When it comes to dating, I am like most other folks. I look for attractiveness, intelligence, a sense of humor, an open mind, all of the usual. But I also make it clear that I am looking for someone who is out, at the very least to his immediate family and friends. I think that it is a perfectly reasonable request.
Interestingly, I have found some push back to that, particularly with other black gay men. I was told recently that my desire for wanting to date guys who are out was "limiting." He is right, and I'm cool with that. On a date a while ago, when I talked about some gay issue I'd discussed at my old job, old boy was shocked that I would discuss "my business," a phrase I loathe, at work. I challenged him on his notion that talking about gay issues in the work place constituted "my business." By the end of the date, I was told that I was "too out" for him. I simply saw myself as living my life.
I admit that I have near zero tolerance for the realm of the "DL (down low)." I try to confine my exposure to that world to the pages of an E. Lynn Harris novel. I also differentiate between the DL person and someone who is closeted and trying to find his way out. The latter person, it seems, is on a trajectory to becoming an out gay person. The former seems to be quite comfortable where he is.
I raise this issue in light of two stories I've seen in the news. I saw the first story at Rod 2.0, which is about a former evangelical minister who is on trial for murdering the girlfriend of his housemate (a man he hit on continually apparently). The second is an AP story I found on Google News. It's about a former judge who has been accused of having sex with prison inmates in exchange for grants of leniency.
Do I know truly if either of these men are really gay? Nope. But the evidence certainly points boldly in that direction. I did wonder how different their lives would have been if they'd felt comfortable enough with themselves and/or their families to come out as gay men. I doubt we'll ever know, and I am confident that these men will go to their graves denying any homosexual feelings, tendencies or the like.
When I think of the closet, I think of struggle. In a better world, I would have come out in my teens, instead of my mid-20s. I held back out of fear. For example, I avoided playing football, and I would have been quite good, until graduate school (intramural football), because of fear. I pretended to be interested in women out of fear. I tried to exist in the midst of a lie that I knew wasn't working. Those were years of pain, sublimation and obfuscation, so why would I want to date someone who actively tries to remain in that space? Why would someone revel in that world, as those on the DL seem to pretend to do?
I wish that these two men had been able to be open about who they were and what they liked. Instead, the world gets to see, once again, the pathologies that the closet can create. And with regard to my fellow black men (others as well), I hope that we will see a rapid declension in the population of the DL world. But that will require courage, fortitude, honesty and strength on the part of those who live in that world. Will we see those numbers fall, or will we continue to see lives lived in fear, and/or stories like the aforementioned?