Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2020-08-05
About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



BLACKLINES: On the Down Low
New book by J.L. King
by Review by Max Smith

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

ON THE DOWN LOW, A Journey Into the Lives of 'Straight' Black Men Who Sleep With Men by J.L. King is described as 'A bold expose of the deadly secret that is fueling a health crisis in many African-American communities.'

After the Chicago Sun-Times published an article about this book in Nov. 2003, local reaction from many Black same-gender-loving (SGL) men has been rather cool. Some expected the book to portray Black SGL men in a negative light. Others dismissed the 'secret,' wives and girlfriends unwittingly caught in the double lives of their DL men, as nothing new enough to warrant a book.

Instead, this is a must-read book to understand the emotionally complex dynamics of being a modern-day great pretender. [Even Oprah had a show on the book, April 16.]

After reading it you may wonder whether J.L. King was at the October 1995 Million Man March. 1,000,000 Black men gathered in Washington, D.C., to acknowledge that a number of social problems are the result of spiritual failures. Rather than blame 'society' or racism, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan implored men to accept personal responsibility and to create better communities on our own initiative. Oaths, vows, pledges and promises to do so that day surely played a part in declining crime rates and other improvements in the quality of life nationwide.

ON THE DOWN LOW is more than a book, it is a clarion call for honesty.

By page seven King establishes the spiritual link between knowing better and doing better. This book is an intensely personal journey. King puts his own life under a microscope. He repeatedly tells the reader that the numerous slice-of-life stories told are not about closeted gays, but about men whose primary attraction is to women. It is good that such a sharp distinction is drawn. If an out, self-identified gay activist were the writer, this book would be a sad commentary on the current state of Black SGL consciousness. It is not. King makes it plain: he is not gay. His choice of words to describe how homophobia manifests itself is definitely from a heterosexual perspective.

In chapter two, 'But I'm Not Gay,' J.L. King says; 'When I was growing up in Springfield, Ohio, every gay man, as I recall, was sad. Brother Jones, who played the piano at churches around the city, was a flamboyant older man, who even in my youth was wierd to me. Two or three boys in my school were gay. And nobody liked them. Nobody picked them for the basketball or kickball team. No one wanted to be in the locker room or in the showers with them. They were constantly beaten up and called 'fag.' Even today young men who have this sexual confusion hear and see those young men and the ways they're constantly ostracized, and it affects them deeply. If you're gay, people don't want to leave their sons around you, because they're afraid you might molest them. People think gay men want sex all the time wherever they can get it. People look at you like you have AIDS.

'If I admit I'm gay, my son's friends will look at him differently. If I'm gay or bisexual, every time they talk about some gay thing on television, some gay bashing, or some gay issue, you'll think about me. I don't want that. If I say I'm gay, every time I'm in your presence and a brother comes up to us, you'll make those little comments, 'Isn't he cute?' Or something stupid like 'I saw you looking at his ass.' You'll throw me into that whole culture, and I'm not going out like that. I'm not going to let you do that to me. To a lot of men, to admit being gay is to ask for a life of hell and abuse. Who wants that? They would rather stay on the DL.'

It has been years since I've read an author so obviously steeped in the mindset of heterosexist privilige. If you've been to an LGBT pride parade, attended a Black gay pride workshop on self-esteem, or if you've read post-Stonewall LGBT books, magazines and newspapers, then you will have to brace yourself with affirmative thinking to get through chapter two.

That mindset of being accustomed to perks, power and respect makes other parts of ON THE DOWNLOW excellent. The Black Church is called on the carpet for its failure to respond in a meaningful way to the HIV epidemic. The refusal of prisons to give condoms to incarcerated men who have sex with men is shown to be a primary cause of the spread of HIV inside the criminal 'just-us' system, as well as to partners of ex-offenders upon their release.

Jokingly I told J.L. King his book is a great response to HOW TO TELL IF YOUR MAN IS GAY OR BISEXUAL by Sharazad Ali. He didn't even crack a smile. He is very serious about trying to create the social change of encouraging DL men to live honestly.

In recent years African-American women represent more than 65% of newly diagnosed female HIV cases in the USA. While many of them contract HIV from association with IV drug users, this book does not focus on what proportion of that 65%+ were infected that way. He cites so many ways in which people are dishonest about sex, that it may never be possible to know for sure anyway.

What is important is that slogan popularized by ACT UP: Silence = Death. This book's publicity has been on BET, PBS, The Oprah Winfrey Show, in Essence magazine and numerous other media and at personal appearances: J.L. King has generated a serious nationwide discussion. The target audience is Black women. Especially Black women who are in denial or who just do not know about bisexuality.

Black SGL women and men have had many conversations about DL men. Some of us have had sex with them knowing that they were married. I started a sexual affair with a man who was single three years ago. He did not disclose to me that he married one of his girlfriends until several months after he had wed. That experience with a brother on the down low let me understand how the security and enjoyment of a relationship can lead to gray areas. Your pre-conception of this book may or may not include those many gray areas between; full truth and not knowing, or not wanting to know, or telling and not wanting to tell or be told. That is the intrigue and the appeal of this book. Your thinking about the down low will be challenged, because J.L. King's ideas about life on the DL are provacative.

Comments and concerns? Contact me at

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Fellowship for local Black theater artists announced 2020-08-05 - The League of Chicago Theatres announced The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship, a grant to fund a residency for early to mid-career ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Anti-trans killings, surveys, 'Trans Care' book, gay-bar news 2020-08-05 - Gay City News reported that an individual who the NYPD said was fatally stabbed at a Bronx apartment building on July 26 was ...

Gay News

Ken Ilio, one of the first gay men to marry in Illinois, dies at 63 2020-08-02 - Keneth Yerro Ilio—who became one of the first gay men to wed in Illinois when he married Ron Dorfman in December 2013—has died ...

Gay News

Commissioners praise passage of 'Justice for Black Lives' resolution 2020-07-30 - Cook County commissioners Brandon Johnson and Kevin Morrison hailed the July 30 passage of the Justice for Black Lives Resolution by a near-unanimous ...

Gay News

Blackhawks ban Native American headdresses at games 2020-07-30 - The NHL team the Chicago Blackhawks announced that they are barring headdresses from their home games at the United Center as part of ...

Gay News

NATIONAL Trans teacher, Billy Porter, TGNC home, gay police officer 2020-07-27 - Michigan honored a transgender educator as teacher of the year, LGBTQ Nation reported. The Michigan Department of Education announced at a virtual meeting ...

Gay News

Illinois Legislative Black Caucus mourns loss of two civil-rights leaders 2020-07-25 - Springfield, IL-July 22, 2020—The Illinois Legislative Black Caucus ( ILBC ) joins the country in mourning the loss of two heroes and iconic ...

Gay News

VIEWPOINTS 'All Boys Aren't Blue' is the audacious memoir of a Black queer man 2020-07-22 - George M. Johnson could not have known about this moment in history when he wrote his memoir, All Boys Aren't Blue, but for ...

Gay News

Fellowship for local Black theater artists announced 2020-07-16 - The League of Chicago Theatres announced The Samuel G. Roberson Jr. Resident Fellowship, a grant to fund a residency for early to mid-career ...

Gay News

WORLD Conversion therapy, Thai measure, gay bars vandalized, Global Pride 2020-07-13 - The United Nations' Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity called for a global ban ...


Copyright © 2020 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News  Entertainment Features Donate Bars & Clubs Calendar Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.