From taking family pictures and organising neighbourhood plays to becoming one of the most talented filmmaking duos in the LGBT+ community. Deondray and Quincy Gossfield, creators of “The DL Chronicles,” swept the movie industry by storm with their revolutionary take on what it means to actually be a closeted, gay black man.
As 26 years old lovers with an urge to do more than star in roles that boxed black men into stereotypical characters, they gave birth to “The DL Chronicles”.
Inspired by an Oprah interview and irritated by how black closeted men were portrayed as “dirty, nasty and bringing HIV back to the homes,” the two sought to change the narrative through the camera lens. On a personal level, they themselves had ties to the phrase “down-low”. Being closeted and living as straight men, they understood that there was more to hiding who you were than what the media painted black gay men to be. While oftentimes, the same demonising media was giving sympathy for our white counterparts, who weren’t “able to be who they wanted to be”.
Fuelled by their anger at the misconceptions made on the Oprah interview, they decided to launch a project that would show the other side of closeted black men. The side they stayed on, where yes, even though they were living as straight men, they weren’t putting any innocent lives at risk. No fake relationships where a woman’s emotions were toyed with. No late nights or weekend getaways with the baby mama at home. Basically, a life where they hid who they were, but without compromising their integrity or those of another. The side of the real-life DL Chronicles that the world didn’t or refused to see.
In the words of Deondray, “we decided to create something that addressed the social and cultural aspects that made men of colour feel like they had to live a double life”. This statement may resonate with many of our readers if not all. As black men anywhere in the world, there seems to an unasked burden placed on us by society, family, and cultural norms
The idea that black men should be unfeeling, tough, essentially “hard” men is a general idea all over. Even now, with the leaps we’ve witnessed within the LGBT community and society in general, all you need to do is scroll through comments in “The Shade Room” about the “agenda to feminise black men”.
Anytime I come across such comments, I get pissed off to no degree. Because let’s dissect it shall we? The government, the colonisers, the white man, whatever you want to call them, flooded neighbourhoods with drugs, guns and the mentality that we should form testosterone-fuelled groups and kill ourselves over a street corner.
That was the REAL agenda. To make the black man, especially in America, a thing to fear. So, this idea of “protecting our identity” is a big bowl of bullshit. It was never the identity of a black man to be a thug. That idea was thrust upon a generation that gullibly swallowed up every last piece and then proceeded to clean their mouths with cocaine laced toilet paper.
So here we are now, clinging to that falsehood and feeling threatened by any form of feminine behaviour that may question it.
Deondray and Quincy noticed a very glaring and empty space in the movie industry. Most of the stories told about the LGBT community were from white men’s views, experiences, and standpoints. Stories of coming out and falling in love within the black gay community just weren’t the norm. Meanwhile, black movies such as the “backyard barbecue” comedies and dramas never explored gay or lesbian individuals. And if they did, it wasn’t told in any romanticised light, but from the angle of trauma, lies and shame.
I still remember a particular scene in a Tyler Perry movie, where Janet Jackson and her husband were at an opera, and he was making eyes at a white man. She must have peeped the obvious flirting because the camera zoomed in to a single tear falling down her eye. In the movie, he would later go on to infect her with HIV. This sums up the basic storyline of LGBT characters in black film during the late ’90s and early 2000s.
As a young gay black man, watching this movie filled me with a sense of sadness and acute shame. So much so that I still remember the scene quite vividly years later.
Imagine being a part of two worlds but still looking in from the outside. This sense of alienation gave Deondray and Quincy the motivation to independently direct and produce “The DL Chronicles”. The plan was to initially create four episodes on a 90-minute direct-to-DVD film, shot in 2005.
As luck would have it, a director, Luther Mase, saw the rough cut of “The DL Chronicles” and asked the duo if he could share it with the festival director, Kim Yutani, of Outfest. Reluctant as they were, he convinced them that the film was good enough to be sent out. She fell in love with it and asked to share it with other festivals.
Invitations to premiere at various festivals began flying in. From Los Angeles to Atlanta, “The DL Chronicles” were making waves.
Ironically, despite a meagre budget, they were able to create something memorable. Compared to what white creators were getting, their resources were laughable. Still, they put together a project that was ground-breaking not just for its time but for generations to come. This is definitely a testament to their talent and ingenuity.
But even with the success, huge fan base, and support of the LGBT community, The DL Chronicles never became as huge as the creators hoped for. Even with an updated “The DL Chronicles Returns: Thomas”, it still didn’t gain the traction it deserved.
There is still hope though, with streaming services such as Netflix and HBO Max, the creators are pining for a full-fledged series that would be accessible to people worldwide.
With such a big following, and more viewers discovering the series daily, such a project would definitely be welcomed. The impact it had during its time is still felt today. The director of Moonlight, Tarell McCraney, has cited the duo and “The DL Chronicles” as a major inspiration. Which makes sense if you’ve seen that film and how it played out.
Countless viewers have sent messages of gratitude to the creators, from men being able to find the courage to come out to parents discovering a sense of understanding after watching the series. I personally believe they accomplished something way bigger than what they give themselves credit for.
They even have a chapter in a psychology textbook based on “The DL Chronicles” series. It doesn’t get any more influential than that.
Still, as the creators referenced, it’s a shame that the youths are still going through the same crises highlighted in the project. Years later, young men continue to relate to The DL Chronicles and the storylines portrayed in it. This just goes to show that there’s more work to be done.
It goes beyond movies and media portrayals that often seem more concerned with pretty faces and sexy bodies than speaking about our truth.
Yet, I look around now, and I feel the change. Lil Nas X dancing on strip poles, Dwayne Wade embracing his transgender daughter, we can’t deny that things are moving in a better direction.
One day, soon, a new generation will watch “The DL Chronicles” and be amazed that anyone would ever feel the need to live in anything but their truth.