(This story was updated on May 15, 2001).
Out Magazine Editor In Chief Brendan Lemon wrote a column last week in his magazine claiming that for a year and a half, he has been "having an affair with a [closeted] pro baseball player from a major-league East Coast franchise."
I personally remember how tough it was at times growing up wondering if I was "normal" or not. I remember thinking that God would send me to hell for kissing a man. I remember thinking my mother would never want to speak to me again. And, while those fears have been alleviated, I am thankful that I was able to come out in my own time, and in my own way.
Lemon does not out the ballplayer. He claims he "would never out him." What he has done might be worse. The column exacerbates the notion that being gay is something to be gossiped about. And, it tells every closeted gay man in America to go even deeper into the closet because, if you tell the wrong person you're gay, you never know what media maelstrom will brew. The Out Magazine's Editor's column this month looks more like a bad issue of The National Enquirer than a reputable publication.
His entire column is one of the more self-centered rants that I have read, showing a complete lack of understanding and compassion. For his own benefit, he has started a guessing game across the country as everyone wonders, "who's this baseball player the editor from Out Magazine is sleeping with?" The story has legs, having been picked up by print and broadcast outlets around the nation. I cringe at the thought that, with this article, Lemon has caused a great deal of pain for the player in question.
I also wonder how Lemon's domestic partner (whom Lemon writes about in his February 2001 column) feels about this. We are certainly led to assume, by Lemon's statement that "none" of his friends knew about the "affair", that his partner too found out about this from the column. I can only imagine how it would hurt to pick up Out Magazine and read that my domestic partner has been having a secret affair for a year and a half.
Lemon describes how he and his baseball player friend have been avoiding public engagements together and have practiced utmost discretion so as not to tip off anyone that the guy might be gay. Oh, the horror. He complains about being awakened at 3 a.m by a West Coast phone call from this guy. Oh, the travesty.
And then the clincher: "I am writing about this relationship because I want the ballplayer to come out and make my life easier" ("my" in italics as Lemon has printed it). In other words, "since I'm out of the closet, I need to drag him out of it too because that's what I want."
As editor in chief of Out, Lemon is out as out can be. He's dating a guy playing major league baseball who isn't out. When I have dated guys in the past who refuse to come out, I end the relationship - obviously, we're in different places in our lives. Brendan Lemon, on the other hand, writes a venomous column (and don't anyone think this was not written with some venom) whining about how he feels like the "other woman".
Lemon has tried to stave off some of the criticism in the last day, saying that this player knew about the article before he wrote it. That doesn't change the fact that he has reduced this guy's potential coming out into a marketing opportunity for his own magazine and turned it into a gossip section story in the New York Post. And how is any reader supposed to know, from the initial column, that the player knew about it? He certainly did not allude to it. If he had originally written what he's been saying the past few days it would have been a far more effective column. We shouldn't have to wait for a further explanation in Page Six of the Post or Newsday.
To me, coming out is a life-changing decision that takes a lot of time to get used to for anyone, especially someone in sports, often dubbed as "the last closet." That decision is not something to be taken lightly, and is not something for the editor of a national magazine to decide for someone else, no matter how much "easier" it might make the editor's life.
Lemon also mentions Billy Bean in his article. Bean was a major league ballplayer for several years and, in 1999, came out of the closet after retiring from baseball. Bean told Johnette Howard of Newsday: ``"I think it's easy to say those things when you're the editor of a gay and lesbian magazine. But if I were that ballplayer, I'd have cold sweats right now.''
Apparently, Lemon doesn't believe Bean when he says, "I knew my career would end and I would experience total rejection [if I came out]." Or Brad Ausmus, an all-star catcher for the Detroit Tigers and former teammate of Bean, who has said, "If he had been openly gay, it would have been very difficult for him to play." But, then again, self-righteousness doesn't care what the experts have to say.
Lemon is obviously starving for attention. He seeks the attention of the mass media that generally ignores the gay media. He's gotten that. It seems he is also starving for the attention of this guy, as he whines about him not reading a book that Lemon gave him and then snorts, "I'm pretty sure he'll read this column".
I hope that this baseball player does come out. I hope he does find the strength to do so. And when he does it, if he doesn't do it at Outsports, I hope he holds a big press conference, with ESPN, CNN, radio, newspaper, and all the world listening.
And, after he announces to the world that he's gay, I hope this baseball player dumps this "friend" of his. Nobody this insensitive would deserve an affair with someone that courageous.