In a recent panel discussion in recognition of World AIDS Day, Magic Johnson talked about the time after he was diagnosed with HIV 22 years ago, and how the world has changed since.
At that time, you couldn’t talk openly about HIV and AIDS like we can now. You had to whisper about it, or it had to be one on one, or in a back room to talk about it. My wife [Cookie] was scared because she knew the public had loved me before and now she was thinking that they would not. Cookie is a very private person and she knew that now our lives would be open. I’ve always tried to protect her from the media and so it was tough for her.
God blessed us with some good news about seven or eight days later [after the diagnosis]that she was OK and the baby was OK, but it was a rough journey for that first three or four weeks because we didn’t know. I didn’t know what was going to happen because at that time AIDS was a death sentence and so…now everything has changed.
Johnson also opened up about his son EJ, who came out to the family as gay when he was a teen and recently came out publicly, saying:
It’s really interesting to me when I hear people say, ‘I can’t go home and tell my parents.’ That blows me away. When my son EJ came out and said that he was gay, Cookie and I were like, ‘Hey, ain’t nothing changed. Go to school, go have your regular day. I love you and I’m gonna support you. I’m gonna be with you 150 percent.’
In response to how the public has reacted since, Johnson said:
I don’t care what people think. Nobody is paying my bills. Cookie and I do not care about what everybody thinks about us. We love our son just like I love my son Andre and my daughter Elisa. Nothing is gonna change that. Nothing is going to change my mind about how I feel about my kid. I brought him into this world with my beautiful wife and so I love him.
When I heard all the blogs start attacking and black Christians like, ‘Oh, what are Magic and Cookie doing?’ I don’t care what they think. The only person I care about is God and that’s it. My pastor is good. EJ knows that he can call Dad and Mom. I’m proud of my son, I’m proud of what he’s doing, and the man he’s become.