CNN Atlanta gay (and eligible bachelor) Don Lemon isn't shy. He's talked gay rights as civil rights, ranted about gun control and Twitter bitch-slapped Jonah Hill. Now, he's dissecting what it means to be black and gay.
The gay news guy, who came out in 2011 as he pushed out a book, penned an essay for the Advocate, the gay glossy that's exploring what it means to be Black and LGBT in America. With issues of race, gay marriage and gay jocks making headlines, the special issue and Lemon's take prove timely.
I admitted to him that I didn't really know who Jason Collins was. He filled me in, and we both agreed that it didn't really matter that Collins wasn't a household name. Neither was I when I came out just two years ago, in 2011. What mattered was that Collins was doing it before leaving the sport. And it didn't go unnoticed by either of us that the person breaking this barrier was a black man, who in a matter of hours was about to become a double minority.
Collins started his coming-out article by writing: “I'm black. And I'm gay.” Recently, politician Kelvin Atkinson came out by saying, “I'm black. I'm gay.” And when I revealed my truth, I wrote and said, “I was born gay just as I was born black.”
No, we all didn't call each other for advice. What each of us knows is that as black men, we automatically feel like we are “other.” It's not by any fault of our own. It's because society offers up myriad and constant reminders of our otherness every single day. Whether it's someone handing you their car keys at valet parking or refusing to board an elevator with you alone, being followed by a security guard at a store, or being overlooked at work, it's always there.
Lemon also addresses the reality that many gay black men face in Atlanta, a city as popular for its large black LGBT population as it is for its large black congregations.
We — black men — are always reminded that we are black. And if we happen to be gay, it's yet another reminder that we are different. So in order to keep our sanity and dignity, we embrace it, sometimes even laugh at it. I'm black and I'm gay. So what? Deal with it! And we keep moving forward, proudly away from the darker alternative of becoming bitter and angry. We also say I'm black and gay because we want our own people to support us and know that we were born gay just as surely as we were born black. And because the church has such a strong influence on our community, we want our churchgoing, God-fearing black brethren to know that despite what the church tells them, God doesn't make mistakes. Nor does he judge.