THE BLOG
12/30/2013 08:09 am ET Updated Mar 01, 2014

Why Robin Roberts' Coming Out Is A Big Deal

ASSOCIATED PRESS

It hasn't been hard to see that morning news is getting gayer and gayer. With anchors like Sam Champion and reporters like Jenna Wolfe opening up about their relationships and their families, 2013 was something of a banner year for LGBT visibility on shows like "Today" and "Good Morning America."

But the confirmation by Robin Roberts of the widely assumed -- but rarely discussed -- fact that she is a lesbian in a long-term relationship is on another level entirely.

Roberts is not just any host or reporter. She is the linchpin of the most popular and profitable morning news show on television. More importantly, she is the emotional core of "GMA," someone whose harrowing and intensely documented medical ordeals have cemented her beloved status with her audience. She is the person who audiences turn to every morning, a symbol of comfort and mainstream values. And she is a gay black woman. It is hard to imagine such a thing even a few years ago.

If the "Duck Dynasty" saga showed the ways in which homophobia is still excused in American society, Roberts shows that there are reasons to be optimistic about the further acceptance of LGBT people as part of the everyday fabric of peoples' lives. The specifics of her story also tell us something about the particular cruelties of grappling with life in an often anti-gay world.

Roberts' bone marrow transplant was as intimately discussed with the "GMA" audience as any public medical story has been in recent memory. ABC cameras recorded Roberts in the hospital, in her home, with her family, and at moments of acute emotional distress. She spoke openly about her fears of dying, and about the pain she was in.

But the woman Roberts has been sharing her life with for ten years -- someone who almost certainly played a central role in her struggles -- was not mentioned or seen once.

Luckily, she can finally be acknowledged, and Roberts can honor her publicly. That is a happy way to cap off 2013, and a way to hope that others will follow in Roberts' footsteps.