Does 'down low' culture make black women homophobic?

When a little black girl is born, instead of diapers and pink onesies, people should consider luggage; she’ll need it to collect all the problems dropped at her feet as she matures into a black woman in America.

If you let the media tell it, we — black women — are so domineering and emasculating that we’re on autopilot, molding generations of black men who are nothing more than uneducated, couch-hopping, prison-record-having, baby-making machines.  You and I — being the smart, observant, people that we are with a diverse number of friends, family and acquaintances in the black community—know that this is most certainly not the whole story of our rich culture.

theGrio: Tameka Raymond tweets make her poster child for ‘down low’ fear

However, homophobia in the black community is an ugly reality and as black women, and therefore members of that community, we must acknowledge and own our part in that. When we think of homophobia we think of the extremes. We think of people assaulting gay men on the street or bullying people to the point of suicide, but that’s not all there is to homophobia and intolerance of homosexuality.

“It ain’t no good black men out there. Most of them are drug addicts, in jail, or homos. The good ones know they the sh*t so they got 10 women at a time, leaving babies all over the place.” That sounds like the transcription from one of those Black Women Will All Die Single and Sad television specials that were all the rage a year or two ago, but it’s actually a quote from Spike Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever. That line was spoken during a scene were a group of black women were consoling a friend and bemoaning the lack of “good” black men.

Funny how a quote from a (fictional) black women over 20 years ago about the frustration of finding a suitable black male mate still resonates with how some women feel today. Even more interesting though is the inclusion of homosexuality in that mini-tirade about black men who are not up to par.

J.L. King and his incessant media blitz in the early 2000’s about the lives of men on the “down low” (men who sleep with men, but do not consider themselves to be “gay” and live publicly as straight men) struck a nerve. Black women in particular were put on alert and some began to question the sexuality of their significant others. It became a running joke of sorts. A man who didn’t want you was probably on the down low, right?

Beyond the not-so-veiled slights at homosexual activity as a result of a romantic rebuff, some black women have taken it further to how they raise their sons. Have you ever heard a black mother reprimand her son for being too “sensitive” and throw in something about not being a punk, a sissy or a f*g? These moments matter and this type of behavior creates environments that are intolerant of homosexuality and therefore breed gay men who feel the need to hide who they really are.  That’s not to say that “down low” men are the complete victims. Regardless of sexual orientation, not being honest with yourself and/or your partner is not being a man at all.

When journalist Don Lemon was promoting his book (post-coming out) he said that being a gay black man was the worst thing you could be in the black community.  Some hemmed and hawed at that, but it’s a claim that is hard to ignore. Some black men chastise you and some black women look at you with disdain for not being the IBM (Ideal Black Male).

So, are black women part of the problem with homophobia in the black community? Some are, yes. We are not the whole issue and our views are not as monolithic, basic and black/white as Dr. Boyce Watkins might have you believe, but we are in this conversation and we must be honest.

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope