Jenice Armstrong: Newsie Don Lemon's big news

Don Lemon: He says he's gay
Don Lemon: He says he's gay
Posted: May 17, 2011

CNN anchor hunk Don Lemon is gay.

Who cares, right?

No one should have to declare to the world what his sexual orientation is.

It shouldn't really be that big of a deal, but apparently it is.

No wonder Lemon's publicist wouldn't provide me with an advance copy of his memoir, "Transparent," when I requested it earlier this year.

His publisher was holding back until closer to the publication date - later this month - because the bigwigs knew that when this news hit, it would get people talking.

And that's what happened yesterday.

Lemon spent several years on the airwaves in Philly on NBC 10 (1999-'02), so I followed the fallout from his announcement with interest.

What got me right in the gut, though, is how Lemon feared being judged harshly by people of his own race.

"It's quite different for an African-American male," Lemon was quoted as saying in the New York Times.

"It's about the worst thing you can be in black culture," he said. "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."

That's heart-wrenching, especially since the broadcaster's concerns aren't entirely baseless.

Despite a long history of racial discrimination and being marginalized in the United States, African-Americans continue to be more conservative when it comes to gay issues than other groups. Homophobia among African-Americans is rampant and has more to do with religion than anything else.

According to a Pew study on civil unions and gay marriage, African-Americans are more likely to consider homosexuality immoral (64 percent) than whites (48 percent) or Hispanics (43 percent).

With all the religious leanings, coupled with a cultural "no homo" bias toward hyper-masculinity as evidenced by many of today's popular rap icons and professional athletes, it's clear why it took Lemon 45 years to finally come out.

Lemon, whose livelihood as a broadcaster is based on whether viewers like him and find him credible, also hesitated about revealing his sexuality because he feared turning off black females, whose challenges of finding marriageable males have been especially well-documented in recent months.

"You're afraid that black women will say the same things they do about how black men should be dating black women," Lemon told the Times. "I guess this makes me a double minority now."

As Lemon's announcement hit the airwaves, I did hear from a few black single friends, but they weren't hating on Lemon for being a homosexual, just remarking that a black man as successful and good-looking as Lemon wasn't available.

It was like "take another one's name off the list of would-be suitors."

Lemon says he was born gay, a controversial assertion that already has stirred up naysayers who argue that homosexuality is a choice.

Coincidentally, on the same day as Lemon's announcement, I learned that basketball great Grant Hill is starring in a well-intentioned public-service announcement that tries to get people to stop using the word "gay" as a synonym for dumb or stupid.

Also, the NBA's Phoenix Suns President Rick Welts has announced that he's gay. Thumbs-up to Welts for coming out publicly, and Lemon, too.

Each high-profile person who comes out makes it that much easier for the next.

Send email to heyjen@phillynews.com. My blog: www.philly.com/HeyJen.

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