Caribbean Culture and Homophobia – Boom Bye Bye in a Batty-Boi Head!
Olufunmike Banks Devonish
After leaving the Caribbean for North America, and attending an institution as diverse as Trent University, my region’s homophobic mentality has become more salient than ever. Not surprisingly, much of the literature about the issue of homophobia makes reference to the Caribbean region. The most heart-wrenching part of this is that having been immersed in such a culture where the word was used both loosely and derogatorily, it is difficult, although not impossible, to alter your casual speech.
At the core of the region’s homophobia and anti-gay regiment is religion. The region boasts Christianity and has developed its doctrine around the biblical references to the importance of heterosexual relationships for the effective reproduction of human race. Homosexuals are continuously under criticism by Christian councils, and by the majority of citizens in their islands. The bible is used as a tool of oppression against homosexuals with the belief that the only way to heaven is through heterosexuality. Therefore, they are often forced to either deny religion altogether or claim heterosexuality while still maintaining homosexual relationships.
Homophobia in the region, however, extends past the church. Popular culture openly embraces and promotes homophobia in the Caribbean region. Countless songs blatantly preach to listeners that “man to man is so unjust” and that “batty man fi dead”! The music resonates through the islands and its fast-paced tempo adds to enraging listeners and promoting violence. These include Buju Banton’s popular hit song “Boom-bye bye in a batty boi head”. Although this song has been banned from some radio stations, even more explicit songs continue to fill the airwaves in the region and even here in North America – a continent boasting advances in gay rights. This is ironic because to be able to publicly display their sexual orientation without the fear of being killed, many homosexuals in the Caribbean feel the need to migrate to more accepting countries like some in Europe and North America. However, even there they are faced with criticism and are shunned by other heterosexual migrants from their country or region of nationality and lambasted by the dancehall and reggae loving followers.
Homosexuals and heterosexuals seem to have different perspectives on the root cause of homosexuality where homosexuals are more likely to attribute sexual orientation to innate, biological, and thus, unchangeable characteristics. But the very idea of wanting to find a cause implies the desire to find a treatment or a cure for homosexuality under the umbrella of diseases.
In my opinion, the religiosity of the Caribbean should be questioned if we continue to contribute to the oppression of a group of people. Throughout history, the black race has sought out religion to help cope with oppression and the cruelty of the world. Religion offered a sense of hope for a better tomorrow and I would like to argue that without it, distress and a sense of helplessness would have ensued.
Christian councils and religious-boasting individuals in the Caribbean learn to be more accepting of all individuals regardless of his/her sexual orientation as they have been of people of various races and ethnicities. I suggest that the prudent efforts to fight for homosexual rights extend past the Canadian border and into areas where the voice of homosexuals are silenced.