The Friday episode of the Oprah Winfrey show shocked millions of women across America by addressing a growing issue in the black community: Bisexuality.
J.L. King, the author of “On the Down Low,” was there to talk about his new book where he exposes a closeted culture of sex between black men who lead straight lives. According to King, “down low brothers” are seemingly heterosexual black men who are leading homosexual lives.
Although the issue is not new, there are concerns. These “down low brothers” are causing black women across the country to be suspicious and extra precautious.
Ladina Hudson, 22, a senior pharmacy student from Clermont, said, “These men probably don’t think they’re bisexual because they’re not engaging in a emotional relationship with their sexual partners, it’s purely physical. They are in relationships with women.”
Many researchers attribute their secretive behavior to the prejudice against homosexuality that exists among blacks.
“Gay black men are shamed into silence, so they stay in their marriages and relationships, putting their wives, girlfriends and children at risk,” said Lori Canady, a pharmacist at the Agape Community Health Center in Jacksonville.
She also said because of this, there has been an alarming increase in HIV infections in black women.
The Center for Disease Control reported in a study done in 2003 of gay men between the ages of 23 and 29 that infection rates were highest among black men.
However, another issue that receives very little attention is the HIV rate among lesbians.
Canady said, “It is not as common as male homosexual transmission.”
According to a 2003 report done by the Center for Disease Control, of 109,311 women with AIDS in the United States, 347 of them reported having sex with women exclusively.
Of those 347 women, 90 percent have also encountered another risky behavior, almost certainly IV drug usage. The routes of transmission in these cases were the use of sex toys, deep kissing with open wounds in the mouth, and mutual masturbation.
Guidelines listed by the Leon County Department of Health reported that the sure proof way to prevent infection is abstinence. If this is impossible, then you must use protection every time.
“Some precautionary measures may include simply asking the sexual orientation of your partner or inquiring if he/she has engaged in sex with a member of the same sex. Although this may not guarantee an accurate response, at least you have made an attempt,” Canady said.
Some women at FAMU are already putting that piece of advice into practice.
Kimberly Brown, a 24-year-old senior social work student said she jokingly asks by saying, “you’re not gay are you?” in hopes of generating a true response.
“I used to be able to tell by the way they carried themselves, but these days it’s hard to distinguish who is gay.”
Miriam Clayton, 25, a senior pharmacy student from Cincinnati said, “The typical homosexual stereotypes no longer apply and it makes me nervous, especially with the whole MSM situation.”
However, some men on campus said that if a woman questions their sexuality then they must be doing some wrong.
“I am never asked my sexual orientation,” said Donnell Jean, 22, a junior broadcast journalism student from Fort Lauderdale. “If females began to ask, I would feel as though I’m giving her a reason to inquire; perhaps hanging out with a certain group of guys, or acting with feminine qualities.”
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