There is an epidemic on the rise—the spread of sexually transmitted diseases in the African-American community. But one epidemic which seems to have silently taken over the young African American community is the “DL” lifestyle. “DL” is the term used by African-American males to identify their masculine bisexual identity.
The definition for this term is: living on the down low, having sex with men while also living a heterosexual lifestyle. This lifestyle is prevalent at college campuses across America.
In North Carolina, as reported by msnbc.com, researchers in the state studied 84 newly infected male college students over the past three years, 73 of them black. Only one black student admitted using injected drugs, and just two said they had sex only with women.
The rest apparently were infected through sex with men. UAB is also conducting programs about this trend.
“We typically conduct nine to 12 programs on sexual awareness and/or sexually transmitted disease during the academic year,” said Marc Booker, UAB’s Director of Student Housing.
This lifestyle is lived by some at UAB, as confirmed by an interview with an African-American male student here that has been living “on the DL” for nearly two years as of July 25 of this year. The student, “Jayson,” has requested his name not be published because he considers himself to be DL. Most African-American males do not consider themselves to be bisexual even if they have sex with men.
“At first no (I did not consider myself as bisexual), but now yes,” Jayson said about coming to terms with his sexual lifestyle. Jayson said that he has had relationships with three other African-American male students at UAB. He first became intimate with another man he met through a dating Web site for African-Americans. Blackplanet.com is an African-American dating Web site that has over 11 million members worldwide.
This is where he met “Terry,” one of his future partners. According to Jayson, Terry is a professional football player and had a girlfriend at the time. Gregory Kane wrote an article for the Baltimore Sun discussing the release of the J.L. King book, “On The Down Low: A Journey Into The Lives Of ‘Straight’ Black Men Who Sleep With Men.” In the article, Kayne quoted King as saying, “You have to look at every man as if he’s bisexual.”
Jayson’s story is that of many more young African American males on campuses and in offices around America. When asked whether he had any advice for African-American women, Kayne said, “Yes, I do.
National HIV testing day is June 27. Tell the sisters not to get with any brother who doesn’t get tested before or on that date.” Regardless of sexual orientation, statistics show that African-Americans may be at a greater risk for STDs than are other races. Gonorrhea rates are 30 times higher in African Americans than in whites.
In 25 states, the rate of HIV infection among African-American women ages 20 to 44 was four times higher than the rate among Latina women of the same age, and more than 16 times higher than the rate among white women.
(2014 Update: This article first appeared in Kaleidoscope Newspaper, July 15, 2004.)