When Friends Come Out

Single-Minded: When Don Lemon announced that he was gay, it made big news. But is this kind of revelation really so shocking?

Comstock Images
Comstock Images

One of the first e-mails I got when my plane landed Monday had just two sentences: “Are you back?” and “Don Lemon is gay.” A friend wanted to fill me in on all the “breaking news” I’d missed while in the jungles of Brazil, but in the most casual way possible. Like “Your dog ate my memo” and “The world went on without you.”

Thing is, the world — well, the heteronormative one, at least — is supposed to stop when someone previously packaged as “straight” suddenly bends the rules, but these days the bell curve appears to have switched things up a bit. So when CNN anchor Don Lemon announced via Twitter (linking to an interview with the New York Times about his new book, Transparent) that he was gay, the sound of the earth shattering wasn’t so loud. It was more like a hammer on a mattress.

On Monday, Lemon told CNN colleague Joy Behar that he’s never lived a double life. “I don’t really know about the down low because I haven’t played that game … I was born gay, just as I was born black.” I’m betting that his friends picked up on that years before he ever came out to them. Actually, I’m hoping that they did.

Tiny Fey captured it best in her new book, Bossypants, when she described a life-altering moment in a friend’s life: “In my experience, the hardest thing about having someone ‘come out’ to you is the ‘pretending’ to be surprised part.” There’s all the elongated vowel sounds to consider. The overstretched “o” of “Nooo?” and the drawn-out “e” in “Reeeally?”

“Your gay friend has obviously made a big decision to say the words out loud,” writes Fey — author, actress, proud friend of the out and proud. “You don’t want him to realize that everybody’s known this since he was 10 … “