Popular homophobic words

“Battyman” “battyboi” “fish” “chi chi man” and “number 2” are just some of the ever changing names we have gotten over the years, there may still new ones to come somewhere sometime soon I believe as the djs in the dancehall, comedians and others are always trying to keep us in a corner by conjuring these labels that are supposedly done to keep us in check and psychologically intimidate us. Battyman in particular seems to be the most used homophobic term out of all, it is used satirically as well as in deep anger towards the supposed nasty lifestyle of gay men who engage in batty sex or anal penetration.

The scorn comes from the actual imaging of one man penetrating the other who plays second nature or a woman’s role in being the passive partner or mimicking heterosexual vaginal sex, whivh most persons say they scorn. There is also reference to contact with fecal matter that is deemed just unacceptable by the supposed majority. Anal sex however in heterosexual relations seems to be on the rise according to some experts in medical quarters but the percentages are difficult to capture as the taboo subject is hardly mentioned by service users openly.

One of the other ways the word if used with the greatest of ease is to insult or belittle ones opponent in a confrontation or fight, verbal, physical or both, to make your opponent less “manly” or comparing a man to being close to a woman is an effective way to intimidate one. It rolls off the tongue with such ease. The opponents take a position of strength then try to beat down each other verbally. The Jamaican concepts of manhood are defined and interpreted as machismo, male acting, women breeding animals. This feeds the inbred homophobia that has been cultivated over the years, the re-enforcement of the messages by dancehall artists who glorify anti gay violence, sex out of wedlock, targeting young girls as sex objects (hebephilia), gun & gangsta life seals the deal. All these messages over the years have led to the “down low or situational homosexuality” phenom here in Jamaica thus driving most gay sex activity underground.

Are we simply homophobic? or are there other underpinnings that are missing? – I don’t know, I am still searching for more reasons, tell me the answers if you know, let’s talk.

Surprisingly gay men themselves use the term teasingly or as in a greeting for e.g. two men may not have seen each other for a while or meet somewhere, they greet “Eh battyboi weh yah do yasso?” (hey gay boy what are you doing here?) or something similar, this is usually followed by touching or embracing suggestively (in safe spaces of course). I interpret this to be yes I disagree with the gay lifestyle but let’s steal a piece anyway. Mimicking the homophobic rhetoric then do the direct opposite. They also use it to insult and belittle each other in conflicts, especially so between an effeminate man vs a “macho” “heaviot” or “heavy” (masculine) male. Effeminate behaviour is a problem for many downlow and bisexual brothers who just do not want any indication near them that would expose their secret lifestyle.

Enunciation and patois
The emphasis placed on the enunciation of the word is crucial literally speaking, the more strength placed on the “B” or the entire word itself is the more tercid the meaning intended, whilst if in the case of gay men greeting each other the word is pronounced more suggestively and rhythmic. Bear in mind that the Jamaican dialect (patois) depends on these ebbs and flows for emphasis on words, letters and syllables so one word can have several meanings just by virtue of how it is pronounced. Spelling is not important in most cases as patois is written to suit the user at the time of its creation. If one should listen to the dancehall acts with their murder music, they emphasise the word(s) with strength and venom to show utter disgust.

I think too that sometimes people use the word to get psychological titillation, they outwardly express disgust of the lifestyle while subconsciously thinking of a sexual encounter or try to repress guilt or shame of their misunderstood identity while at the same time questioning themselves, why do I have these urges, am I gay? I am guilty of doing some of this in my teen years before I came into my own. Even then it was hard to discern if other speakers were genuine or not as many downlow brothers have mastered the art of masking their true feelings behind the very use of the word in an anti gay sense. I have since been learning the art of listening and picking up on hidden messages and feelings. One thing about experienced gay men in Jamaica, we have adopted to our caustic environment and get around almost effortlessly despite the threatening circumstances.

“Chi chi man” the origins of which I am still not sure is used mainly in the dancehall idiom to describe gays, the djs and selectors on sound systems and as heard on mixtaped cds use songs such as TOK’s Chi Chi man song that calls for fire to burn gays and to be shot as well LYRICS HERE.

One hardly hears this paraphrase on the streets in everyday conversations or arguments as it is deemed not fervent enough to create that level of horror about the homosexual lifestyle so it is mostly reserved for the music along “with number 2” which comes from an old eighties dancehall track recorded by Terror Fabulous: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZMIsDnwGxQ which is a song about sexual preference of women over men, while it is not as harsh as Buju Banton’s and others tunes it is the same concept of hitting out at the gay male lifestyle.

Knowledge of gay sexual activities was a point of discussion for a while as a line in the song says

“nuff man a oil and vaseline up fi true” meaning alot of men are using oil and vaseline for lubricating for anal sex. It was questioned at one point how did he knew about this but the minor controversy died down afterwards.

Class plays a role in this well as classism another issue that we as a country have not fully addressed, determines what homophobic rhetoric is used to describe gays and homosexuality itself. The words as mentioned before are not used by ruling classes as it is deemed crass and out of place however the snobbery and subtle discrimination with ostracism is just as bold or even worse than the curse words being hurled at us. The manifestation of homophobia in the professional class is more passive than active and usually never results in violent attacks or the use of the “battyman” description but can be cold and calculating.

Church leaders and street preachers have also been known to employ the use of the B word in their sermons from the pulpit, several years ago this would have been frowned upon by the religious community now it’s almost the norm the hear it every now and again. One friend told me he went to a church service where the pastor clearly said in his sermon he wanted no offering from battyman in his church as they can keep their money. Burrowing from a recent Tonex interview I saw he said that the church faggotizes everyone who is gay, sends them completely to hell over the pulpit and rejoices while doing so and thinks they have done a beautiful thing, I couldn’t agree more.


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Author: GLBTQ Jamaica Moderator

Activist and concerned gay man in Jamaica with over 19 years experience in advocacy and HIV/AIDS prevention work, LGBT DJ since 1996.

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