This morning CNN anchor Don Lemon came out of the closet publicly. In an odd turn of events, Don and I have a connection. I was one of his first Facebook friends back when he actually used the site personally (and we still are).
I sent Don a message about coming out a couple of years ago and he sent me back a very sweet e-mail that asked me not to out him (I hadn't considered it; I was just asking if he was gay) and then told me a little bit about his background including his stint as a somewhat-out anchorman for a Chicago news station before joining CNN and retreating back into the closet. He described it as "the best professional and worst personal decision ever."
Don has a book coming out in June, Transparent, that focuses on racism (both inside and out of the black community), homophobia and what it means to be a black gay man, and his sexual abuse at the hands of a clergy member. He decided to write the book after the recent rash of LGBT youth suicides and ongoing reports about sexual abuse in the black church.
While you can read a slew of news reports about it today, Don sent me a quick note that he asked me to share with our readers today now that he can finally be honest and open about the answer to that message I sent so many years ago. Notice that he doesn't stoop to using the catchphrase "It Gets Better;" instead, he uses what I suggested was more honest and helpful, "You are not alone."
After the jump is my friend Don's message. I couldn't be prouder of him today.
Don's message to Projectors:
"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
(Picture via Don's Facebook page)