Don Lemon has come out as gay and he insists it was never a choice to be attracted to the same sex.
"I was born gay just as I was born black," the CNN anchor said this week on "The Joy Behar Show."
One Christian agrees with Lemon that same-sex attraction is not a choice. Tim Wilkins, a Southern Baptist, struggled with homosexual feelings for years.
He admits, "I did not choose to be attracted to the same sex."
But he adds, "One of life's mysteries is that we don't get to choose our temptations."
Yes, it is a temptation and not an orientation, he maintains. Research has yet to reveal a "gay gene," but even if same-sex attractions were proven to be inborn, Wilkins, who leads Cross Ministry and speaks to both Christians and nonbelievers about homosexuality, says that doesn't mean it's normal.
"Cystic Fibrosis and Down’s syndrome are inborn and yet we do not consider them to be normal," he explained to The Christian Post. "The sad fact is that the entrance of sin into the world affected everything. Every organ and gland of the body has been adversely affected by sin. Our genetic structure. Every chromosome. Every wrinkle, no matter how small and every gray hair is undeniable evidence that our bodies are continually deteriorating – starting at conception."
While Wilkins did not choose to have homosexual feelings, he stressed that "no genetic predisposition forces us to act or behave homosexually."
Lemon, who has been with CNN since 2006, decided to come out to the public while writing his book Transparent. What was initially intended to be a "how to be successful" book turned into a memoir.
He told Behar that he could have deleted the parts about homosexuality from the book at any time but he decided to leave it in after remembering a gay Rutgers University freshman who killed himself last year. Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter with another man was streamed online by his roommate.
Lemon dedicated his book to Clementi.
"There shouldn't have to be people like him and if I had had someone like me who had chosen to live their lives out and proud, there'd be no need for the Tyler Clementis of the world or teenagers who want to kill themselves," Lemon said.
Also grieving the suicide of a young student, Wilkins shares that goal of preventing more cases like Clementi's.
But his approach is different.
"Lemon believes his being 'out' would have been an encouragement to the Tyler Clementis of the world – in order for Tyler to come 'out and open.' As a man who has found freedom from homosexuality and 'out and open,' I too want the Tylers to know the past tense of homosexuality and the genuine freedom available through Jesus Christ," Wilkins, who lives with his wife and three daughters, said.
While Lemon's homosexuality was known to his co-workers, this is the first time he came out to the public.
The 45-year-old reveals in his memoir that he was sexually abused by his teenage neighbor when he was around five years old. But he has stressed that the abuse is not linked to his sexuality.
"Some people will try to equate being gay with being abused and the two couldn't be farther apart," he said on CNN. Both being abused and being gay "just happens to be part of my life," he maintained.
Contending that he is living his own truth and doing what is natural, he said in his nature, he is gay.
"People will say that it's not natural. But natural means in your nature and in my nature is what I am," he stated.
He further criticized the black community, particularly the black church, and how it deals with homosexuality.
"In black culture, the worst thing you can be really is a gay man," he said.
"Because of the church, because of I guess racism and how people have been treated in the past, we are suffering as African Americans the sort of vestiges of that and all of that comes with African Americans who don't want to accept, who think they can pray the gay away, that the church can somehow beat this out of you ... and that is just a bunch of bull," said Lemon, who said in the past he tried praying that he would change.
Praying the gay away doesn't work, Wilkins agreed.
He tried it for years, asking God to take "these attractions" away only to find the next morning that they were still there.
But he realized later that he had the wrong goal in mind.
"'Change' infers becoming opposite sex attracted which is, surprisingly, not the goal – though I thought for years it was," he said.
"For years I told God 'I am not attracted to Eve (women)' until I finally realized that before God gave Adam a helpmeet, God gave Adam Himself and thus the relationship that precedes all relationships is the one we have with our Creator who became our Savior. The operative word is freedom."
In terms of how the church has dealt with homosexuality, Wilkins believes evangelical Christians in general, not just the black church community, owe an apology to homosexuals for how they have approached the issue (but not an apology for their beliefs, he clarified).
"I don’t want to sound 'prophetic' but I believe the Bible is clear that God cannot bless a people with unconfessed sin. The way we have addressed this issue is heartless," he acknowledged.