EJ Johnson and his mother, Cookie Johnson, talked about the difficulty of coming out to his father, NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, during an episode on Monday of Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett Smith.
Cookie Johnson said her son started showing signs of being different as early as 3 years old. “That’s when he started wanting to put on the princess costumes at school. Even at home, he would come to my closet and put on my shoes.” She viewed her son’s feminine traits as a phase until a family vacation in Hawaii, where she noticed men on the beach enticed him.
After finding out EJ’s sexuality, the mother of two said she was OK with what made him happy but told her son, “You can be happy in your room but don’t let Dad see.” Both Cookie Johnson and EJ then shared the details of the moment they sat Magic Johnson down to share the news.
“We had the talk with Dad, and that was a little tough,” she said. “My husband is the kind of person … he reacts quickly. Everything that came to the top of his head, he just let it out.”
The conversation soon became hurtful, and Cookie Johnson recalled her husband saying, “This is not what I wanted for my son. And do you realize what you’re saying because the world is not going to like that, and do you want to live this life?”
After the reaction, the former point guard had a conversation with his wife that night, and she told him his response “wasn’t right.”
The next day EJ remembers his father coming into his room and saying, “We’re going to get through this, and I just need time,” then they both began to cry. Soon after coming out to his father, EJ moved to New York City to attend college. He said that time allowed his dad to become more open to EJ’s sexuality and gender fluidity.
During Magic’s first visit, he and EJ went to dinner. “He hugged me so hard. He almost like broke my back,” EJ said. “At that point, I was like, ‘We’re going to be OK.’ I could really feel the love.”
Watch the video above to hear EJ speak about living as his true self.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.