If Black Gays Are Still On the DL It’s Probably the Black Community’s Fault (Unconventional Wisdom) (Guest Post)

By Ebonie

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.

64 thoughts on “If Black Gays Are Still On the DL It’s Probably the Black Community’s Fault (Unconventional Wisdom) (Guest Post)

  1. Sierra, you should really read my previous posts because I never condoned the harrassment of homosexuals.

  2. A man and a woman getting married no matter what religion they are, that does not change the natural order and defile the sacred covenant of marriage. I never said that only Jews or Christians should get married. Anyways, my stance on gay marriage will never change, and I hope that people will come to respect my views as based on my religion and not me hating them because I love gay people as much as I love heterosexuals.

  3. Nagrom: "Why does it have to be called "marriage"? Why is civil union not good enough?" So do you think "civil unions" are OK?Nagrom: "I don’t understand why they want to take the institution of marriage, which in it’s very definition is a holy covenat union between a man and a woman and their God, and make it something else which is was never intentioned to be."What about my point that ALL marriages are nothing but "civil unions" as far as the state is concerned? I mean, what does a "holy covenant union between a man and a woman and their God" have to do with the government?I’m half tempted to think it would be better if we stopped putting the name "marriage" on something official and civil, and reserved the word to mean the real covenantal relationship. People get "married", legally, who have no intention of living up to the word, so they are not "married" in a religious sense. But they’ve got the legal relationship, the civil union. I know that idea won’t fly … but I do wish people would at least make the distinction in their own minds. The state does not know or care if you are sincere in your vows, and the state makes no judgment on whether or not God exists, much less if he ratifies a given relationship. Civil union (whatever you call it) does not a marriage make (or break!)

  4. It would seem to me that given the argument that the word "marriage" should only apply to a covenant between a man and a woman and God, the Christian backlash should not begin with fighting against marriage between people of the same sex, but against the government using the term "marriage" to apply to the civil institution that takes into account legal rights, spousal rights and especially the existence of common law marriage.Christians should be in an uproar about annullments and the stunts pulled by Britney Spears and Spencer and Heidi. Instead, this covenant argument seems to only surface when the man or woman is replaced with someone of the same gender, not when God is removed from the covenant replaced by government.This is why I struggle to accept this argument as it seems to be based in perpetuating discrimination and not on protecting the sacred foundation of the covenant of marriage.

  5. Black folks need to let go of their hate and accept all people, gay or straight. I don’t know if gay people are like that from birth or if its an acquired lifestyle choice, I haven’t really formed a strong opinion on the issue yet. I just know that this discrimination based on sexual orientation needs to stop. Its further breaking up our community. Also, I think somebody else on here mentioned something about how discrimination against gays/lesbians is not equivalent to that of racism against blacks. I agree, and it’s annoying when organizations or the media try to promote it as such. Gay is not the new black.

  6. In my life gay is the new black. I spent the majority of childhood years being the other, as the only black girl in white school across town. There was discrimination from teachers and some of my classmates parents. It was something I had to contend with. Then, as I was coming out, I was once again the other. I guess this time, however, I had the opportunity to "pass" for straight. This time, also, the hateful things I hear about the LGBT community are not veiled as they were from my teachers or classmates. It’s overt homophobia full of "faggot" and "dyke" combined with adjectives like "disgusting" and "dysfunctional" and "immoral." One of my fellow teachers, said that a lesbian couple should be ashamed of what they were doing to their daughter by bringing her up in that lifestyle. I can no more change being black that I can change being gay. I guess the only "luxury" is that my aesthetic keeps me safely inside the "straight" parameters. But children being bullied and fought because they are gay, or perceived as such, is just as awful as black students getting spit at and curse 50 years ago. Gays being forced out of the military is just as unfair as segregated ranks in the past. The fact that I can lose my job simply because I am gay is also a travesty.The LGBT community isn’t trying to take anything away from the black experience, hell, alot of us have lived that experience as well. We are simply trying to say that there is no hierarchy of oppression, and just as black folks were treated differently because of something they could not change, the LGBT community is being treated the same way and neither is okay. Lastly, being gay is not a lifestyle.. any more than being black is.

  7. I don’t care anymore who is gay or not. Just don’t marry the opposite sex, have kids, give everyone HIV and then leave the scene! Those are the DL brothers I can’t stand and do find to be extremely evil. Just keep HIV to yourself. Don’t destroy a sister.

  8. I am white and a christian, but the people who say that they are against Gay marriage need to read there bibles, no were in the bible does it talk about gay marriage. I have found in my community that the people who have a problem with Gay marriage are usually hung up on the S_X , and that is really none of thier business. I have a social concerns group in my church, that I belong to and it is made up of young and old, conservative and liberals (all christian ofc ourse ,it is church) and this is the only thing that we have ever all agreed upon: that Gay Marriage is the only correct christian response. We cannot deny rights or respect to any of Gods people on any bases. Great article with great insight into the Black Homosexual experience.

