Sports legend and AIDS activist Magic Johnson took a backseat earlier this week to his 20-year-old son, EJ, who came out of the closet as gay after he was photographed (in a memorable outfit!) holding hands with a reported boyfriend in West Hollywood. The former L.A. Laker, 53, opened up about his son's coming out in an emotional, lengthy interview with TMZ.
Although EJ's sexuality wasn't publicly known until Tuesday's headlines, it was a simple matter of fact in the family for years, with Magic and wife Cookie having "the talk" with EJ when he was about 12 years old. "We've known for a long time that my son EJ was gay," Johnson explained. "We finally had to sit down and talk about it. I told him, 'Look, I'm gonna love you regardless, just let me know. Are you, or aren't you?' And finally he said, 'Yes, I am.'"
Johnson explained the chat was "hard" simply because "he was so young . . . I told him, 'We are here to support you. We are gonna love no matter who you are, what you do. We just want you to love yourself and also make sure that you have all the information,'" explained Johnson, who has long worked with the LGBT community and advocated safe sex practices since announcing his own HIV-positive status in 1992. "I wanted to provide him with advice and guidance."
EJ himself was nervous about his father's reaction, Johnson recalled. "He really wanted to make sure I was okay. He wasn't worried about his mom, he was worried about me." Those fears were unfounded. "I love EJ so much. That's my main man. I told him, 'Nothing has changed.'"
As for EJ's move to go public earlier this week? "This was a moment for us as a family and an even greater moment for him," Johnson said. "I think now he's just the bubbly kid we knew again. He's just happy that it is out. I'm behind him a million percent. This is really wonderful for him."
Johnson acknowledged that EJ and his family have suffered some negative, homophobic backlash in some corners of the sports and African-American communities. "It bothers me that they're discriminating against anybody who's gay," he said. "I've been in the gay movement for a long time because of HIV and AIDS. I see young men who are black who couldn't come out, who couldn't tell their parents, their neighbors. So now, it's my son," he mused.
"This is the year 2013 --- we should stop discriminating against people," Johnson argued. "And that's what I'm gonna do with my son. But I'll also support others. This is gonna be good for a lot of black young people."
"It's unfortunate that we have to go through some of this negative stuff," he continued. "But it's not gonna change me, it's not gonna change my son and the way I love him. If people can't understand it, that's on them."