Batty up

Pub date October 20, 2009
WriterMarke B.
SectionMusicSectionSuper Ego

SUPER EGO Hi, I’m a big faggot who loves reggae. And I’m not alone in my puff-puff-pass pinkness — not just because everyone goes through an "experimental reggae phase" in college, but because I see tons of queer kids getting down to reggae-derived dancehall and reggaeton hits at the Crib parties ( and the Café ( I’ve run into other reggays at the always welcoming Jah Warrior Shelter Hi Fi events (, Dub Mission joints (, and Reggae Gold nights ( And praise Miss Jah for all the laidback homo hotties at the annual Reggae in the Park fest.

Yet in the latest round of queer-reggae controversy, I felt like a rarer bird than ever. Here’s the bones: Almost 20 years ago, a young Jamaican reggae-dancehall singer named Buju Banton wrote a really catchy song called "Boom Bye Bye" that advocated murdering queer batty boys like me by, among other things, riddling us with Uzi bullets and melting us in tires. Charming. It made him famous, he still sells tons of downloads, and he seems to have no regrets. Every time he comes around on tour, members of the gay community get rightly pissed and attempt to shut him down. That’s what happened Oct. 12 when Banton was set to perform at San Francisco’s Rockit Room. Somewhat amazingly, Banton, who claims to have embraced a "more peaceful" lifestyle and to no longer perform "Boom," agreed to meet with gay folk for the first time. Everyone involved listened to each other for an hour, and the show went ahead as planned — this time at least with channels open and peaceful protests outside the club.

The frustrating part to me was watching many people on both sides overreact, allowing the whole issue to blow up into a giant "queers vs. reggae" thing, rather than a protest targeting one specific hater. People who should know better immediately raised the stakes into the ridiculous. At one point, SF Weekly falsely accused lead protester Pollo Del Mar of bursting into the concert in full drag and pepper-spraying the crowd, yeesh. Yes, my gays, reggae Rastafarianism is as queer-hating as most other religions, but there’s no such thing as "homophobic music," only homophobic people. Reggae, like hip-hop and rock, is a broad trope that encompasses all kinds of expression. You don’t have to be conflicted to be a fan. And no, Buju-heads, this wasn’t an attack by wily "gay activists" on reggae culture — and, by extension, black culture. Gayness isn’t a white thing, no matter what the Jamaican government says to justify its persecution of queers there. Many Buju defenders also keep framing the continuing nationwide protests as an attack on Banton’s freedom of speech. It’s not. He can say whatever he wants; it’s saying it in our community and making money off of it that people object to.

I have friends in each camp, and it sucked dreaded pubes to hear coded racism and homophobia creep into their comments. Worse, though, was the sense that we were all being played. This exact same thing happened three years ago when Banton came to town. Once again his name was in all the papers, like this one. Once again, his fanbase solidified in the face of a perceived threat. Tickets to his show were $40. Just sayin’.


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