  9. Here is something people don’t want to discuss. Lets start with the rectum. What is it for? Is for (a) exit of waste or (b) conduit for sex? Tough questions, no so-called homosexual man or heterosexual folks into anal sex want to deal with. Can I get an AMEN?Regarding, OUR CHOICES. I agree that sexuality is complicated but regardless, we have choices in life. If individuals are inclined to be with opposite sex or same sex, THAT IS A CHOICE! What an individual does with his or her body with another SOMEONE is a CHOICE! Period.Everything is CHOICE. You have choice to believe in God or not. You have choice to smoke pot and sniff cocaine or not. You have choice to sleep around or participate in swingers clubs or not. You have a choice to go to a brothel or strip club or not.We humans have free will choice to do as we please. But be warned, all our choices ain’t good for us or the soul.This is why Jesus preached about the FLESH and the SOUL. The soul is more important than the flesh. So the real choice is this: are you lead by your flesh or your soul?Having said this, I believe all human beings have a right to be treated with respect, regardless of sexual orientation. ‘Gay’ people pay taxes, have families and serve in our armed service. As all human beings, they deserve to have their civil liberties protected. They are human. I love them as God loves them.Peace and love.

  10. When I asked great granny why she didn’t hate my evil mom like everybody else did, she told me, "we are all God’s children baby".Some of you so-called Christians need to remember that.In America we are also (mostly) citizens of the USA. Every adult citizen should enjoy the exact same set of rights. Want to stay in that hotel? Race shouldn’t matter in the USA.Want to be a lawyer? Race, gender, religion, etc. shouldn’t matter in the USA.Want to marry the one you love? Sexual orientation, gender shouldn’t matter in the USA. (And for damned sure, if a 14 yo girl in South Carolina can marry a 40 yo man – two 35 yo old men should be able to get married)I know we don’t live in a perfect world, and we may never have true equality. But if you have ever had to struggle for equality, how the hell could you deny that to somebody else? ESPECIALLY, if you call yourself a Christian.Peace over chicken grease – I’m out

  11. @tarheelio: Love you post, agree 100%. You have (partially) restored my faith in people who subscribe to organized Christianity. I was raised to think like Nagrom and many of the other people who have responded to this post, but I don’t. The reason? I have, unlike many Christians I’ve met, actually read the Bible –front to back. The ten commandments do not include homosexuality as a sin. Nowhere does it say that two people of the same gender cannot marry. the topic is not even touched on. Not that it’s stopped priests and ministers, throughout the ages, from putting their own prejudicial spin on things. It’s my belief that if you have to misquote something or someone to make a point, your point is either not worth making or an outright lie.

  12. I’ll be honest, I don’t really get the whole anti-gay thing in the Black community. I suppose I understand that the "church" has issues with homosexuality, but my family just doesn’t care about if someone is gay or not. If they are good people, gay or straight, we’re happy to have them around us. 5 years ago <I can’t believe it’s been that long->, my best friend was killed by his lover. My grandmother said she’d pray for him, since "God made him, too". She was 81 at the time. My last school roommate was a lesbian, who came out AFTER we began living together…I just shrugged. OK, that means I won’t have to worry about her running after my man. I still can’t understand why I should care what 2 totally other people are doing. So the community, as a whole, isn’t homophobic…but the ones who are, must be loud enough to drown the rest of us out.

  13. NAgrom: what can gay people do to defile marriage that straight people haven’t already done?

  14. Tarheelio & Coquinegra: I agree with you both. God loves each one of us! And more than anything I hate the fact the black people have the nerve to decide for whatever reason that they are going to dislike someone [anyone] for being different. The question that I often ask persons that I have had this debate with in the past, is this: If a heterosexual couple are two people who are people with no moral fiber, committing sins within their marriage, and generally not the best people find themselves being judged on the same day that a gay couple who are good decent people, who happen to also believe in god, are committed to their community, very giving, generally awesome people, who would get into to heaven first, if at all? I ask this question because you see, I too am a Christian and believe very much in the Father and I know that the God that I serve honors love. He states that the greatest of things is love. He also forgives and he is ultimately the judge. Not me the Christian, nor the politicians [not to imply that homosexuals should be forgiven for any sin]. Further, I will share with a story about a young man [my nephew] whom I’ am very close to. He is now struggling with his sexuality also. He, like many teenage boys in our society had to first understand why he had an attraction to the same sex. He hid this fact as well as he could for a very long time. However, not well enough, my older sister [who is not his mother] and I noticed that he was very different long ago. Long before he was even able to understand what sex was. For a time we thought, hmm… maybe we should just wait and see, so we did that. As he reached puberty I knew in my heart that he would have to face who he was one day, all the while keeping what I saw in him to myself until he felt comfortable enough to come to me with it. Finally, he is in therapy working through some other personal issues [which were non-sexual] with his mom and finally, he begins to open up to myself and his therapist about his attraction to other males. He would many times express how much he didn’t like gays, because of course "he wasn’t gay!" After-all no one likes gays, right? So even though he knew that he was attracted to the same sex, he refused to really identify with that part of himself because he full well knew the repercussions for being different in this society. His father had already planted the seed of hate long ago when he too [I believe] saw what I saw, and began calling him gay, faggot, queer! I saw simply, my baby, my nephew. And then, what about his favorite cousins, my two sons who are heterosexual teens? What would they think of him if they knew? Well I will tell you what they think! They LOVE their favorite cousin no matter WHAT! They DO NOT CARE! And they would never do or say anything to condemn him in anyway, I know this for certain. However, he still has not found the courage to share with them his T [TRUTH]. Funny, because they are waiting to tell him that they love him just the way he is, for what he is and to please stay the same no matter what people say.So, to what end do we hurt and condemn people for what they were born into? You see, this child that I watched come into this world with video camera in hand, mother and big sister in tow, and tears in my eyes, I know, did not choose his sexuality. His sexuality chose him. And I also KNOW that the GOD that I serve would never turn such a child away from the pearly gates the day that he too is to be judged. Why? Because just like he made me he also made my nephew and HE TOO is a child of the God.

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