Yesterday CNN anchor Don Lemon was trending on Twitter, but not because of an interview he scored or scoop he'd gotten. It was because he came out of the closet. We had a little chat with Don about how it feels to come out and the imperative to make a big announcement about his sexual orientation.
Lemon says that he's never really be in the closet, necessarily, but the he knew he wanted to talk about being gay in his new book Transparent so he figured now was the right time to tell the world that he's one of the many boys who like boys. He talked with us about his experience coming out and why he thinks that making a big deal of being gay is a big deal indeed.
How do you like the coming out train?
I wish everyone could feel like I feel. I was always pretty transparent on TV, but now there's no subject I can't talk about without comfort. I was on Wendy Williams this morning talking about Arnold Schwartzenegger and I said, "Why is it worse to be gay than have a kid out of your marriage?" And she said we choose what we think is bad. But I feel comfortable about it. Not that I wasn't in my own skin.
Were you even really in the closet before?
No, that's the funny thing. People were like, "What's the big deal? We know you're gay." You do, but the world doesn't. It's not like I talk about my boyfriend openly in interviews. People say they don't need to know what's going on in my bedroom, but that's not what I'm talking about. If you're coming out, people say they don't need to know who I sleep with. But people who announce they're getting married, they're talking about who they sleep with, too.
If you weren't really closeted, why mention it now?
Because I knew it was going to be in the book when I started writing it, and that was the catalyst for coming out. When it started to release, I figured I'd just tell it. There was a lot of interest in that. There's much more about journalism and covering stories in the book, but that's' what people pick up on. And if that helps save someone, then why not?. I'm not making money off the damn book, come on. Quite honestly it's time for someone to step up, especially a black person, but someone who isn't an artist or in fashion or a drag queen or on a reality show that is larger than life. It's OK to be a sissy, as we say, but that is the only representation that African-American men should have in this culture and I decided it was important.
Speaking of journalism, do you think that your being out will affect the stories you cover or your journalistic integrity?
I wasn't not gay before yesterday. As long as I've been doing this I've been gay and it's been OK. Gay people can't be objective? That's ridiculous. It's like any person who owns a home can't do a story about mortgages or any journalist who has investments can't cover the stock market. Being gay doesn't take your brain away or exclude me from having the same attributes as anyone else... I think it's another way to not accept that gay is OK.
Do you think that other anchors and journalists in the closet need to come out?
I don't think anyone needs to do anything they don't want to do. I think it would be great if they did. I'm not walking in anyone's shoes and I don't know what their experience is, but there is a degree of deception in silence. Having gone to the other side, it's easy for me to say that. Just a few days ago I may have felt different. I respect anyone else's choice, but, again, I equate it to people who used to pass for white during the civil rights movement. It's disingenuous and dishonest and you should live in truth and give a hand to people who are struggling and help pull them up rather turning your back on them.
There are people opposed to me harping on certain anchors to come out publicly and they always say, "Do they need to make a big announcement?" Do you think people need to make a big announcement like you have?
Yes... One day we won't need to do it, but now it's still necessary, until people think differently. People say, "I don't care, it's not a big deal." Do you see how much attention it's gotten? If it wasn't a big deal people wouldn't care and there would be more people who were out. It's like no one in Hollywood is gay, it's like no one in Washington is gay, when it's one of the gayest cities in the country. These professions can't defy the averages. Yes, I think there should be a big announcement, until there doesn't have to an announcement anymore.
You said before that you didn't talk about your boyfriend openly in interviews. Do you want to talk about him now?
I do have a boyfriend, and we both kind of agreed that this is about me at the moment, but coming out and the relationship part of it will come later. I think it's more important that the message be out, then the next part of the story is that it's great that someone who is loud about being out is in a relationship and has been in a relationship for four years. That's the larger part of the story.
Do you think this will have an impact financially?
I've gone far enough that I'm comfortable financially, but how much money do you need? People don't want to come out because they think they won't go further in their careers or grow their wealth. I'd love to be wealthy, but I feel wealthier now than in the possibility that I could become the main anchorman and still have to hide my life.
[Don pauses to listen to a bit about him on "Chelsea Lately" and laughs repeatedly]
I love Chelsea, I need to go on that. My publicist said they're going to make fun of me.
Guess what, who gives a shit? I don't really care if they make fun of me. Would have been scarier is if I was in the closet and they were like, "We thought it would be Don Lemon, because he's so gay." I'm in on the joke now.
[Image via Getty]