Battybwoys are alright – the homophobia FAQ

Como complemento al último programa dedicado al raggacore y la crítica de productores como Istari Lasterfahrer o LFO Demon a la homofobia existente en la música ragga, dancehall jamaicana comparto este texto en formato FAQ que escribió el propio LFO Demon hace ya unos años para reflexionar sobre el problema de la mentalidad homófoba en la sociedad  y en particular en esa escena musical.

1. What is Homophobia?
Homophobia (homo=homosexual, phobia=fear) means discrimination against lesbians and gays for their sexual preferences.

2. Why is homophobia a problem?
Homophobia, like racism, is a form of discrimination of people because of certain social characteristics (others might be race, gender, religion…). Discrimination means that some people getting systematically treated worse than other. We believe in an equal society without structural inequalities and hatred against people. Homophobia, and other –ism´s, are a sharp contrast to the idea of equality. There should be no room for discrimination. We´re not only concentrating on Homophobia- this is one form of discrimination but there are several others.

3. What is your aim with this “Anti-Homophobia” F.A.Q.?
To stop discrimination against gays and lesbians. To raise the conciousness that homophobia is a very ugly political view and not something that can be tolerated. To show that there are some people in music not tolerating homophobia.

4. Why did you start this project?
We were shocked how deep the acceptance of homophobia is rooted. So we wanted to make a clear statement against this to break the silence and show that there are people out there opposing homophobia.

5. I´m not gay- so why should I care?
Counterquestion: Would you say racism is only a matter for non-white people? Nobody would justify in public the discrimination of non-white people nowadays. But concerning homosexual men and women it is still broadly accepted to talk of 2nd class people who are different to “normal” people. Without people thinking like that there would be no discrimination. It´s not a “problem of gays” but a problem of the fear of heterosexual people viewing homosexuality as an assault on their norms how men and women should be like.
It´s still a sad fact that people have first in mind “somebody could think that I´m gay” when talking about discrimination against people because of their sexual preference.
One favor, please: forget all the clichees connected with manhood. “Maleness” has nothing to do with being a tough, strong, heterosexual-Arnold-Schwarzenegger-clone. Men are human beings, too. All these roles have been teached to us by society so everybody thinks they are god given. In fact they are not.

6. Is Homophobia only a problem of Ragga music?
No. Homophobia exists nearly everywhere- it is no typical aspect only of Ragga music. But there are in most cases no homophobic lyrics in the music, homophobia isn´t expressed like that but e.g. that a band gets discriminated for having a homosexual band member.
In Ragga especially there are many artists having extreme anti-gay lyrics and also some people who justify this. So you have many songs using the slangwords “battyman” or “chichiman” with the order to hang/ shoot/ kill them. This is part of a bigger problem- homophobia is seen as quite normal in jamaican society. People are getting killed there for being gay- just check the reports of Amnesty International.

7. Don´t you overestimate the influence of the lyrics on the audience?
We don´t believe that everybody who listens to “battybwoy” lyrics takes a gun/ knife/ baseballbat and starts to kill homosexuals. But music is a, an expression of political views of the musican and b, also has at least some influence on the consumer. And if you hear all the time that it is “okay to hate faggs” it shapes a consensus where everybody seems to agree with. Music or art isn´t a sphere disconnected with reality and having no influence on the rest of your life but defenitely shapes political views.

8. Aren´t you forcing another culture to accept your norms and beliefs?
You mean “cultural imperialsm”- some decadent whities come with their concept of enlightenment and force other cultures to accept their norms of society. Right, we´re doing this but again the comparison with racism: the anti-apartheid camaigns against South Africa in the 1980s did exactly the same. There is no way to accept –ism´s just because “it´s another culture”. We don´t believe in this “culture concept”, some norms are simply valid globally. We don´t give a fuck if somebody gets killed for being gay in Jamaica or in Germany or somewhere else- it is unacceptable in both cases.

9. Are you pro-censorship? You are restricting the rights of free speech of the artists.
Censorship is always a mean of a institution of a state. In contrast, we want the people themselves to act against opinions that are not acceptable. And yes, we think that some opinions are so stupid one should stand up against them and show that they are not welcome.

10. So are you intolerant then? You just want to shut down voices which don´t fit in your sence for “political correctness”?
The term “tolerance” only makes sense together with “boundary”- endless tolerance is simply nonsense. We can accept people having different opinions than we have but in some central issues there is a definite line. And some views- racism/ homophobia …, are beyond this line.

11. Do you want to destroy Ragga music?
Actually not. We just oppose discriminating ideas by some artists. In fact we want some more political conciousness and not only a blind acceptance of everything coming out of Jamaica. There is no “campaign to shut down ragga” as some people construct a conspiracy.

12. You criticize a lot- but do you have any alternatives?
Indeed we have. Take a look at Ska music, another style originally coming from Jamaica that was advanced in England later. You have a broad variety of bands there from party orientated ones to politcally active ones (and many hades in between). That´s what we want: variety and people singing about their own problems. Oh, and homophobia is for none of those bands an issue.

13. Ok, so Homophobia sucks- how can i act against it?
We collected some ideas:
First of all: Get informed. Read articles on the issue so you can have some serious arguments against homophobia. Don´t be silent if people justify homophobia. In the internet or in face-to-face conversations: voice your protest if someone justifies homophobia (and other forms of –isms).
Be creative- there are many examples to show your protest. Some ideas: print stickers against, put statements on your records. A good idea was the “Give me back” Harcore-Punkrock compilation by Ebullition records in the early 1990s – a record on women´s self liberation with a thick booklet with information and opinions on the issue. Why not the same on homophobia?
Organize a show against homophobic tendencies like “Ragga against Homophobia”.
Donate money to jamaican gay rights organizations.
Get active in your music scene and write articles.
Use creative sampling techniqes like the artist ISTARI LASTERFAHRER for example: cutting the vocals and change the syntax: now an Ragga MC sings “me am the ****** that they shot”.
The best option: start your own, non-homophobic Ragga-project.

LFO DEMON, Berlin 2.9.2004

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