Who was that fabulous creature strolling down Sunset Strip Monday night, decked out in a black boa, pink shoes, and red handbag? Why, it was Earvin Johnson III, making a bold declaration that he is gay by heading for a club hand-in-hand with his boyfriend.
Magic Johnson’s 20-year-old son, known as E.J., adroitly handled an impromptu interview with a TMZ reporter as he walked. To his credit, the reporter stuck to the subject of The Lakers, though that was clearly not what was uppermost in his mind. The boyfriend grinned good-naturedly at EJ’s side throughout the brief conversation. Later, TMZ got a statement from basketball great Magic Johnson himself, who said:
“Cookie and I love EJ and support him in every way. We’re very proud of him.”
What else would one expect from a man who has been a good friend to the LGBT community for over 20 years? After Magic Johnson announced he was HIV-positive in 1991–the same year he married wife, Cookie–he became a strong advocate for better treatment of the disease and pushed, in particular, to educate the black community about it. At the time, those with his health status were strongly discriminated against, but no segment of the population was more stigmatized than gay males. As he told the Huffington Post in 2011:
“When I announced, you had to whisper. There were no interviews like this about HIV and AIDS. When I announced, everybody with HIV and AIDS was put over there in the corner, and nobody wanted to talk to them or listen to them.”
In addition to dealing with widespread ignorance about the disease, the basketball star became the subject of rumors that he was either gay or bisexual and had become infected by having sex with an HIV-positive male. These difficulties did not deter Johnson from working with those who knew the most about the subject. In the Huffington Post interview, he said:
“I learned a lot from the white gay community because they had gotten their community, rallied them, educated them and did a wonderful job about driving the numbers down. That is the best approach that I’ve seen; it’s been the most effective. So what we try to do in our community is bring those results to us. So I’m working hard to continue to educate minorities about HIV and AIDS and we’ve got to band together.”
Fortunately for EJ, he has a strong role model for dealing with potential adversity; plus he’s coming out at a time when the worst of the prejudice against the LGBT community seems to be yielding to a tide of support for equal rights. Not that the New York University student seems at all lacking in coping skills. With an engaging smile and an air of confidence reminiscent of his famous dad, EJ graciously ended the short interview with a “thank you” and a nod before continuing on his way.