Chronicles of A Down Low Brotha

Caught Between Two Worlds

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Michael Baisden... Do you really understand the down-low?

Recently I was riding in the car listening to the Michael Baisden Show and he does a show every Monday entitled "Madd Issues Monday."  I never listened to Michael Baisden before, but recently started since the change in my children's school schedules, over the past year.  Well every monday, he talks about Sloppy Cheaters, and without fail you can always expect for some woman to call into the show to discuss how she caught her husband in the act.

This particular caller called in and told the story of how she came home early on Valentine's Day, and when she pulled up in the driveway she saw her husband's best friend's car there, which she didn't think anything of.... well I'm sure I don't need to explain how the story ends...but to make a long story short, she discovered her husband in the kitchen having sex with his best friend who apparently was wearing one of her wigs (don't ask me why).  You can actually catch the podcast at this link provided (  go down to 8.9.10 Hour 2 "Caught in the act")  It never fails that the show always takes a down turn to discuss the down low phenomenon.

In recent years, a sub-culture within the homosexual lifestyle has garnered much media attention, and to say that this attention is unsavory is a severe understatement at best. This subset has become known as “The Downlow”. Now, if you have been slightly comatose for the past 10 years, “The Downlow” (or DL) is a term used for men (usually African-American) who secretly participate in homosexual activities, but still maintain a heterosexual lifestyle (i.e. being a womanizer, having a steady girlfriend, getting engaged to a woman, being married with children) and have no desire to come out of the closet. Many horror stories have come out of these types of situations, such as, women who return home early from work to find their man having intercourse with his “best friend” as discussed on the radio, wives who have had nervous breakdowns after finding out about their husband’s “other” life, and, worst case scenario, men who have infected their women with HIV as a result of having unprotected sex with their downlow partner(s). Episodes like these, and many others, have raised the ire of women across the country, thus heightening the awareness of the existence of DL men. However, is “The Downlow” as horrible as it is purported to be?  Even some men have become homophobic and lash out talking about how disgusting and low life down-low brothers are.

As an African-American man, I can attest to the fact that growing up as a Black male pre-millennium you are told that “fags” are bad people, stay away from them, and NEVER be like them. Much of this mindset comes from religious beliefs in the African-American community, as most people within the community observe either Christianity or Islam, two religions that totally condemn homosexuality. So, on the religious front, you are raised to believe that homosexuals go to Hell, then, on the personal front, you are taught that a gay man is less of a man. Though the former is an effective scare tactic that gives theological grounding to the anti-gay message within the community, it is the latter that drives the point home for the remainder of your childhood, for whenever you did something that was considered feminine (i.e. crying when your feelings got hurt, playing with the girls instead of the guys, playing with dolls) your manhood was challenged by the spouting of derogatory terms towards you, like “punk” or “faggot”. What made it worse is that, often times, these demeaning names came from peers or relatives, which will strike a nerve every time. As humans, we accept the reality that we are presented with, so if a person is brought up to think that homosexuality is a bad or evil thing, is there any wonder why certain men would want to conceal their true sexuality?
As time goes on, these men will begin to battle with the homosexual urges within them. For some, the battle is very short, as they tire of fighting what feels right to them and embrace their homosexuality (or bisexuality). For others, it is really heart wrenching internal warfare that they are forced to deal with. There are a lot of questions that go through a person’s mind when he is battling the possibility of being gay. Will I really go to Hell? Will my family stop loving me? Will my parents kick me out? Will my social life end if people start to find out? Can people tell that I like guys just by looking at me? Am I masculine enough? Will I catch AIDS? Am I a bad person? Do I have mental problems? Is there anyone who understands what I am going through? Will I be seen as just another flaming faggot? Sadly, sometimes it seems like a hopeless situation, causing suicide in some cases. Even worse, it is the negative reaction from family members who may have caught wind of the homosexual desires that fuels the suicide. Either way…it’s tragic.

Still, there is a population of men within the African-American community who decide that they can no longer deny their attraction to the same sex; however, they are unwilling to so sacrifice their heterosexual lifestyle, their public-image, nor their family relationships to satiate their sexual urges. So they continue to remain in the closet and keep their homosexual activities on the downlow. In their mind, these DL men are doing nothing wrong, for they know that their urges are far too strong for them to deny, but they will not jeopardize the image that they have fought so long and hard to maintain…that of a “real man”. They feel that since they are only having sex with these men, but still being a good boyfriend or husband to their woman, then they are good to go. As with this writer, who was extremely DL as a teenager in the mid-1990’s, it is usually in a person’s teen years that the decision to be DL is made. This makes perfect sense because it is during your teens where you start to figure who you are as person, but it is also during this time that that outside world’s perception of you means the most, making the decision to become DL a more viable one to an African-American male, for, as much as we would like to deny it and sweep it under the rug, African-Americans as a whole are far much harder on homosexuals than any other cultural group. It may sound like a sweeping generalization, but it is what it is.

