It’s been a month since CNN anchor Don Lemon went public about being gay, and he compares his early expectations with the reality of being out as he heads to Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse on Wednesday.
The national and international splash Lemon (top photo) made when news broke of his coming out last month was bigger – and better – than he ever anticipated, he says.
“It’s been just overwhelming and amazing,” Lemon tells Project Q Atlanta. “Not just from the larger world, but especially from gay people, which I never expected. I never thought I’d be considered a role model in any way or that gay people would care this much.
“I thought that because I don’t look like the guy on the cover of a gay magazine, a Ken Doll, it wouldn’t be such a big deal,” he says. “Since I was out to my friends and family, I didn’t feel like it was a major coming out, but it just took off. I’ve been stunned and pleased by the whole thing.”
The Outwrite reading and signing on Wednesday is for “Transparent” (bottom photo), a memoir on personal success that reveals many deeply intimate details about Lemon beyond his sexual orientation.
“I realized that if I was going to write a story on my life and how to be happy and live a good life, I came to a place where I said, ‘I can’t go any further with this without talking about being gay. It’s part of my life, and I can’t be disingenuous,” he says. “As a journalist, I just couldn’t sit there and write a memoir about my life and not include the facts, or it wouldn’t be honest and true to myself or my story.”
“Now I can’t imagine now living any other way,” he says. “It was uncomfortable at first, but if I put myself in this position, and I’m going to walk it and own it, and hopefully others can see that walking your truth is freeing.
“I’m so much happier, I have no secrets, and no one can hold anything over me,” he adds. “Who wouldn’t want that? I wish every gay person could feel this way. If we could just all get over it and move on, it’d be a much happier planet and better planet to live on.”
Other realizations have come to light as Lemon has had a chance to digest the public reaction. He likes being in charge and control of his own story, and he now believes that coming out and putting it in writing has been a “divine process,” he says.
“Success isn’t measured in dollars but in how happy you feel and how comfortable you are in your life and how you can affect others,” he says. “I would like nothing more than for this book to be a best seller – not for me – but for the people around the country and world as an example that you can be who you are and be a success and be true to who you are.”
‘Let’s all move on’
Lemon continues his work for CNN on top of the book tour. That includes a recent on-camera grilling of anti-gay presidential candidate Rick Santorum. In a discussion of same-sex unions, Lemon asked if Santorum had any gay friends – he said he does after some hemming and hawing – and got a new reaction from audiences now that he’s out of the closet.
“I’ve always felt a responsibility to ask the right questions. I’ve always held people’s feet to the fire,” Lemon says. “My role now has not really changed. I’m a journalist and will continue to be. People are just reading more into it now – ‘Oh, the gay anchor asked the gay question.’”
“But no. I would have asked the same question before I was out,” he assures. “Rick Santorum wants to change to Constitution to ban gay marriage. If anyone wants to change the Constitution on anything, it’s my responsibility to investigate that.”
And while the intense attention to the book continues, Lemon says he’s more matter of fact about the whole issue these days.
“I didn’t want it to be a big revelation; I wanted to be honest,” he says. “For those people who didn’t know, this is my life. The book isn’t about coming out. It’s about being a success and part of that is being an out gay man. Now let’s all move on.”
And after the momentum over the book dies down?
“Life will go back to normal but not ever be what it was before,” he says. “I’d love to write more books. I’m not the same person. I’m so happy with where I am now. I need to find a way to put it in words what that’s like, and maybe that’s the next book.”