The Living Truth Behind a Double Life
This topic of men living their lives on the down-low surged rapidly in the early 2000s. We saw movies that scrutinized it like “Far From Heaven” in 2002 and “Cover” in 2008. Media outlets such as the “Oprah Winfrey” show covered the topic extensively through interviews with “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” author, Terry McMillan and her ex-husband who came out, and with Bridget—who sued her closeted, Hollywood executive ex-husband for $12 million after contracting HIV from him while on their honeymoon. The down low phenomenon became this new boogieman that lurked, hidden in plain sight, whether it be across the table at your next first date or already sharing your bed. Women, especially black women, were given a loud and clear emergency alert to be on the look-out for near and present danger.
However, similar to the ebola outbreak, it came fast, furious and stayed constantly in our faces for a time. Then, ever so quietly, slipped into the abyss. Banishing panic. Urgency. No longer much of a worry. Yet and still, the down low men are very much alive and well in 2018. Cheesing in pictures on dates, walking side by side with anxious women down wedding aisles, and holding their hands while birthing a new generation.
Although, I despise what these men are doing day in and day out to unsuspecting women, I can only imagine how unbelievably uncomfortable one must be living a lie on a daily basis. Accidentally leaving your phone unlocked. Possibly forgetting to delete a text thread, a picture or uninstalling that Grindr app. Having to come up with elaborate lies to defuse risqué text messages or emails between yourself and another guy. Perhaps insisting that your exchange was really with a woman, but names were swapped. Praying that that and many other fables being told will fly. Living on edge and hoping no one finds out. Whew child! That sounds stressful as f**k; and I’m sure it’s an extremely miserable existence having to exhaustingly hide behind a happy-go-lucky mask of love and happiness with a woman who probably remains clueless as to who you really are.
Who wants to live that way? And possibly cost a woman her life and time in the process? Many of us want to scream at the top of our lungs, “Live in your truth!” while those who empathize with these closeted men have every excuse under the rainbow as to why they can’t come out and play, freely and openly.
What I know to be true about most men is that they are deathly afraid of rejection. This fear of being ousted from their religious affiliations, families, coveted organizations and social circles is the resounding echo heard from behind slightly cracked closet doors and from spokesmen from the gay community who leak a bit of second-hand insight into the minds and interworking of “trade” or down-low men. But is this still a viable excuse in 2018? Let’s see. On any given Sunday you can step foot into a vast majority of churches, and see openly gay men worshipping and even leading ministries. Take a look at your Greek organizations. I have yet to see one devoid of a member of the gay community, and they appear happy and accepted, posted up with mile long smiles and throwing up their designated hand gestures. They are present in sports organizations, entertainment and actively a part of thriving social circles, even carving out their own families that serve as, arguably, better support systems than some are gifted with biologically.
When it comes to sexually fluid men—the ones who claim to have a genuine interest in both women and men who, however, keep the latter interest hidden— they are said to do so mainly because of the rejection that they may face from women. First and foremost, fear of rejection does not justify lying, deception or omission. Men on the down low are essentially thieves, robbing women of their choice. Women should be given the respect of knowing the full scope of what the man she is dealing with is into. Some women are down with it, and some are not. If a woman does not want to be with a sexually fluid man, that’s her prerogative, that’s her choice, and it is flat out wrong and despicable to take that away from her.
For those that argue that these women are homophobic or that the women claiming to be allies to the LGBTQIA community are hypocrites for not wanting to be sexually or romantically involved with a bisexual or pansexual male, your argument is severely flawed. And because of this, I must reiterate as well as expound on some universal motherly advice and drive it home, since mama either dropped you off or ran out of gas. “Everybody is NOT going to like you, and that’s OKAY. Everybody is NOT going to WANT you nor is anybody required to.” Just because someone supports you does not make him or her obligated to have you in their intimate space. If equality, acceptance of you being who you are, and befriending you is not enough, then sorry, not sorry. Build a bridge, get over it, and find someone who does want to be with you because arguing about someone’s wants and personal preferences are futile.
The point of the matter is that in this day and time, the excuses for having women unknowingly sign what I like to call “trade agreements” should be null and void. And while we’ve examined these men, their struggles and their justifications at length here, in various articles and in podcast discussions, we must address the women. What about the women? What about the ones that are not okay with it? Are women in any way responsible for ending up in these situations? What about the effects that this can have on them, not only physically but psychologically?
All of these questions flooded me as I watched a poignant scene between Iyanla Vanzant and Charity on OWN’s “Greenleaf.” Iyanla questioned her about the embarrassment of having married a gay man and basically missing the signs, which Charity was adamant about there not being any. At first I was thinking, “how is Iyanla blaming this woman for being deceived?” But then I quickly reflected on her words and realized that there are ALWAYS signs, and not the offensive generalizations like the stereotypical “broken wrist” or “walk with a twist.” Although a lot of times very subtle, signs are present in everyday interactions, behavior and, if you listen hard enough, it’s encrypted in the conversation. The signs being there in no way exempts these men from their duplicity. What it does, however, is places a bit of accountability on women to be vigilant and to not ignore or overlook the red flags.
The reactions/outcomes of women finding out that their man is leading a double life—whether finding out on their own, eventually being told by the man or an outside party, after investing time and giving of themselves physically and emotionally—runs the gamut. Some women have undoubtedly picked themselves up and carried on without missing a beat after finding out that they were beards or were with sexually fluid men, however, there are some who have found themselves in an utter state of shock and have spiraled into depression, turned to addiction and just can’t seem to look at any man the same thereafter. Very unfortunate, in my opinion, and could be avoided with simple honesty.
Living in your truth may be easier said than done for some, but I implore the men out there who are leading double lives to try. Be honest, not only with the women in your lives, but also with yourselves. Think about the adverse repercussions of choosing lies and deception over honesty. In the end, it disrupts peace for yourself and others, and peace is a beautiful thing that is just on the other side of having the courage to be your authentic self.