Aside from the fact that African-Americans consider homosexuality a severe vice within their community (case in point, I actually witnessed a friend’s grandmother tell his friend that she would rather he be addicted to Crack instead of being gay), it is also the rest of the world’s shunning of homosexual men that still creates the need for these men to continue to be DL. Yes, great strides have been made in the arena of gay acceptance in The United States in the last 10-15 years however, homosexuals still cannot legally be married in all 50 states, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy still exists, HIV is still directly linked to homosexuals in the public eye, and gay bashing is still as rampant as it ever was. These and a plethora of other factors do not help to promote the idea that it is okay to be gay in the USA, actually, it says the exact opposite. Also, since “The Downlow” has been brought into the mainstream, women have become much more aware of its existence to the point where many women now look for any and all signs of gayness in their men. This is a really bad trend for two reasons: 1) it causes paranoia among women….paranoia = fear….fear transforms into hate….hate from women toward gay men will deal a serious blow to the acceptance of homosexuality in America, 2) with women now probing potential mates for signs of homosexuality, it will only cause these DL men to cover their tracks even better, making it all just a vicious cycle.
I do not want to be misinterpreted, for this post is not a defense of “The Downlow”.Still, a good argument can be made for the psychological trauma of DL men because they have been raised their entire lives to believe that what they feel for the same sex is wrong. How could it not be traumatizing to have it drilled into your head that you SHOULD NOT be who you really are? Obviously, such a situation has to have severe psychological ramifications if we are now seeing numbers of DL men continue to rise. Of course, situations where DL men have given HIV to their spouses or girlfriends is a sad situation indeed, but straight men have been giving this virus (and others) to their women for quite some time now from affairs with other women, so why is it worse when a DL man does it? Many women will say that the deception makes it worse, but if society hadn’t forced these men into to closet, then “The Downlow” would not even be an issue. Perhaps if parents (especially mothers) and the African-American community as a whole would stop raising our children with such a fervent anti-gay message, then perhaps women would have less to worry about when it comes to choosing a mate. Just a little food for thought......


  1. Great, very thoughtfully written post.

    Yes, I grew up hearing some very negative comments about gays while growing up. But I usually overlooked them and I always embraced people who were gay or different, even before I realize I was DL.

    Do you want to know why. The relatives and friends who spouted the anti-gay rhetoric were usually the most ignorant. How can a black uncle say, "Don't grow up to be a fag" when he is beating his wife, has babies out of wedlock, and doesn't half support the children he does have?

    Even when I was very young I was taught to be tolerant. My mother had friends who were deaf mute and one of my first jobs was being a companion to a blind kid that lived down the street. Watching him swim and try to live as normally as possible gave me a great appreciation for handicapped people.

    My mom also had a good buddy who was gay. He was a very masculine gay dude and was in a labor union with my mom -- a very macho, blue color labor union. I remember Ma told me somebody called Maurice a sissy in a bar and Maurice proceeded to beat the SHIT out of that dude in the bar in front of all his gay friends. So I learned very early gay men could be tough men too.

    Lastly, I also found when I was in school that guys who were the most publicly homophobic were the some of the main ones playing with guys on the side. The fact they were real aggressive, loud, and athletes helped them hide the fact they were DL.

  2. Great post and awesome insight from you and Immanuel!

  3. My parents taught me to be a leader, not a follower. "Just because everyone else says it, or believes it, or does it - doesn't mean you have to follow them." They taught me to do what's right and to respect my elders and all, but they emphasized being my own man.

    They also didn't think much of organized religion.

    It was still hard for me to come out when I was 29, but I did it because I couldn't live a lie any longer. I never got married because I couldn't mislead a woman like that, let alone start a family that would ultimately end up split because of my homosexuality. But I couldn't live my life alone in a closet of my own making anymore either.

    My parents were disappointed, but gradually came around. I wish my Mom had still been alive to see me marry my husband in 2008. I think she would be happy for me like my Dad is.

  4. Michael you can say what you'd like and I guess I can't expect anything more than exceptance of a gay life style, coming from a person who openly says you're not (in a nutshell) in to religion. It's not a natural fit for a male and female organs as designed by GOD, to fit with their same sex! Two things that we are to do as written in Genesis and Exodus, is to reproduce and believe in GOD. The day you can show me that a man and a man or a woman and another woman can produce a child between the two of them,that's the day I'll and probably the majority of society will embrace homosexuality as a way of life. Nevertheless, keep doing what you're doing my brutha!