Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Downlow

Can you explain to me something about the "downlow" or "lowdown" or whatever it's called. Something to do with closeted men who are gay or bisexual. Is this just in the black community? I'm a straight woman but I'm curious about this phenomenon. Anon.

The downlow is an expression first used in and about the African-American community -- popularized by a major article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine some years ago -- but it's a situation that occurs within all ethnic backgrounds. Someone on the downlow is a person who is publicly straight but privately homosexual or bisexual, engaging in homosexual acts and occasionally relationships on the sly. Generally we're talking about men married to women who regularly engage in sex with other men. Despite this -- and because of the straight lifestyles they lead, not to mention the guilt and shame they feel -- most of these men think of themselves as being straight. They are not -- they are just in denial, suffering from internalized homophobia. Closet cases, in other words.

There is no reason to believe that this situation occurs more among black men than white, Asian, Latino etc. It also has to be said that in the African-American community there are many Out and Proud Gay Males. It is frequently said that this kind of situation develops more in male communities where machismo is king, but men of all ethnic backgrounds can fall prey to old-fashioned macho attitudes and the insecurities they engender. Some men on the downlow identify as bisexual, but think other men are just for sex and women are for relationships; in truth, their shame over their homosexuality would in all likelihood prevent them from developing a committed relationship with another male, or from recognizing in many cases that they are essentially homosexual.

Gay Liberation -- 99% of which is in the head -- is the antidote to the downlow.

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