The DL or “down low” has been a topic we’ve covered in posts and podcasts since our first website Discreet City. Till this day, the word “discreet” still screams DL for a lot of people. Well, whatever.
Something that I have always found peculiar is that when there is a story of a married heterosexual White congressman or White conservative pastor who is exposed as a hypocritical closeted homosexual, the main stream media never refers to him as DL. The Down Low is uniquely African American…we started the term. We created another vernacular barrier that Black people have embraced to negatively label many Black same gender loving men.
For many in the Black community, DL isn’t limited to living a homo/bi sexual double life (in the traditional sense) but has evolved to also describe a non-descript homosexual man. This means he is not easily or outwardly identifiable as homosexual to other homosexuals or heterosexuals. Another term for this is “unclockable.” Even if this man is not deceiving anyone (which is the crux of the DL outrage) by simply existing, he is guilty of “hiding” in plain sight thus partially being deceitful.
Since 2011, there has been numerous DL or closeted homosexual related scandals and rumors pertaining to African American celebrities or personalities. From Bishop Eddie Long, former NFL players like Kerry Rhodes and Kordell Stewart, Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash, DJ Mister Cee, Andrew “I’m Not Gay No More” Caldwell, Rapper Young Thug, Michael Sam and the latest, former boxer Yusaf Mack.
Admittedly my degree of empathy is not equal between Eddie Long compared to Kerry Rhodes. While the good Bishop has long been against any form of LGBT equality, Rhodes was exposed by a supposed jilted ex-lover. Nonetheless; I think it would be disingenuous and delusional to not acknowledge the predominate factor that creates the down low or closeted men in the Black community, which are conservative ideals based in religion.
This is not about “well (White, Asian, etc.) people do it too”; this is exclusively about Black folk. We have a serious problem concerning the lack of empathy as it relates to DL or closeted LGBT individuals in the Black community; a community that through its actions and religious dogma, produces secrecy and hiding.
The typical recipe of ingredients for creating a down low man is as follows; teach him at an early age that society disdains his feelings and he is an abomination (not-natural). Teach him that his soul will burn in lakes of hell fire for all eternity. Teach him he is the same as a pedophile who abuses and kills children. Teach him he is a faggot and faggots are weak. Teach him that homosexual males want to be women and not a men. Add a heaping spoon of judgmental ignorant hatred and stir. Just look and listen to the video below but keep in mind its nothing you haven’t heard before.
This recipe has been passed around in the Black community for countless decades and has been inserted into the thoughts and minds of a large number of young males who may have same sex attractions. As it cooks, it destructively nourishes their beings, beginning possible long term struggles with denial, self-esteem, depression or other mental conditions that can fester and manifest in dangerous ways.
Through conditioning these males learn to hide who they are as they maneuver through life seeking acceptance within their families and communities. By doing so many do what they see their peers doing; date and obtain girlfriends. Like most humans, what these males have been taught in their early years of development (their sexuality is bad) remains and travels with them to adulthood.
This year I found out a man I briefly dated (if you want to label it) years ago, not only was a pastor of a church but was married with children. At that time, I was already out of the gay scene and I had no idea that he was a well-known DL pastor. I found out because someone on social media reposted an old exposé with his picture. I was shocked that so many knew of his personal business and affairs. The article also featured his online username, his bathroom nude pics, his phone number and several screen grabs of text messages. That post led me to another article which had a link to the pastor’s own rebuttal webpage. Of course it was filled with explanations like “I been lied on and my name has been dragged through the mud but I’ve been anointed with the blood of King Jesus…blah blah blah.”
In that moment, I truly felt bad for him. Growing up in the church and establishing a career and livelihood within the institution, he has been hiding his true self for almost his entire life. This is a direct result of the fear of rejection and alienation from those in his family and ultra-religious church community that have taught him to hate his sexuality. I sent him a message to do a possible interview anonymously via email, where I hopefully would get him to share his obstacles and explain first-hand why he is DL and closeted. I’m sure he’d forgotten who I was and expectedly my email went unanswered.
The latest DL scandal finds retired boxer Yusaf Mack’s sexuality being exposed by way of a gay porn scene he starred in. In a matter of days his story went from him being drugged and having no recollection of the film to admitting that he lied about being drugged and he is in fact bisexual. In an interview, he stated while walking the streets of his native Philadelphia, many associates who were previously friendly with him, were now shunning him. A friend pulled him aside and told him the reason people were not speaking with him was because they had seen the gay porn film he had made months before.
