To Come Out or Not to Come Out?

Black celebs beset by gay rumors don't have to follow Anderson's or Don's lead. But it would be nice.

Anderson Cooper (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images); Don Lemon(Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
Anderson Cooper (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images); Don Lemon(Robin Marchant/Getty Images)

(The Root) — UPDATED Wednesday, July 4, at 9:45 a.m. EDT: When it comes to the fine line between privacy and hiding, public figures are usually the first to be pushed one way or the other by everyone else’s pounding expectations. Should this actress admit to Botox? Should that one fess up about past drug use?

Rarely is any debate too small or too big to be dissected. “Putting someone’s business out on the street” is just par for the course. Then, of course, there’s “the gay question,” a personal topic that has grown so increasingly political over the last few months, it’s practically unpatriotic not to weigh in on it.

Enter Anderson Cooper.

In not-so-breaking news this week, Cooper, the CNN news anchor and syndicated talk-show host, came out of a closet that many people never thought he was in. “The fact is,” Cooper wrote in an email on the subject of public figures coming out, “I’m gay.”

But in a society where gay teens remain at a higher risk of being bullied, homeless or suicidal or of abusing drugs — among many of the other ills that disproportionately affect the marginalized — Cooper’s coming out (despite a general lack of public surprise) isn’t a “Who cares?” moment. Neither was fellow CNN anchor Don Lemon’s declaration of his sexuality in May 2011.

But there was one difference: Lemon is black.

Like Cooper, Lemon was praised for being open about his private life, but he also received criticism, telling the New York Times, “It’s quite different for an African-American male. It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture.”

Plenty of people would argue with Lemon’s assertion, which very clearly purports that the black community is somehow more homophobic than most. Michael Arceneaux put it best when he wrote in The Root last year, “homophobia is a collective American societal ill.”

Still, for better or worse, when it comes to putting your business out on the street, black celebrities don’t necessarily have the best track record. As in most cases of “the Internet said/she said,” the gay question remains just that — a question — in the seemingly silly game of who’s gay.