When “Good Morning America” co-host Robin Roberts posted a Facebook message on Sunday expressing gratitude for all the support she got during her long and much-publicized recovery from a bone marrow transplant, that was hardly news. She’s talked expansively about her health struggles on her ABC-TV morning show and on Barbara Walters’ "Most Fascinating People of 2013" TV special, and allowed video cameras to capture her weeping in her hospital bed. What she never talked about until now is being gay--and she did it with a graceful understatement that is sometimes lacking in her other personal narratives.
She simply noted that she was grateful for her entire family, her friends, her “longtime girlfriend, Amber” and left it at that. Not that it didn’t get noticed by every media outlet and First Lady Michelle Obama. "I am so happy for you and Amber!" the first lady tweeted Monday, according to published reports.
Of course dozens of prominent personalities have come out in the past few years in sports, TV news, entertainment. But I think it’s particularly significant when black celebrities come out, given the lingering resistance in some black churches and parts of the black community to gay relationships. CNN newsman Don Lemon, hip hop artist Frank Ocean and basketball player Jason Collins have all disclosed their sexual orientation in the past few years.
In fact, when Roberts landed the TV news interview with President Obama in 2012 in which he announced that he would support same-sex marriage, I wondered why she didn’t talk on GMA about being gay, herself, around that same time.
Obviously, it’s a very personal decision for anyone, famous or not.
Fortunately, it’s less and less of a big deal. In the past half-decade, there’s been a dramatic shift in American attitudes from being against gay marriage to being accepting of it. Still, the more that gay people acknowledge that they’re gay, the more that fosters acceptance of and respect for gay people.
And clearly, when a guy on one of the most popular shows on cable, “Duck Dynasty,” is spewing homophobic rants in the national media, there’s still some consciousness-raising left to do.