Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Down Low what does it mean and is it only a "Black" Thing?

I hear over and over again the term DL or Down Low.  Many people incorrectly  believe that this is a phenomena only associated with the African American community.  Now this belief is incorrect, according to Wikepedia is referred to any activity or relationship kept discreet. It may refer to:

  1.  Keeping an act, action or some other piece of information a secret.
  2.  Down-low (sexual slang) men who identify as hetero, but have sex with men secretly.
  3.  Down-low refer rap/hip hop group
  4.  "Down low (nobody has to know) R. Kelly song.
Being openly gay I have never had the down-low mentality, but I have been a part of the sub-culture that exists at the fringes of the gay community.  Since I prefer inter-racial relationships I have known a few DL african american men who claim to be on the DL, these were usually younger black men that didn't want anyone to know that they were having any type of sexual relationship with me, it really didn't matter to me at the time because I am not one to kiss and tell.  I have also known my share of white married men some of whom have children that also participate in the DL lifestyle.  

Whether I believe this lifestyle choice is right or wrong, is inconsequential to this blog entry. While it is true that DL seems to be more prevalently used in the African American community than in the white community and can refer to music styles, clothing, affiliation within a group, all on top of having secret bi-sexual tendencies.  There seems to be a thought in the Black or African American culture that Gay means white, effeminate men that are flamboyant and open about their sexuality.  This also is a misconception and untrue, sure there are a fair share of flamboyant effeminate gay white men, but there are also similar numbers of young black men as well.  It seems that the term DL maybe used predominantly in the thug, gangster and more economically depressed areas, where identifying ones sexuality and preference would lead to abuse, ridicule and even possibly death.  Also in drug cultures such as Meth and Crack the term DL is also widely used, and it is used to describe black men that fool around sexually with other men.    It is my belief that because in the black community homosexuality and bi-sexuality is considered something other than masculine these men try to keep their activities secret and discreet.

I lived in Atlanta for 13 years and have been with a lot of young to middle age black and latino men that refused to admit or identify themselves as gay or bi-sexual.  I do not believe that this is a singular cultural thing, I do not believe that it is limited or exclusive to the african american or latino societies at all. I also believe that there is an increasing number of this type of activity that in most city areas.  Now I don't think it is wrong or strange, as a matter of fact growing up and living in the south as I have I actually have become accustom too it and expect it.  I do have a concern for those of us openly gay people who play or have sex with these men. 

You may ask me why I am concerned.  I am sure that you have heard over and over again that the HIV infection rate is significantly higher in the African American communities, and that Black heterosexual women are among the highest infected.  I have read studies and reports that claim that this is because of DL behavior, maybe, but I don't really think so.  I am afraid that if it was truly the case you would see the same amount of infection in heterosexual white women as well.  You cannot honestly tell me that there are more DL black men and youth out there having sex with both men and women, then there are married white men out there doing the same thing.  Because I can tell you that you are wrong, the number of white men that play with other men is bigger than anyone can guess.  It is true that bathhouse, adult movie theaters, clubs and other such establishments cater to both spectrum of DL's, you can bet that there are usually more white men then black men in these types of places.  

The situation here is this,whether you are DL or not. Whether you identify yourself as Straight, Bi, or whatever label you decide to put on to ease your own conscious, the fact remains if you do anything with another man, you are putting yourself at risk and everyone who sleeps with you afterwards.  There are so many people out there that don't know their status, and refuse to get tested.  They perpetuate the myth that because I am not gay, I don't have the disease therefore I am not spreading it and they believe they won't get it.  The problem is in our education on the subject of HIV/AIDS and prevention.  All it takes is one time of unprotected sex with anyone and you could potentially get the virus.  I mean anyone.  

Listen to me when I tell you this, do you believe that when you sleep with a person you are sleeping with them and anyone they have ever been with? Well, guess what it is absolutely true, when you sleep with a person unprotected you are sleeping with every person that they have ever been with and are susceptible to any std or virus they may have contracted.  I will be the first one to admit that I like unprotected sex, but I am also responsible and notify my sexual partner of my status, it is then their decision what they choose to do.  I know that there are still risks involved and so forth if we proceed because there is such a thing as reinfection and super-strains of HIV.  

I wrote this because I wanted to point out that DL is not an exclusively a cultural phenomena it spans cultural divides and actually describes a class of men that can neither bring themselves to identify as gay or bi-sexual and strictly maintains they are heterosexual no matter what their actions demonstrate.  What I am hoping you will come away from this entry with is that no matter how you label, identify or else affirm who you are, you will be responsible and get yourself tested.  Know your status, and practice safe sex, practice absolute disclosure with your sexual partners and take responsibility for your actions. If you follow this you can ensure that you are not responsible for giving a virus or disease to another person and by knowing your status you can keep yourself healthy and happy.  

Please think about what I have said, if nothing else I am asking you to be honest with yourself and take care of yourself.  I want you to know your status and be safe, and have fun while you are doing it.

As always my hopes and dreams are with you,

Uncle B