We can thank R. Kelly for igniting the proverbial flame under mainstream society asses, courtesy of his over-the-top “Trapped in the Closet” made-for-daytime-television, mini-movie video series. The soap opera-esque docu-drama exposed the secret lives of men in a rare form like no other. It was then that we were bombarded with the “Down Low Brotha” syndrome like a tidal wave of Justin Bieber fans. The topic of conversation – men who lead double lives, dabble on both sides of the fence, and participate in sexual relations with women by day and men by night – appeared inside the featured pages of African American women’s magazines. Plastered across the glossy covers read such headlines as: “Know the Signs of a Down Low Lover” and “Black Men Reveal Why They Keep Their Male Lovers a Secret,” among countless others, in turn putting fear in the hearts of women.
A phenomenon which changed the face of dating, making us think twice before giving up our precious goodies. Getting to know the intricacies of the man behind the suit and tie or Timbs and wife beater (depending on the woman *wink*) became parallel to the dating prerequisites of whether he had a legal job, and his own car. For once, we began to hold men accountable for their actions, and weren’t oblivious to the fact that not all gay men fell under the stereotype of a particular profession (i.e. hairdresser) or certain dress code (i.e. feminine).
Fast forward to 2010 when sexual preference and orientation is publicly embraced in music – see Nicki Minaj, media and television – from the ‘Tyra Banks Show’ to reality TV shows such as ‘The Real World’ – it’s baffling that in real life a homosexual/bisexual lifestyle is still very much the sweetest taboo.
Despite being led to believe that Black men are the only ones hiding behind a straight, “I’m heterosexual” face, Black women are engaging in same-sex relationships, choosing to lie about their true sexuality. While most of us were peeking over our shoulders wondering if the guy dancing up on us in the club was perhaps “down low,” a few of our fellow sistas were lurking in the closet. Well, maybe more than a few, but you catch my drift. Just as men, you would never know a “DL sista” by her occupation or physical appearance. However, often times, these sistas mask behind their careers, made-up exterior and material possessions to appear normal or as what society deems the traditional make up of a straight woman.
For whatever reasons, be it insecurity, fear of judgment, neglect or non-acceptance; they portray a certain image for others. DL sistas are all around us in everyday common places. She sits in the cubicle next to you at work, and her daily conversation revolves around men. Proudly proclaims her singledom, but declares the right man will find her as she runs down endless criteria from her life mate check list. She’s one of your Facebook and MySpace friends whose profile suggests she’s Single, Heterosexual and Interested Only in Men. Numerous status updates mention her desire for a man in her life with references such as, “I’m having car trouble today… this is why I need a good man in my life!!!!” Then there’s the sista who has a boyfriend. She sneaks away for mini-weekend-vacays with her female boo and her boyfriend doesn’t have a clue. Constantly bashes him to her female friends to ease her guilty conscience. Mind you, friends have no idea she goes both ways. A closet lesbian wouldn’t dare let on such privy information.
Unabashedly, these sistas practice deceitful behavior in the same manner as their male counterparts as though it’s acceptable, showing no respect for themselves or anyone else. The misconception that female-on-female action is every man’s fantasy could be a contributing factor but that’s not a valid excuse, as not all men share or will agree with such desires. Some men perceive DL sistas as confused individuals and prefer to date only straight women, steering clear of the unnecessary drama.
The answer remains ambiguous as to why the down low mindset has become the norm in Black culture, but there are serious consequences to this alternate lifestyle that are obviously being ignored. One being the prevalent HIV/AIDS epidemic among the African American community, which also applies to homosexual activity between women as it does men.
Sistas, don’t let a few minutes of pleasure turn into a lifetime of pain. Dare to be truthful.