The ‘Down Low’ in Life and Legend
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Published in: November-December 2005 issue.


AUTHOR-ACTIVIST Keith Boykin’s latest book, Beyond the Down Low, published early this year by Carroll & Graf, explores an underground subculture of men who engage in same-sex sexual activity in secret while projecting a heterosexual public image. Attempting to counteract some sensationalized reporting on this phenomenon—such as the notion that the down low is exclusively the province of African-American men—the book became a bestseller that refocused the debate on “the DL.”

    In his first book, One More River to Cross: Black & Gay in America (1996), Boykin argued that blacks and gays have in common a struggle against oppression and negative stereotypes. This and other points of intersection between gay issues and black issues have found their way into many articles in places like The AdvocatKeith Boykine and The Village Voice, and into his widely syndicated column in GLBT newspapers. Daily commentary can be found on his website at

    A graduate of Harvard Law School, where he was a leader in the campus diversity movement and editor of The Harvard Civil Rights–Civil Liberties Law Review, Boykin went on to take a position in the Clinton White House as special assistant to the President and director of specialty media. For a time the highest-ranking openly gay person in the White House, Boykin helped organize the nation’s first meeting between gay and lesbian leaders and a U.S. president. Residing in New York City, he now serves as board president of the National Black Justice Coalition.

    A popular public speaker and national media commentator, Boykin was invited to be the featured speaker at this year’s annual dinner meeting of the Harvard Gay & Lesbian Caucus. Soon thereafter, the following exchange was conducted in real time on the Internet.

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