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In Defense of Homo-Thugs

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Yikes. Frank Leon Roberts carelessly writes an article in defense of Black gay men hiding their sexual status. The new word for these guys are “DL’s” because they keep their homosexuality on the down low. Roberts explains:

African American men who are on the D.L., “down-low,” have sex with men unbeknownst to their girlfriends (if they have one) and families. They don’t consider themselves gay, and they identify with hip-hop despite the music’s homophobia. They’ve been a source of controversy in the black community.

Ok, cool. Read on…

The controversy swings from seeing the D.L. brother as the primary spreader of AIDS in the “mainstream” black community to an insistence that they “come out of the closet” so they can be “out and proud.” But as the brother at the train station told me, he was out, but in a new kind of way. Moreover, he was going to get his groove on at the sex party, safely.

Pause this for a second. Coming out on the “DL” is not really coming out at all. And it’s definatley not proud.

…Behind these AIDS fears lies the heterosexist assumption that AIDS is born and bred in gay communities and then venomously spread outward. Much of the anti-D.L. rhetoric from the black media hides the painful fact that many straight black women and men are HIV-positive and spread the disease among themselves, without any help from “evil” gay black men.

“Heterosexist assumption”? Negro please. CNN reported how Black male gays, bisexuals hit hard by HIV. The article cites a study that says gay Black men are “five times more likely to become HIV-infected than their white counterparts” and the CDC’s Dr. Helene Gayle says, “Young gay and bisexual men are at the highest risk for HIV in this country.” The AIDS epidemic amongst them (and us in general) needs more light to be shed on it, not more secrecy. Roberts continues…

D.L. brothers are often no more insecure about their sexuality than anyone else. They’ve just embraced a low-key, mellow style that lets them admit to same-sex desires without necessarily coming out in the traditional sense. They “come out” as D.L.

This guy must be really grappling with the shame of his own sexuality. Why would he condone being ashamed of yourself and living a lie? Being gay in the hip-hop community is difficult and even dangerous, yes. But homo-thugs or DL’s or whatever they’re calling themselves now are not just hiding it from their girlfriends and wives (which is not fair to these women) but also their doctors. They aren’t getting the targeted health care advice and treatment as their gay, White, and proud counterparts. And this is dangerous for everyone involved.

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About Madison

  • There is a piece in the most recent issue of the Village Voice that deals with this, sorta.

    The Voice piece says the guy who shot the City Councilman in N.Y. is/was a “D.L.”

  • Um, many queers not categorized by society as “black” also don’t come out to their doctors. Homophobia lives. And people die as a result.

    I wish everyone would come out, but how do we force it? We simply can’t.

    And truth be told, there is more than one kind of DL. Some are the mellow sort, but most, in my experience, are scared shitless of anyone knowing who they really are. Homophobia lives. And it seems to reign in the so-called “black” community. Yeah, it’s unfair and dangerous and cowardly and wrong of people to hide their orientation to their lovers and doctors. But we are talking about human beings here, and humans often take the supposed easy way out when the terrain gets unmanageably rough.

    Ah, if only we could be more perfect…

  • Slate has a preview of the Sunday NYT mag which will have a cover story on this. It should be online Friday evening.

  • No matter what they call themselves, DL or bisexual, someone gets hurt in the end. This behavior is nothing new and exist because we are still uncomfortable discussing homosexuality in our communities. A man who has a wife, the required number of children, the mini-van and house in suburbs but unbeknowst to anyone is bisexual garners more respect than someone who is out of the closet. Until we are able to talk about sexuality, people will continue to be hurt, with their hearts and their lives.

  • Here’s the NYT mag story.

  • Here is the NYT mag story. The link will be free until next Saturday.

  • Thanks Steve for sharing that article. It is amazingly sad but very enlightening.

  • tricks

    DL only means a man wont tell his personal business to anyone else who can blame them and i know i am a lesbian female the dl guys i know are secure and happy being dl they still screw girls but arent in realtionships use rubbers far as i know and they DONT LIKE FEMININE MEN AT ALL

    its the openly gays who have an problem with the dl men cause they are insecure about there own dealings with being gay or bi sub consciously unaware of it meaning they dont know they insecure and unhappy cause they worried about what another man does

    BEING DL does not mean no one doesnt have pride EVERYONE isnt the same and dont have the same views as what pride is every man and woman has his or her own self definetion of there pride this factual people

    what openly gay men need to start doing is accepting the dl lifestyle cause its bad enough the straight society doesnt accept them or even lesbian females like myself

  • Madison, I’ve been aware of the down-low thing for a while. Even Essence Magazine did an article on it. And, they usually run from controversy. Askew’s criminal record has at least one incident giving away his sexual preference on it, if I remember correctly.

