What I Learned from a Gay Man.


The minute I read that an active NBA player was coming out the closet, I thought my eyes deceived me.  No way did a professional athlete in a widely popular sport have the nerve to out themselves while they were still playing. I am a fan of the NBA, but I had no idea who Jason Collins was. He can be commended for opening a dialogue that is so necessary. I am sure he is relieved that he doesn't have to live a lie. An athlete being gay does not bother me at all.  But what stood out for me was that this brother was on the down low.  His ex-fiancee gave him 8 years of her life.

Black men hiding their sexuality in the closet is nothing new. I read J.L. King's "On the Down Low, A Journey into the Lives of Black Men Who Sleep With Men", from front to back without blinking an eye.  It got passed around so much among my female friends, that I have no idea who has it in their possession today.  Prior to the book's release in 2005, the down low issue within the black community was mostly touched on by fictional authors such as the late E. Lynn Harris and James Earl Hardy.

It wasn't just a book that really opened my eyes to men on the down low; it was an openly gay black man.   Every time we went out together, he would pick up some of the finest black men.   One night after he hooked up with a  tall dark chocolate Adonis, I had to ask him how he knew a man he just met was gay. After all we were not hanging out at gay bars or clubs.  He said it was all in the eye contact. If a glance lingered just a little longer he knew the brother was down. He was very attracted to seemingly "straight" men and had no problem pulling them.  I later learned that the Adonis who he banged the next night was married with two young children.  No book could prepare me for that.  To see it unfold before my eyes was enlightening.  The following month I saw a different man he hooked up with out on a date with a woman.  I learned that you cannot assume anything in a relationship.

I doubt Jason Collins will be the Jackie Robinson for gay professional athletes, you have to be a bigger name for that to happen.  His revelations are a step in the right direction.  But I still have to think about the women that invest their time in brothers like him, only to be told their relationship was a lie.  He is not saying I am bi-sexual he is declaring that he is gay. Hopefully there will come a day when gay people do not have to hide within the facade of a heterosexual relationship.

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