Easing Out of the Closet on the Down Low: 5 tips for being safe

Let’s face it: sexuality is a complex thing. Not everyone knows they are born gay or straight right out of the vagina, or even at age 5 or 10 or 50. Whether you are newly out, straight but curious, or just can’t get that one time with your same-sex friend out of your mind, I have five tips if you are going in on the down low so you have a safe, good experience and don’t scare yourself back in the closet.

I have the experience of being a very religious person attempting to experiment with my sexuality at the ripe age of 39. Many people who are tormented in their relationships and marriages are putting themselves in unwise sexual situations with everything riding on one sexual experience on the down low to make a determination as to what sexual identity they really have. Though sex alone won’t bring you all the answers, the phrase “seeing is believing” is often true, and sometimes we just have to experience it to settle the matter once for all.

For over twenty years, I had been in the fundamentalist Christian movement, and for fifteen or so years had been seeking help to “change” my sexual identity through the gay-cure industry. You can hopefully understand why, after fighting so hard to “change” under the mantra “this is God’s will”, that I wanted to experiment with men on the down low to see if I even really liked men sexually or not.

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Yes, I was excited to try what I had denied myself for so long, but it was also unnerving. I wasn’t aware of things like LGBT community centers or groups for gay people other than bars. If I had been aware of these resources, I could have gotten better advice and help. However, coming out later in life, all I knew was what I knew — gays did things in secret. Therefore, I went out to try to understand myself through sexual encounters, totally naive and completely in secret.

I went through well over a dozen encounters with men, and to my surprise there were far more “straight but curious” men, or men unhappy in their marriages, than actual gay men hooking up. I used mostly online hook up websites like Adam4Adam, Manhunt, and Craigslist.

After doing about a year or so of hook-ups on the down low and eventually discovering coming-out groups where men talked about their feelings and experiences, I have learned a great deal about this place many of us find ourselves at some point in our lives. I experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of this the hard way, so here are five tips to help you make the best of it — going in on the down low.

1. Do Your Research

Get advice if you can, or at least hang in the background of any club or hook up site to filter out the scammers. There are people out there you wouldn’t want to end up in bed with even if someone paid you. Online scammers will only take your pics or are paid by the company to entertain and waste your time. They may also try to get you to spend money. You’ll soon be able to spot the genuine and good opportunities from the bad by hanging out and taking a measure of the environment.

2. Be Clear What You Will and Won’t Do

Communication between you and the person you are meeting is key. If expectations are known, they are less likely to be violated.

3. Get a Picture

Trust your gut, but in almost all cases, get a pic, and be able to size them up before they hit the sheets with you.

4. DDF Is More Important Than HWP

DDF stands for “drug and disease free” and HWP stands for “height and weight proportionate”. Don’t skip over terminology you don’t know because it could be something very important to making or breaking your experience. (Check out an “urban dictionary” online if you don’t know what a term means.) Obviously, you can’t trust everything a horny man tells you, so use your judgement and know the signs and symptoms of possible STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Also, know your comfort zone when it comes to dating a person with HIV. Are you okay with it, or is it a deal-breaker? Be clear about this too. It’ll save you time and a lot of embarrassment.

5. Don’t Rush or Be Rushed

Every guy is looking for their best orgasmic experience, so don’t let yourself be rushed, and don’t rush others because it will just add more anxiety. Ask the questions that are important for you to know before diving under the sheets.

I work in education, and the best thing you can do for students is bring real life application to the forefront of any lesson. Therefore, here’s a real life example for you with a surprising twist ending.

I did my research on a very popular hookup website (Step #1), and then set about to meet a guy on the down low. I came across one guy, and I asked questions that were important to me. I made it clear not only what I wanted but I also attempted to understand what turned him on (Step #2).

On both counts, the guy was really stoic and sparse in his response. It was like he didn’t really care or didn’t even want to be doing this. There was no reciprocal questions but rather a let’s-get-this-over-with kind of vibe. This stood out to me as a red flag.

However, I did get a pic (Step #3) and he was cute! It almost made the lack of communication fade into the background, but I knew better than that by this point. Another plus was he stated he was DDF, and by his pictures I could tell he was HWP (Step #4) — which were my preferences. I took notice during our communications over email that this guy was a regular on the website so I decided to take my time before hooking up because this was another red flag (Step #5).

He eventually got angry with me because I wasn’t rushing into sex. Did I miss out on a good time? Fast forward to a year later… A friend of mine revealed he had caught an STD several months back — from the same guy!

I encourage you to take these tips to heart and use them. They can also help prevent you from catching (and possibly spreading) an STD. When you’re easing out of the closet, testing the waters, have fun, but be smart.


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L.A. JAMISON holds a B.S. degree in Education, combined with a vast array of experiences from lay counseling internships and self-improvement workshops to intensive retreats focusing on bully prevention and diversity awareness. He currently volunteers feeding the hungry and at a LGBTQ community center. He is also active in his church, enjoys nature, movies, reading, exercise and working in his “day job” in the field of education. His first published book, Discoveries in the Closet: A Young Man’s Struggle with Faith and Sexuality, is a memoir of his struggles with bullying and coming out of the closet as a gay man after years of conversion therapy. You can read more on his blog at www.gotwords.org.