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CNN Anchor Don Lemon Has Come Out of the Closet, But He's Not Ready to be the Black Gay Poster Child

The 45-year-old Louisiana native explains why now was the perfect time to come out as a gay man.

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DL: No. I would see myself becoming one if I wasn’t a journalist anymore or if I became an activist/journalist. As much as I think journalism and the world has evolved with social media, I’m still an old-school journalist and believe in objectivity. I still believe in hearing both sides and fairness. I don’t want to be an activist journalist. I’m not saying I wouldn’t become an activist for the LGBT community or that’s not a part of my future, but right now I don’t see that.

KG: MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow, who is openly gay,  recently stated that she feels those anchors in the public eye should come out. Did that have any influence on you and do you agree with her? Have you spoken with her?

DL: No. I work for CNN, I don’t really follow MSNBC. [
Laughs.] Apparently, when she said it I was on vacation, and when I’m on vacation I’m on vacation.  

KG: There’s an ongoing debate I have with my gay friends on different levels of coming out.

DL: We all know that there are celebrities who have not done interviews with the New York Times about their sexuality but live openly with their partners. Do you think they have a responsibility to shout it from the rooftops or do they have a right to enjoy the privacy that a heterosexual person who says, “I don’t discuss my sex life,” is granted?

Well, I think everyone has a right to their privacy, but I don’t think the two are equal. For me it’s the same as people who did what they had to do back in the day back in the '40s and '50s and '60s. Black people would come up from the South to the North and pass. [ See the story of Anatole Broyard.] I think it’s the same sort of thing. I think at a certain point, if you are successful and have proven yourself in your chosen field you do have a responsibility in some sense. With that responsibility comes a right to privacy so everyone can do it in their own time, although it would be nice if everyone could shout it from the rooftops. What people don’t realize in their silence is that there is a degree of conveying that you think something is wrong. In the silence there is a degree of you not thinking you can be yourself.

The worse thing that most people don’t like about another person is dishonesty and in silence, there is a certain degree of dishonesty by not talking about it. That’s what I mean by equating to people who passed for white before and during the civil rights movement. There’s a certain measure of dishonesty because it’s not the truth.

KG: You’ve been open about being molested. There are people who float theories about that affecting orientation. How do you respond to that?

DL: [
Laughs] Everybody asks that. One has nothing to do with the other. Most predators are heterosexual and they choose children of the opposite sex. Before I was even molested, I knew I was gay. I couldn’t define it sexually because I was a kid, but I knew I was different. So maybe my molester saw that in me. My molester turned out to be gay. But that has nothing to do with that and years of therapy as well as any human behaviorist will tell you the same thing. There are lots of heterosexual people molested by someone of the same sex who have not turned out gay.

KG: 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….”

DL: 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.

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