Cruising Confessions: DL Dudes, A Reappraisal


Few things provoke judgment in the queer community as much as hooking up with someone closeted does. In this episode, Gabe and Chris offer a reappraisal of the controversial figure of the “downlow lover” through spicy interviews with celebrated writer Brontez Purnell and an actual, anonymous DL dude. Through these interviews, we explore the guests' experiences hooking up with DL men on Sniffies, the media firestorm that made downlow guys into public enemy #1, and what being a DL guy in 2024 really means.


A Note From the Director, Adam Baran

The germ for our third episode came from looking through the Sniffies archive for those moments when Cruisers reacted to something Sniffies posted. When the Sniffies crew mentioned the firestorm of discourse that stemmed from Zachary Zane’s piece “Why are Gay Guys Obsessed with DL Dudes?“ an episode about the topic seemed like a no-brainer. 

When Zach’s piece was published, my longtime friend Brontez Purnell responded—via Instagram—to the legions of outraged gays horrified that someone was discussing DL or closeted men at all. As Brontez relates in this episode’s brilliant and hilarious interview, Sniffies is not a place for people concerned about having a “moral deficit.” We’re all fucking and sucking and hooking up with anonymous dudes in the middle of the work day—this is not the space for pearl clutching!

I also liked the idea of revisiting the early aughts media frenzy that introduced the idea of “downlow men” into the mainstream. Those headlines villainized and further stigmatized closeted men of color for the completely fictional—and later fully disproven—theory that their secret sex lives fueled a dramatic rise of HIV transmission in Black woman. So much of why closeted men or downlow men continued to be demonized and shamed can be traced back to this media moment which was fueled by daytime talk shows like Oprah and Ricki Lake as well as nighttime dramas like Law and Order. Now, we know the downlow myth also hurt efforts to prevent HIV, as more than one study proved

For this episode, we were determined to find a guy who was actually in the closet to share his perspective on what being “DL” looks like today. When our Anonymous guest was finally in the studio, both Gabe and Chris were deeply impressed with his compelling views on the familial and societal pressures that keep him from fully coming out. Most interesting to me was his articulation of the idea that there are “levels to DL-ness”, and that not everyone’s closet looks the same. 

If you’re interested in reading further about this topic, Keith Boykin’s book “Beyond the Down Low: Sex, Lies and Denial in Black America” is a great place to start. It terrifically traces the history of the fake media controversy and offered a fierce rebuttal. For more information, here are some other solid resources:

"Down low" myth distorts HIV research, prevention
Myth: HIV/AIDS Rate Among Black Women Traced To 'Down Low' Black Men
Why do some straight men have sex with other men?
The New Glory Hole


Follow the hosts:
Gabe Gonzalez
Chris Patterson-Rosso

Guests featured in this episode:
Brontez Purnell
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