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.

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  • Purplepeace79

    Thank you all for responding. I saw RED when I read that “ordinary” woman line. I was going to really rant about it on Twitter, but opted against it. This is one of the dumbest things I’ve read on this website, and that says a LOT.

    First, the idea of what is feminine and masculine is salient, so if we are to define one’s sexual preference/orientation by how he/she socially presents, we’d be a bunch of idiots. What’s feminine to me may not be to you, therefore neither of us can judge people based on such a biased notion.

    If a woman doesn’t cook or wear heels, should we assume she is less feminine and thus not an ordinary, heterosexual woman? And if a lesbian or bisexual woman wears red lipstick, 4 inch stilletoes, and weave down her back, do we assume she is heterosexual or pretending to be? Let me guess… we need to start wearing Scarlet B’s and L’s to identify ourselves now?

    Bitch, please.

    Dare to be truthful? Here’s some truth for you.

    The Black Church is primarily responsible for this pervasive homophobia. The historical emasculation of Black men is responsible for this pervasive homophobia. Ignorant bloggers with no real insight into the real lives of oppressed members of the LGBT community are responsible for the pervasive homophobia.

    The idea that heterosexuality is “normal” and “ordinary” is responsible for this pervasive homophobia.

    You know what, I can’t even type anymore lol It will go over your head anyway… Stick to what you know and leave the LGBT issues for those who at least half-understand the intricacies of the struggle.

  • Yuck.

    This article reads like propaganda+a witch hunt. I’m not comfortable with community-wide ‘releasing the hounds’ on men OR women for fear of them being on the DL.

    Why on earth would any of the “deceitful” sistas want to come out as gay/bi/anything when they’re obviously gonna be lambasted by their co-workers, friends, family; as this article suggests.

    Sexuality+love is not a mystery for anyone else to solve except for those folks involved in the relationship.

  • Readers,

    Our editors made edits to this piece, omitting the “ordinary” line. CLUTCH Mag is not an anti-LGBT publication and readers should always know the views and opinions expressed in commentary-based articles belongs solely to the writer and not necessarily CLUTCH Mag. We’d like to extend our sincerest apologies to any readers who may have been offended.

    Our best,
    CLUTCH

    • Frankly I’m surprised that no one thought to edit it in the first place… I honestly don’t even see why it was published. What point does the author make? “Some women are bisexual and don’t tell anyone about it.” Um, okay?

  • Jo

    Where does one begin?

    As a writer, I realize that as a hetero Black woman sometimes my responses are heteronormative. Attempting to “do” sexuality is difficult and nuanced. Period.

    When I read this post I hoped it would address the way traditional gender/sex roles create issues like “down low” behavior and/or masking in the lives of both gay men AND women. That would have been an exceptional read.

    Instead, I was bombarded with, “For whatever reasons, be it insecurity, fear of judgment, neglect or non-acceptance; they portray a certain image for others. Posing as ordinary women, not the stripper in the club or private escort on Craigslist who generally identify as “Bi,” DL sistas are all around us in everyday common places.” This type of speaking promotes homophobia, regardless if its intention- a sort of “watch out for the big bad lesbian” meme. Its sad.

    I’d love to know what the focus of the article was meant to be, because I fear I lost it.