BRENDA STONE BROWDER, MINISTER AND EX-WIFE OF ON THE DOWN LOW AUTHOR J. L. KING, TELLS HOW SHE RECLAIMED HER LIFE AFTER DISCOVERING SHE WAS IN A DOWN LOW MARRIAGE, AND ADVISES OTHERS HOW TO RECOGNIZE—AND LEAVE—BEFORE THE “DL” COSTS THEM THEIR LIVES IN ON THE UP AND UP.
“Men who are living on the downlow need an accomplice—a woman. They don’t want the world to think that they are gay, so you will never see a down low man without a woman in his life. She is his cover. I was that cover,” says Brenda Stone Browder in her book ON THE UP AND UP: A Survival Guide for Women Living with Men on the Down Low, published by Dafina Books. Browder should know, she’s the ex-wife of J. L. King whose been espousing his story as a man on the “DL” through hisNew York Times bestselling book, On the Down Low: A Journey Into the Lives of “Straight” Black Men Who Sleep with Men, and his interviews for Oprah and other national television, radio and print media, opening the door to their marriage and lives for the entire nation.
Most women who are married to or dating a DL man have no idea that their man is on the down low. And there are many women who will never know. Browder didn’t know for a very long time. J. L. denied to Browder that he was having sex with men and still hasn’t admitted it to her face-to-face. If he didn’t write it in his book, she says “I think he still would be trying to deny it to me.”
In ON THE UP AND UP she shares her story about discovering and dealing with her husband being on the DL, and tells women what to look for, what to do once they discover their man is on the DL, and how to find the strength to do what needs to be done. She tells how, as the male point of view on the DL phenomenon continued being discussed and explored by individuals and the media, she “began to see the bigger picture.” She knew it was time to tell her side of it—the woman’s point of view. She notes, “this isn’t about me at all. It’s about the thousands of women who are still living with men who are on the down low. This is about their stories and about saving their lives” in a world where unsafe sex can be a killer.
Browder shares insights such as—
- The kind of women DL men are attracted to are usually three basic personality types—“Wide-Eyed and Just Plain Naïve,” “Women who are Running Low—Low on Self-Esteem and Self-Image,” and “She’s on the DL, Too!”
- Women will lie to themselves and let their men get away with things rather than stand up for themselves and face the facts.
- Women have to wake up. They have to love themselves and not define their self worth or value by the men they do or don’t have.
- If a person gets bad vibes or strange vibes around a man and has to justify his behavior in order to feel good about him being in her life, she’s probably better off without him.
- Men who are living a double life are usually more jealous and extra protective of their women. Be careful of a man who is too close to his friends and at the same time doesn’t want his wife to have any friends.
- Signs to look for include the man not being accountable for his time, inconsistent behavior, his male friends being a little too friendly, changes in his love making, and more obvious clues such as same sex pornography and a lot of phone calls from men.
- When women discover they are dealing with a down low man, there are a few things they can do to protect themselves—Love Yourself/Respect Yourself, Follow Your Instincts, Don’t Wallow in Self-Pity, Do Something!, and Seek Counsel
Browder also deals with the taboo topic of black community response to homosexuals and how this denial must share responsibility for the proliferation of the down low lifestyle, the families and marriages it destroys and the very real danger it poses to women. “I doubt we will ever see a prominent, powerful or even popular black man stand up and say the things Jim McGreevy said,” says Browder. “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.” She notes, “there are no places for people like J. L. King or for so many other brothers on the ‘down low’.”
In the black community the secretiveness about homosexuality is deadly. Black women are the largest growing risk group for HIV and AIDS, in part because of the DL phenomenon. Browder believes the black church must take a leading role in stopping this trend. “Society,” she says, “particularly in the black community, has spent so much time making people feel uncomfortable, like lepers…we have driven people so far into the closet that they have made up a whole new identity—the DL.”
Browder reaches out to other through her own ministry, her work with the AIDS ministry she helped found, through lectures and appearances in which she shares her experiences, and, now, in ON THE UP AND UP. One of her most important pieces of advice comes from her own experience. “Mother Nature gives every woman a sixth sense,” she says. “The signs were there all along. I was unwilling to listen to that internal voice.”