African-American lesbians on the down low

African-American women

Photo by: Kimberly Hebert of Flair Photography


In the black community there are some things so taboo they just aren’t talked about — like being gay. Most black families I know have at least one gay member, but that information is a secret kept so quiet that it feels almost like a betrayal to delve into it. For the women I spoke to for this article — whether they have religious family members with “don’t ask, don’t tell” attitudes, or simply because they were taught to not speak about the thing that made them different — coming out was not an option. Parents might disown you; the community or the church might turn its back. Whatever the reason, many black women keep their sexuality a secret, behind closed doors, on the down low. This is their story.

Kamai Warner describes herself as a “heavily tattooed, copper-colored, Mohawk-wearing, rock-star-wannabe, softball-playing black lesbian” and admits she has always known that there was something different about her. Raised in the South in a family of Baptist preachers, Warner attended church five to seven days a week as a youngster, and remembers her first girl kiss when she was 9. Caught by her mom and spanked, she was never told what she’d done wrong. “I always thought it was amazing that [the preachers in my family] could get up in front of 50-plus people in a church and talk, but they couldn’t sit down and talk to someone young that they were raising as one of their own … about what was going on in my life,” Warner reveals. Partly to prove herself “normal” by any means necessary, she began sexually experimenting with boys when she was around 13 years old, even as she continued to play house and have sleepovers with her girlfriends. It was a pattern of denial and secrecy that would shape her life until very recently.

Read more at Curve

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