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An excellent "down low" column on PageOneQ

In the comments of the Tom Cruise post, House Blender ImpeachBush mentioned that the “Down Low” episode of Oprah from last year is airing again this week. There’s a great essay up over at PageOneQ by Jasmyne Cannick (a board member of the National Black Justice Coalition).

Apparently, Terry McMillan, author of the 1996 novel “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” has filed for divorce from her 30-year-old Jamaican husband Jonathan Plummer after discovering that he was gay. Oh boy. Will she follow-up that novel with this tale or rewrite “Groove”?

McMillan’s troubles are sure to spark the next “down low” alert for Black women and Black men both gay and straight will take the heat and begin a new wave of anti-gay stereotypes among heterosexual black women. Seldom admitted is the fact that most women have no problems with the “Jack’s” (Will & Grace) of the world. In fact, it’s been an increasing trend now with women to have gay male friends. No, the problem lies with the “Omar’s” (HBO’s The Wire). The men, that women find themselves attracted to but the feeling isn’t mutual. The men who cannot be “clocked” at first glance.

But what about McMillan’s soon to be ex-husband? Born and raised in Jamaica (which is known for it’s homophobic culture) he can never return home for fear of being murdered, now that it’s public knowledge that he’s gay. Gays and lesbians of Caribbean descent have been fleeing their native countries for years for fear of being viciously beaten or murdered. Deeply religious and conservative, Jamaicans simply do not tolerate “batty boys” and “sodomites.”

Some of our most beloved reggae recording artists spew lyrics of killing gays over their hypnotic beats.

A great book on the topic of the DL is Keith Boykin’s Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America. It’s a great counterbalance to On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep with Men, by J.L. King, the author Oprah had on her 2004 show. Boykin is rightfully tough on King, who is seen as exploiting the media’s need to place the spread of HIV in the minority community on the Down Low, when there are a lot of factors at work, including the DL. Like Boykin, Jasmyne Cannick points out that the real cause of the DL is our sick homophobic culture.

While everyone’s so quick to jump on the “down low” bandwagon, there are very few voices speaking on why the “down low” exists. It’s assumed that you are straight and anything different means that you are not normal. We encourage safe sex and HIV testing, but not the disclosure of sexual preferences if it’s anything other than heterosexual.

The “down low” exists because of every deprecating and hateful comment ever made about gays in the workplace, at the dinner table, in line at the grocery store, at the nail shop, on the courts and everywhere else.

For every sissy, faggot, bull dagger, batty boy and sodomite that fell off of someone’s lips within earshot of others, another person pushed themselves deeper and deeper into the closet.

We created the “down low.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding