downe

Another item from 2006, this time  a posting by Jerry Zee to the OUTiL (OUT in Linguistics) mailing list on 5/2/06 (lightly edited):

I’m an undergrad at Stanford [in Cultural and Social Anthropology and in Linguistics, graduated in 2007], involved in the queer Asian American community here, and was wondering if anyone had noticed the word “downe” – I believe it comes from Filipino American communities and is expanding, I think – for now I think it’s either a Bay Area, Hawaii, or California thing –- I wrote a silly little paper on the site for an anthropology class last year.

My perceptions of the term are that it’s a departure from ‘gay’, which in a lot of ways gets defined in terms of white mainstream gay culture, and it’s also a lot more expansive than gay – it’s like ‘queer’ in that sense, minus the political overtones that ‘queer’ carries. Also, used kind of like a password when the speakers are trying to be discreet in more open environments – “Are you downe?” comes across as pretty innocuous to someone who’s not in the know. And for now, it feels like a very Asian and a very NorCal thing to identify as.

Here’s what urbandictionary has to say:

1. Downe *91* up, *4* down
A person who identifies as homosexual, gay, bisexual, or queer. Frequently used within Filipino American and Asian American GLBT communities. (Origns: California? or Hawaii?)
“Are you downe?”
by alwayzfione Feb 3, 2004

2. Downe *7* thumbs up
Derived from the definition of “downlow” which was taken from the African-American Community. Brought in by the Filipino/Asian-American Male & Female LGBT community. Reinvented into the word “DownE” with a capital “E” expressed during the hype of the raving/exstacy scene which began to popularize in the early 90’s. Giving those who are on the “downlow” a more open environment (i.e. E-parties.) Those using the term “DownE” also used it to seperate themselves from society’s stereotype of a Gay Asian Male, as well as Gay Asian Female. As a means of communication. The internet played a major role in the growth in popularity for the word “Downe.” With websites such as Downelink.com, the definition of “downe” is constantly changing. A good thing or a bad thing, take it as you will. From my opinion, the definition can’t be found on any dictionary. Define it for yourself. Whether it be just another term for being Gay, Lesbian, Etc. or make it mean more to you than just a label.
Do you remember the downe scene back in 96? Now thats taking it way back to it’s roots.
by Downe O.G. Cali Nov 3, 2005

3. Downe *3* thumbs up
origin: california; definition: identifying oneself as being gay, bi, confused, questioning, experimenting, ambiguous, or simply wanting to get laid one way or the other.
“are you downe?”, “you downe to screw?”
by jaypee so cali Nov 20, 2005

[AZ note: nothing more of significance on UD since then, as far as I can see]

My response to OUTiL 5/2/06:

On May 2, 2006, at 4:31 PM, Jerry Zee wrote: “…also, used kind of like a password when the speakers are trying to be discreet in more open environments – “are you downe?” comes across as pretty innocuous to someone who’s not in the know…”

So it’s pronounced like “down”, not “downy”.

Earlier slang “down to V / for N” ‘be available/enthusiastic to V / for N’ seems to have influenced some of the reported usages.

The connection to “downlow” is plausible, but it would be nice to have some documentation of early uses, or at least memories for them. (I know, somebody’s going to say that all that E wiped out those memories.)

On the downelink.com site:

Flirt. Chat. Meet. ♥︎
The next generation of downelink is launching here soon!

downelink is the hottest destination for LGBTQ social networking. Connect with likeminded individuals, and be free to be who you are.

If you would like to join us for the relaunch of this tried and true brand, please join the mailing list.

And then on the site Are You Downe? Exploring a Social Movement among Gay Asian Youth, the most recent posting is from 4/28/09. The postings there give a picture of the downe community in the Bay Area and L.A. (for men, at least) as a place for young Asian men interested in other young Asian men (with various self-identifications as to sexuality) to party together, hook up, and find a boyfriend (one popular guy found dozens within a few years). The community (which was, of course, pretty small) seems to have largely dissolved. (Postings on the site also include some wrenching stories about coming out to an Asian American family.)

Meanwhile, Jerry has studied in China and at UC Berkeley and is now a
postdoctoral fellow in Science and Technology Studies at UC Davis, where he lists his areas of study as: environment, anthropology, meteorology, atmosphere, governing, China, East Asia. Also — joyous news — he now has a husband.

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