Q&A Close Up

Brenda Stone Browder with Karen Hunter

What kind of women is a DL man attracted to?

Usually to three basic personality types.  They all have something in common—they are all willing to put the needs of their men and other people in their lives before their needs.

  • Wide-Eyed and Just Plain Naïve—A DL man loves a woman who is not worldly and who will completely dote and depend on him.  They want young girls, sheltered women who won’t ask many questions and who won’t hassle them.
  • Women Who Are Running Low—Low on Self Esteem and Self Image—DL men are very attracted to women who don’t love themselves.
  • She’s on the DL, Too!—There are a few women who are on the DL who have something to hide, too.

I let a lot of things my husband did and said slide by.  But every hurtful remark and action was a sign of things to come.  Looking back, almost from the beginning things were not right.  Jimmy was very, very controlling and I let him control me.

Women will lie to themselves and let their men get away with things rather than stand up for themselves and face the facts.

The majority of women who are in relationships with men on the DL have no idea.

Women have to wake up. They have to first love themselves and not define their self worth or value by the men they do or don’t have.  If women put more energy into finding themselves instead of finding a man, perhaps there would be fewer horror stories like mine.  If I had waited to marry, as my parents wanted me to, I might have had enough life experience to be able to discern things about Jimmy that seem so obvious to me today.

Q&A CLOSE UP

What can women do to protect themselves from a DL man?

When a woman discovers that she is, indeed, dealing with a down low man, there are a few things she can do to protect herself and to stay sane.

·      Love Yourself and Respect Yourself—

This is anathema for a man living on the down low.  If a woman loves herself and knows who she is, it will make it more difficult getting connected with a man who is a liar, and it will give her the strength to make the tough choices if she does.

·      Follow Your Instincts—

Mother Nature gives every woman a sixth sense. I was unwilling to listen to that internal voice. The signs were there for me all along.

·      Don’t Wallow in Self-Pity, Do Something!—

It takes strength to leave.  It takes strength to say “No more!” It takes strength to say “Get out!”  I knew that if I was going to respect myself, Jimmy had to go. And I didn’t want my children seeing their mother remain in a situation that wasn’t good for her.  That wasn’t the example I wanted to set for them.

·      Seek Counsel—

Find someone to confide in. I don’t mean an attorney, although one may be necessary in the end. Silence can be deadly. Your silence can kill not only your spirit, but the spirit of those around you.  Sharing your story helps you heal.  My true healing came when I was able to face all of the hurt and anger I had bottled up over the years—hurt and anger that I didn’t even know was there—and forgive.

Q&A

BRENDA STONE BROWDER

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT ON THE UP AND UP

Your ex-husband, J. L. King gained fame with his national bestseller On The Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep With Men and the incredible media attention it spurred—especially once he appeared on “Oprah.”   What do you think of the book?

Its had a real impact on me. It was powerful for me, not just because it was my life, too, but, partly, because Jimmy never said he was sorry for what happened.  Those were the words I’d been looking for in the years that passed since our break up. All I wanted was an “I’m sorry.”  Those two simple words would have released me from years of self-doubt and anger.  With the book, I feel he finally admitted what he had done to me and to us.  I thought “This is my apology.” 

What does the term “down low” mean?

“Down low,” or DL, can refer to any lying, cheating man—not just one who is sleeping with other men. Any man who is lying to you about fidelity can put your life at risk.

What do you mean by putting “your life at risk?”

African American women are thirteen times more likely to contract HIV than their white counterparts. That can be directly tied to men lying about sexual preferences.  God delivered me from that situation.  I could have been one of the women with HIV I saw being interviewed on CNN—women whose lives were ruined by the lies of their men.

How did you discover Jimmy was on the down low?

My inner voice, the one that tells you when things aren’t right, had been talking to me like an old girlfriend—loud and steady.  When I stopped ignoring that voice, I started investigating my husband.  The evidence was right in front of me.  Everything made sense finally. I understood that Jimmy did not want a woman.

What evidence?

Among other things, I found a jewelry receipt for a piece engraved to his friend Melvin.  There were nude photos of Jimmy taken by another man.  There was pornography hidden away featuring men, and “missing you badly” letters from his “friend” in Texas. Amazingly, despite all this, Jimmy stuck to his lies.

How can someone be sure if their man is gay or on the down low?

The majority of women who are in relationships with men on the DL have no idea. In his book, Jimmy suggests that there are no real signs to know if your man is on the DL.  While I agree that there is not a way of telling just by a man’s interest or the way he carries himself, I do believe that people living a double life throw off a certain kind of energy.  As a follower of the Word, I do know there is such a thing as discernment.

By discernment you mean…?

Use the insight and good judgment God gave you.  If you get bad vibes around someone and you have to constantly justify a person’s behavior or attitudes to feel good about them being in your life, you’re probably better off without them.  Don’t ignore the signs. I did.

What signs did you ignore?

Among them a few basic ones.  Jimmy was never accountable for his time, he exhibited a lot of inconsistent behavior, his friends were a little too friendly and a bit too “at home” in our household.  Our sex life changed. 

In ON THE UP AND UP you mention Jimmy denying he’s homosexual.  Isn’t that what his book reveals?

Not if you read it closely. Jimmy never says he is gay, and I am pretty certain he never will.  He denied to me that he was having sex with men, and still hasn’t admitted it to me face-to-face.  If he didn’t write it in his book, I think he still would be trying to deny it to me. 

But why? Why not just be up front about it?

I can’t answer for Jimmy.  What I do know, is that, even in this day and age, to be gay in the black community—especially for a leader in the community—is a fate worse than death.  There are no places for people like Jimmy—even as J.L. King—or for so many other brothers on the “down low.”

What does this mean for the women in their lives? 

Black women are the largest growing risk group for HIV and AIDS because of the down low phenomenon.  In the black community the “dirty little secret” is deadly.  The black church should take a leading role in stopping this trend. We’ve driven people so far into the closet that they have made up a whole new identity—the down low.  They fool themselves by saying they’re not really homosexual, they just happen to have sex with men. Sort of a “it’s what I do, not who I am” rationalization.

Do you accept the rationalization?

No. If a man has sex with a man, he’s gay.  He’s a homosexual.  I understand the need to not be identified with that lifestyle. But there is a greater need, I believe, for men to be truthful and honest—with their loved ones and especially with themselves. 

Why did you write ON THE UP AND UP?

There are many reasons, some of which I’m beginning to suspect have to do with my own healing, perhaps a reaction to it.  I have my ministry and the AIDS ministry I helped to found, but I want to reach more women with what I’ve learned about myself and about living with a man on the DL.  Maybe more so because, even though Jimmy with On the Down Low has brought so much attention to this lifestyle, it seems he and others avoid confronting how wrong it is to not just jeopardize your marriage, but to endanger your spouse and your family through indiscriminate sexual activity. Women need to be armed with the truth.  They need to know what they are facing and, more importantly, they need to know that they are not alone and that it is not their fault. That’s what ON THE UP AND UP is about.