book.
“It was supposed to be a little pamphlet,” he said. “You know: say your prayers; have a good, hearty handshake; say good morning to your boss.”
But as he began to write, he came to realize that he could not hold back the truth of who he was. He started to pour out the details of his personal life. How he had grown up not knowing his father, how he had suffered abuse by someone close to him.
The publisher initially hesitated about a book with a completely different tone than they had expected. But once they read it, they were encouraging. They even gave him the opportunity to remove some of the more personal passages, but he declined.
Don Lemon now joins a growing list of out newscasters. On cable news you have Rachel Maddow and Thomas Roberts as the most prominent. And there are others. But Lemon recognizes the journey for each person is personal.
I think it would be great if everybody could be out. But it’s such a personal choice. People have to do it at their own speed. I respect that. I do have to say that the more people who come out, the better it is for everyone, certainly for the Tyler Clementis of the world.
Lemon has never been “in” precisely – he’s been out to friends and colleagues for years. But coming out publicly carries risks, both emotional and complex. Says Lemon:
It’s quite different for an African-American male. 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. I guess this makes me a double minority now.
Lemon says that he has the support of CNN, and is currently booked as a guest CNN Newsroom Monday, and will also appear on the Joy Behar Show on HLN.
As is tradition from me, let me say “Welcome to the gayborhood. We’re glad to have you.”
Editor’s update: We just received this statement from Don Lemon via Ascot Media, the public relations firm representing Don Lemon:
“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