Bil Browning

CNN Anchor Don Lemon Comes Out: Sends Message to Projectors

Filed By Bil Browning | May 16, 2011 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Media
Tags: CNN, coming out of the closet, Don Lemon, gay news, role models

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).

Don-Lemon.jpgI 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,

Don Lemon
May 16, 2011

(Picture via Don's Facebook page)


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Don Lemon has the most beautiful mouth on television. I love watching it make words.

On a more serious note, He seems to have found an elegant and classy way to make this public revelation/verification.

On a lighter note, he has certainly both stolen thunder from and set the bar higher for Anderson Cooper.

Congratulations to Don! He is and will continue to be a tremendous inspiration to young people everywhere that you can be true to yourself *and* have a high-profile career, too.

When I read that Don had started in tv at WMAQ in Chicago I couldn't help but reminded of the late Max Robinson - a black journalist of another generation - who, despite succumbing to the ravages of AIDS, could never bring himself to admit, publicly, what some people privately knew.

The pace of change is quickening thanks to people like Don. Thank goodness!

An interesting sidenote: decades ago, when Bill O'Reilly was an obscure young newsman at the CBS affiliate in Hartford, Connecticut, he set off everyone's gaydar. We all assumed he was gay. Just goes to show you that gaydar is not always accurate, or is it?

Finally a Trans word worth adding and as an added benefit is truly capable of being a non offensive umbrella term. Damn it each of my parents are a transparent.Can someone please find a safe transword to use? Seriously Mr.Lemon best of luck with your new "Transparent" life.
PS Could you try being Bi? I think more than a few women are going to feel cheated.

Rick Sutton | May 16, 2011 11:26 AM

A huge lump in my throat.

Been there, Don. Done that.

Being real is empowering. It's not always easy, though.

Godspeed.

We get CNN International around these parts of South of the Border(s)-- only occassionally do I get to see Don Lemon on T.V. but I´ve always been impressed with him, his style, his intellect, his calm straightforwardness and his capacity to project the warm wholesome human being that he seems to be.

Onward! Continued good luck in all that you do.

herb johnson | May 16, 2011 3:22 PM

Hi Don, I was an admirer of your work when you were here in Philadelphia channel 10 news and still am. You are an articulate, intelligent man of color who is a positive role model. Glad you can to accept the true you in all its facets and glory, I hope to one day meet you and shake your hand, as well as ask you out on a date if you are single? Herb God bless

David Castillo David Castillo | May 16, 2011 3:23 PM

Kudos to Don for coming out, and awesome that he sent you that note!

It's a bold move in general, but especially in the world of mainstream media. It may be 2011, but that field, like so many others, is still very white and very straight. I'm proud to see another successful queer person of color step out of the closet and tell the world they must accept him as he is. This is great news today. Thanks for posting, Bil.

Congratulations, Don, for finding your courage and your voice. I fully expect that this will advance your career in the long term, because it will open doors that empower you to do what you want to do and be who you want to be. There might be short-term setbacks, but you will work thru them aptly.

Kudos to Don! Before I stopped watching, Don Lemon was one of my favorite CNN anchors. I suppose he still is, but I don't see him as much anymore simply because I don't watch much CNN these days (MSNBC is where I get my fix.)

I've known for a long time Don was gay (clearly as part of Bil's exchange with him, but there were others "in the know" before that.) I'm so impressed with his manner and grace and I'm proud to welcome him to the tribe.

Keep making us proud, Don!

Thank you, Don. I know from experience how hard it can be, yet freeing to be yourself. The LGBT community always needs "Out and Proud" public figures both for their own affirmation, and to show the general public how intelligent and "normal" we are. Mr. Lemon, you and Brooke Baldwin are my fav. two newspeople. I think you just jumped to #1!!

Best Wishes!

WOW! Thanks, Don. Who knows how many lives you will save by throwing this rock in the pond. The ripples will go places you have never dreamed.

Thanks you, Brother!

Jim Toevs

Gary Barbosa-Strickland | May 22, 2011 2:48 PM

He is not the first gay anchor at CNN, I know this for fact . I had a hook up relationship with an anchor when I was 14 and he was 18. We many times. He worked for a local radio station and we had sex a couple of times at the station. I have not seen him on CNN for a while now. Bravo though to Don for coming out!!!!!