The day after revealing his sexual orientation via the New York Times and Twitter, CNN’s Don Lemon had a refreshingly candid talk with Keli Goff of theLoop21 about why he came out, the stress he felt, why he didn’t think the gay community would accept him and what he wants to do next.
Some takeaways: He makes very clear that there is no link between the childhood sexual abuse he revealed earlier this year and his sexual orientation (he knew he was gay before he was molested); he responds to critics who might say this announcement was designed to boost sales of his new book, Transparent (“I’m not going to make any money off of a damn book”); and he answers a question about whether the black community is homophobic with a resounding “Yes!”
Read some excerpts here:
Keli Goff, TheLoop21.com: What was your biggest fear last night when you went to bed, knowing you were going to make this announcement today?
Don Lemon, CNN Anchor: That people would say, “who cares” in a sarcastic way and that it wouldn’t make a difference for young people and that people would think that I was doing some sort of selfish thing and I’m not. I mean you have no idea which way these things are going to go …
One of the reasons I didn’t come out earlier is because I am not the Ken doll that represents the gay community. I didn’t think anyone in the gay community would support me because I’m not the classic gay role model. I’m not the Clark Kent type. I would go and host events at gay organizations as a news anchor and I would be the only African-American in the room so I thought maybe, nobody’s going to care because I’m not the blonde, white guy. That was a concern for me.
How do you respond to people who say “I’m sick of people coming out when they have a project to push, a book, movie or whatever”?
Everyone has their own opinion about everything. The catalyst for coming out was the book, not the other way around. The book was supposed to be a sort of a Chicken Soup for the Soul kind of thing about becoming successful and then as I started to write I was like “who needs another book like this?” And I just started writing a book I would want to read and I started to write about my childhood and all these sorts of things started to come out. The molestation and feeling isolated as a kid because I felt different and I couldn’t share with anyone that I was gay.
I sent it to the editors who at first were like “be careful” then they read it and were like “this is really good.” And I said, “Leave it in there. I can always take it out before we go to press.” I read it and thought, this is a book that would have helped me as a young man. I let CNN read it and that’s when Tyler Clementi jumped off of a bridge and I said, “Leave it.”