Writer’s Note: This article is not an argument about whether homosexuality is right or wrong. Or an excuse for DL brothers who date women. And I don’t understand DL guys who really don’t believe they’re gay. AT ALL.
But moving on …
One afternoon last year, a coworker started a conversation with me about her sister’s former marriage. We weren’t really friends – I’d only known her for a few days, but she was one of those talkers who would tell you her entire life story before you even know her last name.
“My sister was married to this guy … I knew something was off about him, and our mama warned her before she married him that he was gay. She’s good at noticing that stuff. But she just got mad at our mama and married him anyway.
So years go by and I see the signs – I know he’s gay. My sister’s the only one who didn’t know or didn’t want to know. Then she finally finds out he was cheating on her. And with a man! But our mama told her! She had so many signs. But she just wanted to be married.”
More after the jump.
She continued talking about her sister, and then we moved to the topic of down low brothers in general. “Many of my male friends are gay,” I told her, “And I’m sure even if I couldn’t see it, somebody would let me know before I got into that type of situation.”
“That would never happen to me,” she said (referring to her sister). “Because I’m just like my mama, we have the gift. I can feel that demon spirit.”
Wait – what? I have no idea what my facial expression was, but in my mind, I was like, “Did she just say she could tell if guys were gay because she could feel their demon spirit?” Aww lawd. Sigh.
Now, this lady was a few chips short of a Lays bag, but there are a lot of other black people who feel to some extent that gay people just need to get that devil out of them. And this has fostered an unofficial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” culture in the black community. You can be gay, just don’t admit it. And it’s the reason a lot of DL brothers will probably never come out.
I honestly don’t understand the homophobia in the black community. We can see bigotry and inequality in race, but can’t see that gay people are people too. Gay black people shouldn’t have to pretend to be straight to be accepted.
And it’s crazy that the down low brother story is still seen as this strange enigma. “Why don’t they just admit they’re gay? Why are they pretending to be straight?”
Don’t get me started on the whole “No Homo,” phrase.
It’s the reason why the kids at the schools where Jaheem Herrera and Carl Walker Hoover attended thought it was OK to bully them for “acting gay.” Herrera went to Dunaire Elementary School, a mostly black school in Decatur, Ga., and Hoover attended New Leadership Charter School, a black school in Springfield, Mass.
The mothers of both boys brought the bullying to the school’s attention, but the administrations didn’t take it seriously enough.
It didn’t even matter if the two boys were gay or not, just the fact that they seemed gay was enough for them to be harassed every day at school. Both of them decided at age 11 that there was no way out and there was no reason to live. They had their whole lives ahead of them.
These stories didn’t come out of nowhere. Just like DL black people didn’t sprout from thin air. It’s not really about approving of homosexuality or going against your religious beliefs, but just accepting people as they are. The whole “Keep It on The Hush,” “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” culture won’t make the DL issue go away. It will only keep the practice going.
Ebonie is the author of the blog What Looks Like Crazy.
From The Snob: The whole DL issue is one that has always frustrated and confounded me. I know that many black gays and lesbians don’t come out for fear of abandonment both emotionally, spiritually and financially by their families and friends. That black people are perfectly fine with someone in some cases who is obviously gay (pick a-many church music director or sorority sister who is “oh you know how Sharon is!“), but recoil the minute they make it verbally known what everyone already assumed. And I’ve witnessed the abuse of black gays and lesbians who dared to live their life out in the open at a young age, as such was the case with a young man at my high school who came out my senior year and was fond of wearing make-up and feminine clothing. I was amazed at his bravery to show up at school at all considering the teachers pretty much turned a blind eye when everyone from the football team to female students used him as a verbal and physical punching bag.
But the oddest thing is how many blacks view homosexuality as a “white male thing.” The reality is black gays are in a double bind, risking being rejected by their own only to face racism and sexism from a gay community that is largely built around the needs and concerns of white men. One need only to look at the AIDS crisis as an example. When it was young, white males dying of AIDS you couldn’t get activists to shut up. Now that it’s largely blacks and especially black women, you hear absolutely nothing from those same coalitions.
Being intolerant is dangerous to the black community and doesn’t stop anyone from being gay. And if you think being gay is a “lifestyle choice” given all the baggage that comes with it, I’m amazed by you. Being in denial that there are black gays and lesbians, being in denial about AIDS, being in denial about the abuse directed towards black homosexuals does not help the community at large. It is killing us. You don’t have to agree with homosexuality, but attacking it and demonizing it isn’t actually stopping anything. If your goal was to simply drive it underground and encourage risky sexual behavior among all blacks, gay and straight, mission accomplished. That’s what you have. A lot of scared people, living a lie. A lot of black people not using precautions when having sex. And a lot of black people dying of AIDS.
I don’t condone living a secret life, but considering the reality many face of degredation, loss and even violence, I understand. Not everyone is gay in a big city. A lot of people are gay in the rural South or the Midwest, surviving in the midst of the Bible Belt. And maybe some of you think we can spare a few tens-of-thousands or more black people to disease and abandonment. I’d argue otherwise.
Agree? Disagree? Is there a bigger problem going on here or is there no excuse for hiding who you really are? Share your comments and opinions below. And if you’re so inclined, you can write the counter-argument to this post, and we’ll print it here on The Black Snob. This story is part of a series on interesting, unusual, funny and unconventional takes on issues. To see the full list of issues that will be covered, click here. To read past stories, click here.