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."
There was no turning back because it wasn't just about me. I'm not going to make any money off of a damn book and I'm certainly taking a big risk because I don't know if people are going to watch me, if they have some preconceived notion about what gay people are like, especially in the black community so it's not about me pushing a product.
Do you consider the black community homophobic?
Yes! I think there is a segment of the black community — a big segment of the black community — that are homophobic and it has a lot to do with religion. The church has been the backbone for so long through slavery and all of those things. You had to pray your way out of slavery. People think you can pray your way out of issues or problems and some believe being gay is one of them. In black culture, and similar in Latino and other minority cultures, it's the worst thing you can do as a man. In both cultures you have to be a man and they equate being gay with not being a man.
What would you to say to a kid who is struggling and thinks "I wish I could do what Don did, but my family … " or "I wish I could do what Don did but my church … "
Honestly, call me. Tweet me. Get in touch with me. Tell somebody. If anyone is where they feel they are going to harm themselves and on the verge of doing something desperate, you have to stay strong and stay alive.
… I just want every gay person who struggles with coming out to feel the way that I do today. I wish everyone could feel this feeling and then no one would struggle with this because the truth is the truth is the truth. And if someone loves you then they’re going to love you no matter who you are.
Read more at theLoop21.
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