Move over Steven Tyler, Don Lemon is rapidly becoming America’s Sweetheart.
The 45-year-old lead anchor on CNN Newsroom, based in Atlanta, came out on Sunday with the announcement of his new book, Transparent, in the New York Times article. He posted the article on his Twitter page, and within a matters of days has gone from congenial anchor to American treasure.
In Transparent (which is already being shipped by Amazon.com because of high demand) Lemon details his life journey from being molested as a child to becoming one of CNN’s top anchors. The book is dedicated to Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his dorm mates streamed his sexual encounter with a man live online. Lemon has said he hopes his coming out will help strengthen the fight against anti-gay bullying.
Just this week Lemon has been on CNN, The Joy Behar Show, The Wendy Williams Show and The Michelangelo Signorile Show with that killer 100-watt smile and the message that homophobia, in the black community especially, is killing our children and must be stopped. (He’ll next appear on The Monique Show, then Piers Morgan Tonight and hopefully we’ll see him get an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show soon.)
The incomparable Keith Boykin sounded off on The Huffington Post in a column titled “Thank You, Don Lemon,” praising the anchor for his bravery and giving his thoughts on how great this is for the black gay movement, sentiments likely to be repeated here.
As Boykin mentions, Lemon is definitely the highest profile African American right now that is an out gay man. And though strides have been made, when it comes to the black community, gay rights is about 20 years behind the mainstream. I mentor young black gay men on a regular basis at the Kaleidoscope Youth Center in Columbus, Ohio, and it’s doubly hard for them. Growing up in the homophobic black church, being picked on at school and in many cases all while being bullied by their families for being “less of a man.”
There are all these ridiculously unrealistic exceptions in the black community when it comes to the understanding of what is means to be a man. I personally believe its one of the underlying reasons why black men are incarcerated at a much high rate then the general population. There’s this overcompensation that occurs when young black men are growing up and trying to attain all the characteristics of this ultimate black macho Alfa-male figure that doesn’t really exist. This often shows itself in gang violence, rites of passage amongst friends that include petty crimes and, of course, the rabid homophobia.
Lemon’s honesty this week is helping to change the game. And instead of turning off the black community by condemning traditionalism and the church (a mistake often made by gay rights activist), he’s just presenting his story and who he is, as a way to normalize the conversation. He’ll become a much needed daily reminder, as he streams into the homes of black families via CNN, that he’s just one of the many black gay men who are out and proud and have turned out just fine. A message that will have some black people thinking twice before spewing hate. And for that, I also say, thank you Don Lemon.