The Low-Down on the Down-Low

By Norment, Lynn | Ebony, August 2004 | Go to article overview

The Low-Down on the Down-Low


Norment, Lynn, Ebony


THE down-low Brother is downright confusing. And I consider myself one of the more informed Sisters. For years I've researched and written about dating and mating trends. I've always been accepting of different lifestyles and sexual preferences, be that gay or bisexual or quirky or whatever. (Just leave me alone.)

I read E. Lynn Harris' first book about undercover gay Brothers when it was first distributed in beauty shops and other such gathering places. I've heard wide-eyed Sisters tell stories about acquaintances and friends of friends. The down-low Brother is yet another reason so many good and worthy Sisters can't find suitable mates.

Then the confounding numbers: AIDS is the No. 1 killer of young Black women. Black women are 23 times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS than White women. The leading cause of HIV among Black men is sex with other men. The leading cause of HIV among Black women is sex with men.

"What exactly is a down-low Brother?" my sister asked during one of our daily phone briefings. She and her single daughter had discussed the subject, and she was concerned. I tried to explain, but her pointed questions left me with no response. For weeks we examined the phenomenon and gathered information. By chance we recently ended up together in a packed, room of mostly women, listening to J.L. King. He is the Brother who wrote the book about his former down-low lifestyle.

"Down-low is the Brother who has sex with other Brothers. They are not in the closet, they're behind the closet," King wrote in his book.

Why don't the Brothers just come clean? "These men look like me, talk like me, think like me and are having sex with men, but they still love and want to have sex with their women," King said. "And they do not believe they are gay."

According to J. …

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