As noted, Mack’s first reaction to this news was to lie. This was his conditioned natural reaction of embarrassment and rejection by his community. I think it can be concluded that he wrongly assumed that no one from his “heterosexual” hood would see him in a gay porno. Being honest, my first reaction to the story was “why is this dude lying…doesn’t he know he is making the situation worse?” I think most can correctly assume he’s doing porn because he needs the money.
Mack has since released an apology in which he states;
“After reflecting on the mess I had made I realized that I hurt a lot of my loved ones – and the people I cared about the most were left disappointed and confused. It was unfair and time to come clean.”
“I want to say sorry to my children and my ex fiancé, I am so sorry that I was a coward and hid a huge part of my life from you all.”
“I’m not looking for sympathy or even understanding, I’ve kept this secret for a long time.”
“It is time to move forward and this is me walking in my truth.”
“There are other men and women that are set up in the similar situations and I just hope I can be inspiration to be just be you.”
“The extreme taboo and harsh criticism of living a same-sex lifestyle, especially as an African- American male, makes it hard to be completely honest and comfortable within yourself.”
“But I had to remember that I am a champ and I can fight and will fight through this.”
“I am more than my sexual orientation.”
In the numerous articles, blog postings and social media commentaries; compassion or empathy from African Americans (both heterosexual and homosexual) for Yusaf Mack is almost non-existent. There were the typical derogatory responses from straights and not surprisingly, gays were not chanting the popular gay mantra of “it gets better”. No one was telling him, “The world is so much bigger than your hood in Philly. There are people who will support you regardless of your sexuality.” No one was questioning the current state of his mental health since the gay porn scene came to light. Yusaf Mack denied taking part in gay porn out of fear of rejection…and the Black community proved him right. After the gay film production company threatened to sue, Yusaf owned up. While this scandal continues to play out, I just hope he doesn’t do something drastic like Lee Thompson Young or Sam Sarpong and take his own life?
Fear of being revealed and then rejected by friends and family is the DL or closeted man’s Kryptonite. On the outside looking in, who am I or anyone else to say when is the right time for someone else to “come out” being that their personal hardships or plights aren’t known? I’m sure the longer they hide their true selves the harder it is to escape the ruse that has been established.
I don’t condone a down low lifestyle or any type of relationship built on or around deceptions. I haven’t been a down low or closeted man in years. I do however; fall into the category of not wearing my sexuality on my sleeve, thus for many in my community, I’m guilty of hiding in plain sight simply because they can’t readily identify my sexuality.
Why do so many in the African American community have such a lack of compassion or empathy for down low or closeted men? I think many hide behind the simple reasoning that these men are dishonest, but rarely will these same African Americans hold a mirror to examine how they personally contribute to and drive the deceptions committed by their sons, brothers, nephews, grandsons, uncles and fathers. Many never will stop and think what anti-homosexual language they have used around their children or family members. What unobtainable negative concepts of masculinity have they conveyed? What foolish micro-aggressions like “boys shouldn’t eat bananas” have they instilled?
The African American community doesn’t have a problem studying the generational psychological traumas of slavery or psychosomatic side effects as it pertains to fatherless households, police brutality or prison incarceration. Is it possible we can study the roots of generational anti-homosexual attitudes in the community as well? Maybe then we wouldn’t circumvent the magnitude European supremacy has had on shaping the ideals of sexualities of African Americans as well as indigenous peoples throughout history through mass slaughter, enslavement and religious enforcement.
The African American community has made strides. We have a Black President and First Family who supports LGBT equality. We now have many open Black gay (and non-gay) pastors and bishops who focus on love and not fire and brimstone. In addition, we have had a number of Black same gender loving athletes to break barriers. Also, there are elements of the younger generation whose views and ideals are not as rigid, so I do feel there are some shifts in a more positive direction. However; let’s not pretend LGBT suicide, youth homelessness and transmittal of HIV among black homosexual men is not prevalent.
Even though many of our paths are different, I’m sure we all know what rejection feels like. Sometimes it has a distinctive sting when it comes from people who look like you and are unwilling to show compassion or empathy.