Coming up From the Down Low

Coming up From the Down Low

The Journey to Acceptance, Healing, and Honest Love

Book - 2005 | 1st ed
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Baker & Taylor
A follow-up to his frank study of the lives of homosexual and bisexual African-American men who outwardly live their lives as heterosexuals offers helpful information and advice for women affected by the "Down Low" lifestyle with information on HIV risks, identifying such behavior in one's partner, how men keep their secrets, and more. 100,000 first printing.

& Taylor

A follow-up to the author's study of the lives of homosexual and bisexual African-American men who outwardly live their lives as heterosexuals answers frequently asked questions regarding the lifestyle.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, c2005
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 1400098467
Branch Call Number: 305.38896 KIN
Characteristics: 191 p. ; 22 cm
Additional Contributors: Carreras, Courtney


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Sep 10, 2014

Thank goodness--thank God, if you like--for books like this. There should be more. I borrowed "Coming Up From the Down Low" almost as a bookend to Terrance Dean's "Hiding in Hip Hop," another excellent and urgently needed examination of the life of black men on the DL.

King writes with moving directness about his years of denial, confusion and duplicity as he struggled to understand and finally accept his sexual nature. He speaks with regret about the disrespect he showed the women of his past, most particularly his ex-wife and mother of his three children, and with poignancy about his love and concern for his daughter Ebony. (His challenge to DL men to think about how they would feel if their own daughters and nieces were being put at risk by the irresponsible behavior of other men like themselves is especially welcome.)

I took issue with one or two things.

In a passage meant to explain black male reluctance to join white male gay and bi activists in public marches and protests, King recounts an interracial meeting of professional-class gay men that ended on an angry note. The black host, citing the homeboys and girls loitering on nearby corners and stoops, cautioned his departing guests to avoid holding hands or any PDAs as they walked to their cars. An antagonized white participant immediately objected, insisting he would hold hands with his partner whether his host's disapproving neighbors liked it or not.

This led to a testy debate in which the black men were accused of not standing up to the homophobia within the black community. The black men countered that white gay men had no respect for or understanding of the loyalty black DL men feel toward their communities, families, and churches. This is why they distance themselves from most meetings and activities in the larger LGBT community--white guys just didn't get it.

But that response bothered me. Why wouldn't white guys get it? I mean, aren't there white men on the DL? dealing with their own families, churches and communities?

More to the point, isn't the issue of black gay visibility really ultimately about self-respect? Shouldn't black LGBT men and women be able to count on support and respect from the very people who have known them all their lives? Isn't loyalty a two-way street?

At the end of the book King admits that he had never told his father about the books he's written about his struggles or his activism regarding the black community and DL behavior. He finally introduced his dad to a man he was dating, but avoided acknowledging fully the nature of their friendship. King defended these omissions as arising from a need to protect his then 83 year old dad (who over the years had made many hateful, homophobic remarks about gay men) from the complexities of his life and a desire to safeguard the love and affection they have for each other. A few people tried to bring King's DL books to his dad's attention, but his father's response was always to ignore the efforts. Just as well, King says. He doesn't need to deal with all this.

This familial Don't Ask, Don't Tell contradicts all King has written about the need for honest talk about sexual matters. Then again, King understands his dad's cultural and generational reluctance to accept this kind of change, and he himself--like all of us--is a work in progress.

This book is a follow up to Mr. King's "On the Down Low," which I have not read. I don't think I need to now, since "Coming Up From the Down Low" in some ways revisits the earlier work, offering more honesty and insight. His ex-wife, with whom King has remained friends, has written her own account of their experience, offering advice and comfort to other wives and girlfriends trying to understand the DL phenomenon.

That one I would like to read. I also yearn to see books of this kind written from the perspective of black women struggling up from DL lives. Their stories also deserve to be told.


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Sep 10, 2014

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