Continuiing for a while with the thread started by fellow Islander yesterday about guys on the Down Low, Downlow or DL, I've gathered some information for readers of this blog who are not much aware of such mostly US/Black terminology, while at the same time presenting some curious and interesting issues.
Back in 2002, writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis wrote an article for the New York Times Sunday Magazine called Double Lives On The Down Low. (link to PDF version) JL King went further, writing a book, "In the Down Low" which became a big seller. The term, according to Wikipedia, is a common urban usage word in the United States, meaning "keeping in secret", much as the word closet gained its significance among homosexual people when and where there's the need to not disclose one's own sexual orientation. Wikipedia goes further to describe the sexual usage of the term:
One popular usage of the Down-low is to describe discreet sexual behaviour, particularly that of people in relationships that are involved with others outside that relationship without the consent of their partner.
In recent years, in the gay community the down-low often refers to married men, or men professing to be heterosexual having sex with other men, but who identify themselves as neither homosexual nor bisexual. Many homosexual men use the term down-low to refer to their choice not to broadcast their sexual preference.
Among some sectors of male sub-culture (called "men on the DL" or "down-low"), same-sex sexual behavior is sometimes viewed as solely for physical pleasure. Men on the "down-low" may engage in regular, secret sex acts with other men while continuing sexual and romantic relationships with women. Some have argued that being openly gay may lead to considerable stigma in communities where traditional family behaviour is greatly valued, thus leading men to engage in male-to-male sex in secret while publicly maintaining heterosexual relationships.
Serve all the above to clarify the term, which usage corresponds mostly but not also to the "closet" more usual word, for most european readers but let's go further into the exploration of the Down Low world by pointing you to an article published last year in Slate by Denizet-Lewis himself, about the next generation of Down Low people, or how the white culture appropriates the Black (at least in the USA): Get Out of My Closet.
But there are diverse voices, of course. Keith Boykin argued against the relation of Down Low to Black men.
From my own point of view, being on the Down Low doesn't difer much from what our friend Gamal is living right now, or what some of us had to live when being in the closet, nor from some of the lives that arab men live in their countries. As long as you're perceived masculine, you're relatively safe. Advice: don't believe you're safe, be actively safe.