Comedian Wanda Sykes and CNN anchor Don
Lemon spoke at the NAACP's recent groundbreaking panel discussion on
LGBT issues within the Black community.
Monday's forum was held during the
civil rights group's 102nd annual convention taking place
in Los Angeles.
At the town hall-styled meeting, NAACP
chairman Julian Bond said gay rights are civil rights,
“We know sexual orientation is not a
choice. We know homosexuality is not a mental illness. We know you
can't pray the gay away,” the civil rights leader said.
“Sexual disposition parallels race.
I was born Black and had no choice. I could not and will not change
it if I could. Like race, our sexuality isn't preference. It is
immutable, unchangeable, and the constitution protects us all from
prejudices and discrimination based on immutable differences,” Bond
Sykes said societal pressures made it
difficult for her to come out.
“You just suppress everything and
become this other person,” she said. “You start living that life
that you think that you're supposed to do. I worked it so hard I got
married! It just hit me, 'Wait a minute, why aren't my relationships
going further? Why can't I really open up?' And I realized oh,
that's right, I forgot: I'm a lesbian! That's what it is. You don't
Lemon, who came out gay in May and
talks about his experience in his 264-page memoir Transparent,
said the lack of high-profile openly gay African-Americans such as
himself suggests there is work to be done in the community.
(A video that includes an interview
with Lemon at the forum is embedded in the right panel of this page.)