I have a confession to make. Last week I watched Bill Duke’s controversial film “Cover” and I liked it. If you remember it wasn’t too long ago that Duke announced that he was going to make a film about the down low phenomenon and the impact it was having in the black community, particularly among black females.
Gay rights activists quickly pounced on what they believed was another project aimed at further demonizing black men who identified themselves as heterosexuals but who secretly slept with other men.
I was one of those activists who after viewing the original trailer for the film was quickly put on the defensive, especially after seeing the inaccurate HIV/AIDS statistics among black women that were displayed in the trailer.
Like many others I expected the worst. More of what we’d come to expect from the media in regards to how black gay men were being portrayed.
But surprisingly, Duke’s film plays less to the “woe is me” from the central black female character and explores the dilemma of a black bisexual man who is trapped living the life expected of him versus the life he knows to be true. Particularly as it relates to the sometimes-harsh reality waiting for black men who do decide to tell the truth and come out.
James Baldwin once said, “You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don't live the only life you have, you won't live some other life, you won't live any life at all."
It seems I was living this truth before I’d even come across Baldwin’s words. When the words “I’m gay” left my mouth at sixteen and reverberated around my house it was extremely scary yet necessary. So a big part of me takes issue with anyone who feels it’s safer to hide and be deceptive versus standing in his or her truth, no matter what the consequences may be. But I also know that this is easier said than done and the potential loss can far outweigh the gains for some people.
But how long? How long must it take and how many lies must be told before you finally gather the courage to boldly affirm who you are?
We have no choice in our natural inclination towards the same sex, but we do have a choice when it comes to being honest with the people we care about. It’s incredibly sad that as gay men we’ve had to lie so much that we now have to learn to tell the truth.
Once the male lead in Cover hits rock bottom he screams 5 words that literally sent shivers down my spine. “This Is Who I Am”! Heart wrenching and affirming all at once.
I long for the day when society, black families, and the black church create a safe environment for brothers to openly be who they are without the fear of losing everything that they hold dear.
Only then will this DL phenomenon cease to exist. But in the meantime you can guarantee that lives will be ruined, books will be written, and movies will be made. Speaking of books, I think it’s time that a different story is told, one that affirms who we are as black gay men and doesn’t involve deceiving wives or girlfriends in the process.
I’ve put it off for far too long. I think it’s time.
Cover is now available on DVD. Check out the teaser I created below.