Mr. Lemon has not made a secret of his sexual orientation in his work life; many of his CNN co-workers and managers have long been aware that he is gay. But he still acknowledged that going public in his book carries certain risks.Congratulations Don on coming out of the closet! Your move, Anderson Cooper and yours, too,
“I’m scared,” he said in a telephone interview. “I’m talking about something that people might shun me for, ostracize me for.”
Even beyond whatever effect his revelation might have on his television career, Mr. Lemon said he recognized this step carried special risk for him as a black man.
“It’s quite different for an African-American male,” he said. “It’s about the worst thing you can be in black culture. You’re taught you have to be a man; you have to be masculine. In the black community they think you can pray the gay away.” He said he believed the negative reaction to male homosexuality had to do with the history of discrimination that still affects many black Americans, as well as the attitudes of some black women.
“You’re afraid that black women will say the same things they do about how black men should be dating black women.” He added, “I guess this makes me a double minority now.”
So why do it? It really came down to the act of writing the book. Mr. Lemon said he had been on a panel a couple of years ago called “The Black Man in the Age of Obama,” and was approached afterward by a publisher’s representative about writing an inspirational book.
“It was supposed to be a little pamphlet,” he said. “You know: say your prayers; have a good, hearty handshake; say good morning to your boss.”
But as he began to write, he came to realize that he could not hold back the truth of who he was. He started to pour out the details of his personal life. How he had grown up not knowing his father, how he had suffered abuse by someone close to him.
When he informed the publisher of his new tack, the initial reaction was caution. But when the editors saw the material, they embraced it. It was left to Mr. Lemon to experience a bout of nerves and suggest at one point that the most personal material be taken out.
“But as I started to read it back, I said, no, leave it,” Mr. Lemon said. “I abhor hypocrisy. I think if you’re going to be in the business of news, and telling people the truth, of trying to shed light in dark places, then you’ve got to be honest. You’ve got to have the same rules for yourself as you do for everyone else.”
He has been assured of support by CNN, which has booked him as a guest Monday on its daytime show “CNN Newsroom.” He will also be on Joy Behar’s show on the network’s sister channel, HLN. A few other possibilities remain “up in the air,” he said.
Mr. Lemon said he knew that coming out this way would stir up a degree of comment about other television news personalities, and whether any would acknowledge being gay.
“I think it would be great if everybody could be out,” he said. “But it’s such a personal choice. People have to do it at their own speed. I respect that. I do have to say that the more people who come out, the better it is for everyone, certainly for the Tyler Clementis of the world.”
Mr. Clementi was the Rutgers student who committed suicide by jumping off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with a man in his dorm room was shown on the Internet.
“I think if I had seen more people like me who are out and proud, it wouldn’t have taken me 45 years to say it,” Mr. Lemon said, “to walk in the truth.”
Update: He sat down with Joy Behar.