CNN anchor Don Lemon to speak at UNT diversity conference Feb. 1

Don Lemon

Openly gay CNN anchor Don Lemon, who came out in his memoir in 2011, will headline the University of North Texas’ 13th Equity and Diversity Conference on Feb. 1. Also speaking at the conference in Denton will be Cuc Vu, chief diversity officer for the Human Rights Campaign. From the UNT News Service:

The theme of the conference was chosen to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued an executive order, based on his constitutional authority as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that proclaimed all slaves in Confederate territory to be forever free. The Proclamation immediately resulted in the freedom of 50,000 slaves in 10 Confederate states, and paved the way for hundreds of thousands more slaves to be liberated as the Union Army advanced in the Confederacy until nearly all slaves were free by the summer of 1865.

The conference, open to 500 participants, is aimed at students, educators and professionals who are committed to equity and diversity in higher education and in the workforce. It will include sessions on addressing unconscious biases and stereotypes and identifying barriers against more inclusive environments for those with disabilities, among other topics. Registration is free for students, $50 for UNT faculty and staff members and $150 for others, with group rates available for six or more people.

For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

GBM News posts its top gay celebrities of color

CNN anchor tops GBM News' list.

Over the weekend, GBM News executive editor Nathan James posted his top 15 gay celebs of color. His list started as a response to  MSN’s Wonderwall listing of its top queer celebs wielding the most influence, but was also noticeably lacking in its diverse demographics (save for Perez Hilton, who is of Cuban descent).

James’ list introduces some gay celebs people might not immediately consider such as singer Tracy Chapman at No. 8 or CNN anchor Don Lemon at the top of the list. But I’m not really sure how he figures in Noah’s Arc alum Darryl Stephens’ guest stint on Private Practice at No. 11 as influential or RuPaul’s relatively low ranking at No. 7. While he does include George Takei in the mix, his list lacks any Latinos. That begs the question: Where is Ricky Martin?  From James on GBM News:

One of the “interesting” things about their list, was that there wasn’t a single gay celebrity of color on it. I bethought myself to rectify that oversight by creating and publishing my own list of the 15 most powerful gay celebrities of color. The response I got from that piece was, by far, the most overwhelming public reaction to any article I’d ever written up to that time. Some applauded my choices, others vehemently disagreed with them, and still others asked why their own personal choices missed the cut. Well, this year, I’m at it again, with a completely new list that’s sure to provoke more debate and stir more passionate discussion.  Submitted for your approval, here are my picks for the fifteen most powerful gay celebrities for 2012!

Of course, these lists are all subjective, but James thankfully adds to the conversation of who gays and lesbians may see as influential within the community.

 

—  Rich Lopez

Hitting a tipping point

Phoenix Suns President and CEO Rick Welts (Michael Chow, The Arizona/Associated Press)

Sports figures’ decisions to come out can push LGBT community one step closer to equality

HARDY HABERMAN  |  Flagging Left

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcom Gladwell writes about what he calls “social epidemics.” Just like a disease epidemic can blow up and spread very quickly, ideas can suddenly become embraced by the public at large and spread at a rapid pace.

That point when something goes from being just a few people who embrace the idea to the critical mass needed to flood the mainstream consciousness of the country is the “tipping point.”

At its most fundamental level, the LGBT movement begins with opening the closet door. That coming out process is almost always difficult and sometimes it takes years, but it is the beginnings of genuine liberation.

Well, on the coming out front, we may be at the tipping point and for the LGBT rights movement that could trigger a big change

Today I read a story about Jared Max, a sportscaster for ESPN Radio who said this in his morning show:

“Are we ready to have our sports information delivered by someone who is gay? Well we are gonna find out. Because for the last 16 years, I’ve been living a free life among my close friends and family, and I’ve hidden behind what is a gargantuan-sized secret here in the sports world: I am gay.

“Yeah. Jared Max. The sports guy who is one of the most familiar faces in New York sports isn’t quite like the majority. And while you already knew I was a little different, this might help make sense of it. But more so, I’m taking this courageous jump into the unknown having no idea how I will be perceived. …”

This is pretty big news, but even bigger when you consider the other folks who came out in the just the past few weeks:

• Don Lemon, weekend anchor for CNN Newsroom announced last week that he is gay. He did so in advance of the release of his new book, Transparent, in which he discusses his life as an African-American newscaster and as a gay man.

• Look to sports again as the CEO of the Phoenix Suns, Rick Welts, came out in a story in the New York Times. Why? He said that he wanted to do something to help youth struggling with their own sexual identity issues, to assure them they could come out and still have a successful career.

• Former Villanova basketball star, Will Sheridan, kicked open his closet door coming out publicly on ESPN just a day after Rick Welts.

• And all this after former NFL player Wade Davis came out as part of a GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) Sports Project a couple of months ago.

Perhaps I am the only one to see a trend here, but when broadcasters and, more specifically, sports figures start feeling it’s OK to come out, we might be nearing that tipping point.

This trend is not that new either. In the past few years dozens of high-profile people have made their sexual orientation known. My hope is that the cumulative effect will push things over the edge.

What would that look like? Well, it would be somewhat of a continuation of what we see now: more and more people publicly coming out until the mere act of announcing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity will become so commonplace that it is no longer news.

That would signal that LGBT people had really taken a major step toward full equality. The day when a celebrity or sports figure comes out and is no longer headline material, or more importantly no longer feels the need to hold a press conference to do it, will be a great day for LGBT rights.

So to all those celebrities, sports figures, actors, politicians who are still in the closet: Come out! You may be the nudge that pushes things past the tipping point — and that is something that will benefit everyone.

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Pro basketball executive Rick Welts, CNN anchor Don Lemon come out

Don Lemon

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-transgender marriage bill is back on the Texas Senate’s Intent Calendar for today. That means if you haven’t already contacted your senator and urged them to vote against SB 723, by Sen. Tommy Williams, you should do so now by going here. If the bill doesn’t clear the Senate and a House committee by midnight Saturday, it will die.

2. The FBI has expanded its probe into a brutal beating outside a gay nightclub in downtown El Paso to include other recent possible hate crimes in the area, the El Paso Times reports. The victim, 22-year-old Lionel Martinez, remains in a coma more than a week after the attack, and LGBT advocates say El Paso police haven’t been taking anti-gay incidents near the Old Plantation nightclub seriously.

3. The weekend was marked by two pretty big coming-out stories: Rick Welts, president and chief executive officer of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns; and CNN anchor Don Lemon.

—  John Wright