    Chris, thanks for the lead. I will read that article. Ditto for Steve. This is what I like. Information, so bloggers have something real to discuss.

    Tricks, I cannot agree. The AIDS rate in minority communities suggests DLs are not practicing safe sex with women. Black women are the fastest growing group of victims and most are not IV drug users.

    I will be sharing this information with Ron and David, gay brothers on my blogrolls.

    I wrote about the murder of Councilman Jones, which I believe was partly motivated by jealousy, here.

  • Ugh! That italics thing again.

  • Correction, Davis, not Jones.

    Anyway, I have an entry up about this topic. Brian and Natalie will probably disagree, which is fine. I am coming at this as a reasonably aware straight woman. There are aspects I may not understand. Feel free to explain them to me.

    (Archive URL for entry to come. Blogger is messing my archives up again.)

  • The “Down Low” phenomenon is nothing new. Cultural and social oppression creates an environment wherein some “homosexual” men create a social niche whereby acceptance, identity and understanding of one another occurs. Men have been having sex with other men and not identifying as gay for a LONG time. This is all an argument of semantics. The existance of the oppressed “gay” male (married with kids) is real to me…whether we call him DL, closeted, or gay. The important battle is one in which educates and informs these men about safer sexual behavior regardless of who they are having sex with.

  • Hyp, I really think that is an oversimplification. Read the articles mentioned above, especially the NYT piece, and consider the implications. I see an element of very black-oriented fatalism in the down low movement that is not equivalent to the behavior of white homosexuals. In fact, an argument could be made that their behavior is closer to that of gangbangers than to that of the typical middle-class white gay.

  • I know plenty of fatalistic gays that you would label “white.” These guys have unprotected sex because of some sense of survivor’s guilt; they feel worthless and believe they deserve to be infected. (This is separate sometimes from the “bug chaser” philosophy, although the two can be intertwined.)

  • Could it be doubled feelings of worthlessness for black gays on the down low? First, because they’re black. Second, because they are gay. I am thinking about the tendency of women of color to get hit with discrimination twice, causing incredibly high rates of depression. Could this be similar?

    I am gonna email you the NYT article so you will not have to hassle with downloading it, which requires paying or going through Electronic Library. But, be forewarned that the last section of the PDF is missing. I will try to snag the remainder at the library the next time I’m there.

    Also, there is a current story about the singer Rufus Wainright and his return from “gay hell” in the NYT.

  • It certainly could be. At the same time, I am loath to say that one person’s misery is necessarily more or less than another’s. We are each individuals and we react to different stresses differently.

    Actually, I have read the NYT piece; I did a radio interview not too long ago on the DL issue and that article caught my eye afterward. Plus, I did an investigative piece on HIV education for African-American male sex workers and DL guys a few years back, so I have a long-term interest in the topic. Saw the Wainwright piece too. Most interesting.

  • Khalid

    I have, no, major problems, with Men on the DL. My problem, is connecting, with these masculine men. I live in the city of Coca-Cola. It is a major Peachtree city. I find myself constantly making the first move. That, in itself, casts out any insecurity.

    What does a brother have to do to get connected, in a clique oriented and status quo town?

    How do you pull a brother out of his zone and into yours, to get him to make the first move?

    I do not mind being the aggressor. However, it does get weary. It is amazing the most macho, of them all, do not know how to simply walk up, make interest know, and step to someone. Elusivity is not the key, if you do not actively connect. Elusivity is the element of an image keeper. When you approach someone, whether on the street, in the store, on the bus, or on the train, at close range, in conversation, if you moderate and control your vocal tone, your business remains between you and that person. That way you achieve your goal and remain DL. Saying nothing you are only being shy, not connecting, and making a mockery of your own masculinity, actually bringing it into queston.

    The next time you see a brother, you have interest in, or even think, might be hot, approach him. Find out, if you are on the same page. If so, bingo. If not, you did your part.

    Do not, just sit there. Do something.

