By Joy Marie
Book Review by Dennis Moore
December 9, 2009 (San Diego) -- While having dinner at a friend’s home this past Thanksgiving, my friend told me that her friend’s husband had left her after more than 30 years of marriage for a man that he had been having a homosexual relationship with for years. This occurrence, which seems to be more commonplace than previously thought, is the topic profiled in The Straight-Up Truth About The Down-Low, a book written two co-authors using the pseudonym Joy Marie.
The topic of this book seems to be our dirty little secret, at least in the black community, mostly because of the damage it has caused the family structure and because of fears of exposure to HIV. The CDC has now confirmed the link between men on the down-low and the spread of the HIV infection to black women by means of heterosexual sex with homosexual men. African-American women are being infected at a rate of 23 black women to every 1 white woman.
Religious people in the black community are also often inclined to hide perceived unseemly unions between members of the same sex. Sure, we have heard of the Catholic Church sexual scandals, but we didn’t seem to associate it that much with the black community.
This book was not written to bash homosexuality. The authors are not homophobic women, but truthful women willing to be truthful about debilitating experiences. They are not bashing gays because they do not feel they should judge anyone. The betrayal, deception and unfairness of ensnaring women and ruining their lives because some men lack courage to live their own truths--that’s what the authors are standing up against. They believe that when the public is armed with information, women will have a fair chance of not being victimized by the down-low.
In the book, women share their stories of betrayal, pain and survival, possibly another reason why the authors had initially chosen to publish their book under a pseudonym. Marie recently informed me that her husband had died, which has made her more inclined to come from up under that pseudonym.
So, what is the “Down-Low?” Marie states; “The ‘down-low,’ ‘DL,’ ‘Tha Low,’ ‘Tha low Low,’ all refer to men who secretly have sex with other men while in sexual relationships with women. She may be his wife, girlfriend, or just a friend with benefits, but the down-low specifies that she is not ‘in the know’ about his homosexual activities. These men do not consider themselves gay or bisexual because they do not wish to be associated with the perception of gay, effeminate men. In fact, they actually shun all labels. Some of them consider their secretive homosexual lifestyle to be just another extracurricular activity.”
She elaborates, “Although the term ‘down-low’ originated in the African-American community to indicate something on the ‘hush-hush,’ it is now used to describe men of all races who have sex with other men undercover. We have found that this behavior is not new, nor is it specific to black men who have sex with men. White men who engage in this same dangerous behavior are said to be ‘in the closet.’ From our research, we have discovered there is really no difference between Black men being on the down-low and any other men being in the closet – they are all closeted homosexuals. These men come in all ages, races, shapes, sizes, professions, and even religions. Most are hard to detect at first glance. Some of these men have been practicing this lifestyle for many years and therefore have become very skillful at hiding their true identities. They believe that what they do privately is their own business and what we don’t know won’t hurt us.”
In talking with Marie, who uses her pseudonym out of fear for her safety, she informed me that women also participate in this “Down-Low” lifestyle.
The point that Marie wants to get over to the reader is that there is an insidious behavior in our community and society, that is destroying the fabric of male-female relationships, thereby casting a cloud of suspicion over even genuine relationships.
The Straight-Up Truth About The Down-Low was written by two women, who met on the Internet while seeking answers to their newfound reality, a reality that now many women share. Marie has indicated to me that they had loved, trusted, and shared their lives with men who lived a lie. Together, the authors had vowed to dedicate their lives to helping other women who would find themselves victims of down-low men. Joy Marie’s intent is to make other women aware of the dangerous, promiscuous sexual practices that actually take place in the “down-low” lifestyle.
If I could take just a bit of editorial license in this matter, and as I have a 16-year old daughter that will one day grow up into a woman, and possibly marry, I wouldn’t want her to have to share such a story of betrayal, pain and survival such as Joy Marie has endured. That pain is exemplified in this excerpt:
“You can’t believe it. It can’t possibly be true. No, not him – and no, not you, but somewhere deep in your heart, you know it really is true. All the pieces of the puzzle were there, but you couldn’t and didn’t want to connect the dots because your heart refused to believe what your brain and your intuition were telling you. What happened to your dream, your life, and your sense of security? Something suddenly snatched it all away, but where were you? Why didn’t you see it coming?”
In talking to Marie, she wanted me to know how this book, this crusade, has basically consumed her life. She speaks of receiving calls from similarly-situated women in distress over the matter, and she wanted to emphasize certain points for clarity. Joy Marie speaks with women in crisis by phone, blogs, e-mails and message boards every day. One of those women, Cassie, with whom I have communicated by e-mail over the last year, states in regard to Marie; “She sent it to me in the mail after I met her on MySpace and told her about what happened to me. I have read the book several times and she has enlightened me on the whole situation. Everything she has in her book is exactly how I lived my life with my ex for 13 years (seven of which were married). From the Nair used for body hair removal, from the website and secret dating chats. Reading her book actually helped me become the stronger person I am today. I absolutely love her, she has helped so many lives by writing her book, understanding how we were tricked by these type of men and understanding that it is not our fault has helped the recovery process from such a traumatic event heal the pain faster.”
Marie states that the Down-Low is not a black man thing. It is a human thing experienced by women all across the country of every ethnicity and even in other countries. Marie wanted to emphasize to me that the woman on the phone last night in distress, was a white woman married 32 years. She seems to get calls from every segment of society in regard to this matter. This book does not single out the black community … it just happened to be written by two black women, who very well could have been white. Marie further wanted to emphasize that they needed to get the point across so that people realize that she and her co-author wrote the book to help everyone, not just our black community. It is very true though, that the black community as a whole would rather this subject stay kept under a rock for eternity. We, as a culture have always protected the dirty little secrets that we think the public will use to define us, but the secrecy only causes hurt and pain, especially for those being victimized, and it encourages the behavior by letting it flourish and grow amongst us like a fungus.
Joy Marie speaks with women on the phone every day and answers letters and emails routinely on the matter. The down-low is an isolating betrayal; those who have not been through it have difficulty understanding why a man would take a wife, produce children and create a life built on deception, thereby manipulating the life of the unassuming woman. Marie’s marriage spanned 30 years. She is a middle-aged woman now that wonders what life could have been and vows that now she has the strength to move on from this and make the best of her waning years.
There are children involved in these situations. For example, Marie feared what her ex-husband would do to her when he realized she wrote a book about their experience. But her biggest fear was hurting the wonderful children she had conceived with this man, who are now grown, and loved their father. It seems so unfair, says Marie, to her that her children should have to endure even a modicum of what she has felt. He was a great father who brought much joy to his children, says Marie. Marie is obligated by her survival to help others overcome and survive this betrayal also. That really is what this book is all about.
Dennis Moore is a writer, author, and a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild. He has written for LifeAfter50 Magazine in Pasadena, East County Magazine in San Diego, and the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He is the president of a consulting, marketing and promotions company in San Diego, California, Contracts & Agency, LLC. Mr. Moore is also the president of his Church’s, Bethel Memorial A.M.E., Prison Ministry in San Diego.