Living on the ‘DL” presents challenges both socially and emotionally for those who are engaged in this secretive experience. (Photo Credit: Юрий Красильников via Adobe Stock)

The phenomenon of living “on the DL (down-low)” is a topic that has become quite common in recent decades. The phrase, according to Urban Dictionary , is primarily used by African-American men — who are indeed homosexual or bisexual —  but portray themselves as being completely heterosexual.

While this phrase may be more commonly used among African-American men, it simply implies that an individual is in the closet. Which, as we know, is something that transcends all races.

qnotes was able to sit down and talk with an individual who says he’s been living “on the DL” for as long as he can remember. At the gentleman’s request to remain an anonymous source, qnotes will refer to him as Mr. Brown for the purpose of this story.

Mr. Brown, a 36-year-old African-American male, says he “grew up in the ‘dirty South’ — where being openly gay or bisexual just isn’t an option.”

“I’ve been attracted to both men and women for most of my life,” Brown says. “But, unfortunately, I’m just not in a position where I can be out in the open about it.”

Brown was raised in a very religious and conservative family that has zero tolerance for being gay or bisexual. According to him, it is quite the norm for families in the South.

“If you were a gay or bisexual man, you definitely didn’t talk about or tell anyone,” says Brown. “No one in their right mind would open up a can of worms like that.”

Brown married his first spouse, a woman, at the age of 23. At that time, he had been actively engaging in sexual relationships with other men for a number of years. For him, having sex with a man was something that he kept extremely private, and he says that he’s always carried a constant worry about people finding out.

“I mostly sleep with men who are on the DL, too, because that way I know they value their discretion as much as I do,” Brown says. “I’ve always been scared to death that someone would find out about my secret. And if it were to ever get out that I was bisexual, my life would basically be over.”

Brown says one of the reasons he’s been able to keep his secret for so long is because he doesn’t bear any attributes or characteristics that would give someone the indication that he is gay.

Males who have obvious feminine characteristics, or behave in a flamboyant manner, are often the only type of men who are perceived as being gay. However, individuals living “on the DL,” and who are in fact homosexual or bisexual, often show no distinguishing traits that would lead someone to believe they were anything but a straight man.

“As long as you don’t act like a flaming queen, have an obvious switch in your walk or use excessive hand gestures when you talk, no one really questions your sexuality,” says Brown.

Brown says he isn’t proud of living the way he does and wishes he was able to be open about his sexual proclivities but is just too frightened of the possible repercussions that he feels certain would follow.

“If I came out of the closet now, my entire life would be over,” says Brown. “My wife would divorce me and try to take my kids away, my family would literally disown me and I would become a social outcast. And, I’m just not willing to give up my whole life just because I happen to be attracted to both sexes.”

When venturing out to find a male sex partner, Brown says he uses dating apps, such as Grindr and Jack’d, which are two of the most common dating apps for gay males.

However, he says he always deletes the app he’s using at the time after finding someone to have an encounter with.

“I never keep apps on my phone,” says Brown. “I download them, and then after I meet up with someone, I delete the app from my phone.”

In order to maintain his anonymity, Brown always uses aliases and never displays images of himself while using dating apps.

One might think that not having an image of yourself would deter individuals from pursuing contact or responding to a message, but Brown says despite the fact he doesn’t display images of himself, he’s “never had a problem finding someone to hook up with.”

Brown says that he’s always felt conflicted about his attraction towards men and has tried to keep his feelings at bay.

“Every time I sleep with a man I feel guilty,” says Brown. “But, that doesn’t stop me from going back online and doing the same thing again when I get that itch.”