  • dax

    Ok, bisexuality/homosexuality is a big part of our history everyone one from Alexander the great to the black roman conqueror Hannibal had affairs and some times long lasting relationships with men. These men also had wives and children, as did their fathers and grandfathers. Sexuality was personal not taboo. Only when christianity came about did sexuality become so taboo. The black bubonic plague was exacerbated by christians when they didn’t permit people to bathe often like the romans for fear that they would be sexual like the romans. So ignorance has destroed millions of lives then as it does through aids today. Accepth this time it affects the black community disproportionately And it is the close minded obstructionists who carry this legacy today . People of color really need to wake up. We didn’t create christianity for the majorityof us it was forced on our ancestors while bound and chained. I had a good laugh the other day about someone proposing jesus was black. Dark maybe be but black hell it isn’t our story to make him black. Let it go, try reading another older text like the egyptian religious text. For example the story of mary and jesus the premise of the virgin mother was copied from egyptian religion’s birth of horus through isis the virgin mother. coincidence or maybe a great example of white people borrowing black culture and claiming it as thier own. elvis justin t .. shall I continue.

    For more knowledge check out this webpage from some of the greatest gay minds to come out of NYC


  • As author of the free enovel “Confessions of a DL Brother”, I am simply making this available to individuals and groups who may be interested in reading the book and possibly using it as a tool for discussion.

    The book was written in the summer of 2003. It is based on information obtained while conducting a series of interviews with a Kansas City-based, African-American man who is highly sexually active and living the “downlow lifestyle”.

    A close female friend of mine died of AIDS in 2002. She was infected by her boyfriend in the 1980’s. He was living the downlow lifestyle. She only found this out a few days before his death in 1988. From watching her passing, I have seen firsthand the pain and tragedy that can come with a lack of knowledge. This has inspired me to write this book.


  • Eric Olsen

    Thanks Harry, best of luck with the book.

  • rh

    I am so afraid to date for fear of the dL brother. I have kids to raise and I can’t do that dead from AIDS. DL men can pretend to have woman or casually date woman wthout having sex and endagering their lives and the life of their children. Yes they have the right not to be treated less than the human being they are because of their sexual preference but so do the woman they LIE to.

  • boomcrashbaby

    Having never heard of a homo-thug before, this is new to me, but I see a lot of comparison between them and gay men in this thread (in the attempt to study the spread of AIDS). It doesn’t sound to me like they are gay at all and should be compared against other bisexual groups instead. Their lifestyles aren’t going to be comparable, single gay men don’t usually spend half their time or more at home with a wife and kids, so those that go out are going to do so on a much more frequent basis than someone with a wife at home. Behavior at high risk times (i.e. intoxicated) would be somewhat different too, I imagine. Are they attracted to their wives and love their kids or is it solely a front?

  • Oh, this thread has been around for awhile, Steve. I wasn’t aware of the more recent comments, though. Will check out Harry’s book. I’m still not convinced that the down low is okay. Like some of the other commenters, I think it is exploitive of women. There is an element of misogyny in the behavior in my opinion. Women are treated as if they are less important than men.

    You can get the NYT story from their library database. It links to a site where unsafe sex is performed live by ‘thugs.’ Ugh.

    While we are discussing a similar issue, I am going to be writing about an exploitive, lying and possibly racist transsexual this week. People like him are getting away with some truly outrageous behavior in the name of political correctness. There are actually sites extolling the creep as a role model.

  • danny

    I think a man can be whatever he wants if he don,t harm his partner, Being male or female.

  • I read J.L. King’s book, On the Down Low this week. Haven’t written the review yet, but will post it when I do. The book is an easy read, partly because it is short and not at all deep. I did not change my mind about down low men being exploitive of women as a result of reading it. If anything, I am more bewildered by how self-centered the men involved are.

  • DEE

    I totally agree with Natalie. The issue here is not these men being gay the issue is these men living DL and spreading the aids virus because of it. Also the fact that they think they arent gay because they have sex with men and women.
    All this article is doing is trying to justify these mens actions. You wouldnt defend a murderer, robber or rapist would you?? People who know they are HIV positive and continue to sleep around without a care in the world or letting their partner know their status is CRIMINAL and could be proscocuted to the extent of the law! So what makes these men different??
    I know you will say that it isnt just Dl men spreading the disease, however the truth is there is a very high percentage of it that is creating this epidemic. They want respect they want to live a normal life well stop living a lie!
    All this is doing is destroying what is left of our black communites, its sad and pathetic.

