I remember my first time seeing Don Lemon on TV. I was clicking through the channels and saw a young black man anchoring the news on CNN. I didn’t recognize him. Who was this guy? I don’t watch the evening news every night, but I do try to keep up w/ who the current talking heads happen to be. And I had never seen this cat before.
So I listened and did as I always did, and I tried to size him up. Seems I do that with everyone whether TV personality or friend of a friend that I’m just meeting. He seemed like a good journalist. He seemed to have some sense about him. He came across as a fresh new face and personality in a very stagnant field. I liked him. Like Brian Williams, he just seemed like a guy you wanna grab a drink with (Why is that the ultimate male compliment? I’m not sure yet, maybe we’ll revisit that later in another post).
Now I found myself listening a little more closely when he was on and paying attention to his “No Talking Points” segments. I admittedly didn’t search him out, but I did find myself looking more often to CNN rather than MSNBC for my televised news. I believe this was also about the time I started questioning MSNBC’s choices in hosts. Gradually, I ended up ‘subscribing’ to his Facebook feed and following him on Twitter. I was listening to him report news and watching his vacation photos pop up on my Facebook wall.
I liked him.
So I looked him up on Wikipedia one day to see where this seemingly young talented black anchor freakin’ came from…………………
HE WAS BORN IN 1966???! That dude is 46 years old???! No shyt??? Really? No! Can’t be. He looks 30! Damn, I can only HOPE I look that good at 46. TOO LATE. I don’t look that good NOW.
And check the career. He’s put his time in and paid his dues. Good for him. That’s how you get ahead in this world, you grind it out, keep your mind on your business, and play the game from time to time. That’s how the system is and it seemed like he recognized it. Sometimes many of our fellow ‘brothers’ don’t get it. [That’s what I thought at the time. My perspective has changed some since then.]
I respected his story.
Then the bombshell came – In support of the alleged victims in the Bishop Eddie Long scandal, Don Lemon announced that he was gay. [GASP]
I didn’t say much on the outside when I heard – that’s not PC. But I was kinda FUCKED UP on the inside about his coming out. As a young black man that’s been raised by a strong military single father that taught both of his sons that being gay was a sin, an abomination, just not righteous or right, the worst choice a respectable black male could make for himself. Choosing to be gay was wrong and only bad people would choose that type of lifestyle.
I mean I remember a few years ago my older brother (as an adult) mentioning that he was a ‘metrosexual’ since he liked getting a pedicure from time to time, and my father going HAM.
“You a WHAT? A METRO-WHAT? What is that?! A metro-SEXUAL?”
My brother didn’t really bring it up anymore.
This worldview is commonly shared in the black community. Especially considering that blacks in America consistently rank as the country’s “most religious” ethnic group.
I abandoned Christianity a few years ago [that’s another ‘coming out’ story for another post], but found that I was still uncomfortable with the fact that I liked Don Lemon so much. At first, I tried to ignore the feelings by rationalizing that my uncomfortableness was only the remnants of my old and out of date upbringing, but…that really didn’t work.
I eventually had to face the million dollar question:
Did I like Don Lemon so much because…I am gay?
Once I finally and honestly asked myself the question, the answer came back pretty clearly and instantly:
No. No, I’m not gay.
And it wasn’t the defensive reflex response of, “Ew, fuck no! I’m not gay!” that’s usually driven by a threatened sense of masculinity or by a fear of having to face who you really are. Rather it was a very calm, but self-assured acknowledgement of a simple physiological attraction that I just didn’t happen to share.
Boom, that was it. Done. But if I wasn’t attracted to him, then the question still remained, why did I like him so much? Once again, the answer came surprisingly easy –
I respected and admired him.
Oooooooo. Big revelation [in my sarcastic voice]. But it WAS for me. This was the first time I looked at an openly gay black man – NOT as an openly gay black man. He was just a man…that did the news on CNN…and did it well. AND I liked his Facebook subscription.
In short – Don Lemon changed my life.
He served as the final weight that shattered my instilled childhood worldview of gay people, and especially gay black men.
Don’t think it takes courage to be yourself in public? Consider exhibit A – Twitter:
Could you deal with the constant barrage of social ignorance with your name attached to end of it? Probably not. It’s why so many wear masks in the fist place. And social media isn’t making it any easier.
I have a son, and like many couples, my wife and I have discussed our potential reactions if our son ever came out to us as gay. If we do this right, I hope that the notion of ‘coming out’ will never be necessary if we teach him to always be authentic and if he always knows he’s accepted.
Don Lemon is a man I look up to simply because he has the courage to live life as himself. Much of this blog is a direct result of his example to simply be who you are. I know many people, gay and straight, that could learn a thing or two from such an example.
In honor of my respect for the man and his courage, I will now introduce a new section of my blog:
As my own journey continues, I’ll add people to this list that I would love to break bread with someday. A good meal, a drink, an interview, conversation, whatever. I’ll keep The List up and hopefully get to cross some names off as time goes on. I have nothing to rely on except the connectedness of the Internet and my writing to get me there, but what do I have to lose vs. what do I have to gain? Sounds like nothing vs. a potential string of great memories and conversations. [Sometimes I answer my own questions] We’re all just people, right?
Don! If you ever read this…………..’Preciate it, big homie! If you’re ever in Houston, let’s hit up Agora Cafe. I don’t know you, but I think you would dig it.