Buller Men and Batty Bwoys: Hidden Men in Toronto and Halifax Black Communities


230 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8942-9
DDC 305.38'9664'09713




Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a senior policy advisor in the Corporate Policy Branch
Management Board Secretariat, Government of Ontario. He is co-editor of
Nation and History: Polish Historians from the Enlightenment to the
Second World War.


Readers are here presented with an important topic, but a terrible book.
This volume originated as a 1997 doctoral dissertation. Unfortunately,
its analytical framework consists of strings of quotations, its
composition relies on scissors and paste, and its research base is
tiny—19 interviews—buttressed by the author’s personal views.

The focus is on men who are attracted to their own sex within the
African-Caribbean community in Toronto and African-Canadian men in
Halifax. Although Crichlow acknowledges the tremendous differences
between the two cities, he provides no demographic data and no analysis
of social structure. Moreover, there is hardly a page without “I,”
“me,” and “mine,” reducing his argument to the personal. Despite
placing himself front and centre, he’s ironically silent on his own
sexual initiation and experience. Nor does he explain how his first
contacts with buller men arose.

Crichlow does a fine job of dissecting the dominant discourse on
masculinity within the black community and demonstrating its treatment
of same-sex behaviour as sick, effeminate, other, and deviant. His
dissection of reggae lyrics is informative. The appendix on homosexual
organizing within Toronto’s black community is helpful. However, his
sources are mostly American, and the bibliography lists only works in
English. Although the heart of this book consists of citations from the
interviews, the eloquence of those interviewed is undermined by
Crichlow’s paraphrasing, which, in caseworker fashion, follows the
excerpts but seldom goes beyond what we have just read.

Inexplicably, his analysis often ignores and even contradicts the
testimony provided by the interviews. For example, his insistence that
buller men remain within the bounds of the black community does not
credit the interviews that reveal some black men have found comfort in
the larger queer community. He makes pronouncements—“coming out does
not have the same political significance as it does for white
gays”—and at one point openly confesses that he is simply

Crichlow may be correct in his belief that there is “minimal
awareness about the issues that affect bullers and batty bwoys within
[b]lack communities,” but unfortunately this book is not likely to
raise awareness due to its tiny sample,

its conclusions that have little to do with the evidence presented, and
its addiction to jargon.


Crichlow, Wesley., “Buller Men and Batty Bwoys: Hidden Men in Toronto and Halifax Black Communities,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17108.