  • anuvanyga

    While I do not wish to aline myself with either one conflicting viewpoint or another, I do have some statements of fact for all the “D.L. men bashers” out there. I can say with utmost confidence that the majority of you are comprised of either African-American women, prodominantly heterosexual, as the interest to the lesbian, bisexual, or WSW sects would be less vested… Or homosexual men, overwhelmingly African-American in descent, as the Caucasoid sects of the American populous rarely take interest in the problems affecting African-Americans in this country that do not directly affect them. Having so prefaced, and however the true-breakdown may differ with my assumptions, I can say, from the perspective of one having lived this life, still living it to an extent, that a degree of sexual-anonymity is a necessary survival trait, especially among men who choose to pursue relationships with other men. What of those who wish to pursue military careers, or careers within the police force, or fire department. Not only if one wishes to exist comfortably within society as a whole, but moreover if one wishes to be part of the mainstream African-American community in his town, or hers (referring to the lesbian/WSW subsects), how could one possibly enter into their childhood church on communion Sunday, and greet the preacher while embracing one of the same-sex. The outrage/uproar created would be potable, “Obscene, against the ways of God set forth in the bible!” Not just within the church, although the propensity of religion, and religious leaders to affect policy and policy makers should not be ignored. The modality of this hyper-masculine black male communal paradigm can be crippling to one struggling with their sexual identity, in so far as to whom they choose to pursue a relationship with. Why would I, as one who grew up within a black community, a “rough neighborhood” choose to divulge to anyone what feelings I had? Growing up on hip-hop/hardcore rap music, I’ve always heard how “fags were punks”, and “gay niggas ain’t shit”, from my father this message was retransmitted, after having been amplified several fold. The convergent point, so far as I could gather was this, “Gay niggas are weak, if you prefer dick over pussy, or equate them even, you are weak, and strange and unnatural, no matter how strong, and regular you were before folks found out, your respect is gone… And if you get yo ass beat because of that, just thank God you didn’t end up dead.” Coming up in the barbershops, and on the corners the amount of sexual banter one hears concerning hos, titties, freaks, and pussy is imeasurable, so much so that one can truly believe this is the way they should be, and bury already hidden feelings deeper, to a destructive place, in many instances. While mine is but one of many ghetto stories, this hyper-masculine role-set seems embedded within the African-American psyche, and not just within the impoverished areas, but the upper-middle class, and affluent homes, there is a need for black people to appear strong, especially in the face of other races who have weakened us so in the past, “What’s wrong black folks, are you more upset that it’s happening, or that the white folks saw it too?” It takes little effort to criticize one for living such a double life, perhaps you grew in a more tolerant environment, or perhaps you’re one of the women who was affected, all I can say is this “Sometimes necessity outweighs common courtesy.” To address the more disturbing issue of the drastically high percentage of African-American women affected by HIV/AIDS, I say this, take the sexual responsiblity into your hands, begin by having a monogamous relationship, then demand that you and your partner go in for regular testing, employ condoms and other contraceptives until you feel trust enough is present within your relationship, also a key step which needs to be taken is demanding more involvement from the local, state, and federal health agencies in adressing this issue. Information should be available at schools and community centers, HIV testing should be discussed and readily available. This is a complex and multi-faceted problem, which requires a united and mutli-pronged solution set, and ignorance of the issue is and has been a major hinderance on affective abatement. In closing, you can sit back, and let the “D.L. men phenomenon” lie on the chopping block for this one, or you can stand up, and realize the involvement you must also have. We are not forgiving as a community, forcing those who choose to partake in alternative sexual lifestyles deep into closets, or face persecution. We as a people need to realize that bad-mouthing the issue isn’t going to make it go away, and create an aire of acceptance, at least to the point where these people feel comfortable enough to seek treatment and guidance, and stop being so damn freaky my black people, resist the impulse, until you really know what’s going on, we are strong, together we can overcome…. A sidenote: To whomever suggested that not informing your doctor of your sexual practices would adversely affect the medical care you recieve, either you or your physician are retarded, any competent doctor conducting proper examinations will detect most anything before you open your mouth, the only major point of interest a doctor should take upon being informed is letting you know the high-risk demographic you have placed yourself in, and advising you on proper, safe sexual practices. Also due to length constraints, I was not able to discuss the prevalence of men contracting HIV/AIDS while incarcerated often times not of their own volition, which in itself is a tragic and multi-tiered societal pandemic in need of abatement… Kudos if you made it here, I hope you take something away from this.

  • Bigboy

    I dont c