I’ve been following these most recent discussions surrounding HIV/AIDS and its spread by “Down Low” men. These conversations are dishonest and have gaping holes. Thanks to several proponents and their rush to prove the potential gay bashers wrong they’ve managed to shift the conversation and ignore the obvious: those who are contracting the disease don’t do so in a vacuum.
How does this relate to black women? The lack of activism and advocacy on behalf of reducing the likelihood of their being infected is utterly appalling! The number of women being infected is not being discussed publicly or framed with urgency because people would rather talk around the issues and focus on the symptoms not the causes.
I’m not suggesting anyone develop a grudge against black gay males or assign the Down Low phenomena to them. This focus on the sex lives and emotional attachments of certain black males was chronicled as fiction very cleverly by author E. Lynn Harris. Invisible Life remains on my favorite books as it was an honest portrayal of a character’s relationship interactions. I’m certain that many “successful” men like the fictional athlete Basil Henderson have an interesting journey in real life that we could benefit learning from.
This is the real world and there are real consequences at stake where outside pressures can take precedence to being honest. In the same way people discuss crimes in black neighborhoods but don’t discuss who the criminals are and who they’re mostly targeting, it’s the focus on dishonest manipulations that I take issue with. On the Down Low: A Journey into the Lives of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep With Men as written by JL King – who has formed a cottage industry on being an “authority” on bisexual and homosexual black men exposed this to a mass audience. Just as I’m not interested in coddling criminals I will not defer to males who knowingly put women in harm’s way with their reckless sexual behavior (and then seek to profit from it years later).
I remember the Oprah interview and media attention King received. It was all about his pain, his needs and his path while he shrugged off all responsibility for putting his wife’s life at risk or the damage to his family while he played at being a husband until he figured out what he wanted.
I saw the pushback from those that said these discussions would be detrimental to black males and just one more thing to hold against them blah, blah, blah. Yes, there was sensationalism but nowhere did I see a balanced conversation that included the voices of the black women these men had relationships or interactions with. Even King’s former wife Brenda Stone Browder’s follow-up book to his initial public revelation talked about her journey to acceptance (since they were already divorced when he went public with his book) but mixes a lot of religiosity by suggesting homosexuality can be cured. That line of thinking could lead some women to remain in a relationship with someone they need to distance themselves from.
It’s why I support Elin Woods in getting as big of a divorce settlement as she can from her cheating husband whose mistresses revealed his choice to not use protection while sexing them. Misogynistic thinking had many outraged at the idea of her getting hundreds of millions of dollars (as if it was their money) but they were silent when it came to the potential of her being exposed to an STD or worse. Be it another male, a woman, the next door neighbor or a prostitute the choice of betraying someone’s trust and exposing them to a deadly or life-compromising infection (not to mention the emotional harm) is still wrong no matter what the “reason”.
When I attended the TedxPotomac conference in DC in May one of the speakers was the self-professed Czarina of HIV, Dr. Shannon Hader the (now former) Director of the HIV/AIDS Administration (HAA) for DC. I’ve been wanting to write about this since the incident but I was so angry I had to wait.
During her speech she proceeded to discuss specifically why DL men are not the cause of the near 90% HIV rate of blacks in DC but left the conversation hanging about the factors that led to such a disproportionate percentage to begin with. Only she never mentioned the HIV rates for blacks in DC specifically – only that the former administrations (including Marion Barry) DID NOT KEEP ANY RECORDS until recently. Yup, read that again. DC had a huge criminal culture, many people were addicted to crack and the City has no records of how many people were exposed to and spreading HIV for decades.
The stats being touted are that 1 in 20 people in the DC Metro area have HIV with no specific racio/ethnic/orientation distinction. That’s still a LOT! She used a case study of 750 people to frame her argument – not the current CDC statistics. Her definition of DL men was an intentional obfuscation of talking around the big elephant in the room. She briefly mentioned black males exposing “others” to HIV (thereby tying DL behaviors to them exclusively since she never mentioned whites specifically) but nowhere in that conversation did she clearly mention black women as the highest percentage of recipients of the exposure!! She talked overall US population percentages (which is less than 2%) and why “we” didn’t need to be alarmed since “most” people are okay. Also ignoring the very high rates for DC as I indicated at the top of the paragraph. Bear in mind her audience was predominantly upper middle class, highly educated crowd of white heteros over the age of 25 – and then there was me!
I was livid! While I live-Tweeted this travesty I met another woman of color who was in attendance because we were following the hashtag (link) to the event on Twitter. She was equally outraged by the skewed presentation. Score one for the power of connecting via social media. Another attendee saw our conversation and had no idea why we were so incensed so I explained to her in person the overall ramifications from these misguided conversations.
Not telling black women the truth ALL of the truth = aiding and abetting their death.
Then two weeks later I see the person who questioned my initial reaction at another event and she informed me that Dr. Hader was out of a job. Officially she left on her own accord, but at another conference in June I confirmed with some HIV activists who work for the City that she was indeed fired. While initially I was happy now I’m not so certain.
I felt she was spreading misinformation that could be interpreted as all-inclusive when it was merely factually correct. Yes, you can make an accurate statement that still only tells a half-truth! That doesn’t guarantee the next person hired won’t do the same thing. I did find her hubris in referring to herself as a Czarina rather off-putting though.
The bottom line is that some people would rather focus on not offending others (usually because they have political clout or it’s in the interest of those that do) while allowing such apathy to lead to the death of others. All for the sake of political correctness. When the HIV conversation is related to blacks it’s almost unanimously supported by the assertion of two causes:
b) Racism (the focus is only on what’s employed by whites)
That’s misleading for a variety of reasons which I’ll discuss after the jump. I’ll see you that argument and raise you with:
c) Low Self-Esteem
Continue reading “The Rush To Blindly Defend So-Called DL Black Men Will Lead to the Death Of More Black Women From HIV/AIDS”