Jul 31, 2011

[Technicolor Musings] Dissecting Gay Lingo

Flickr: Megan Terry - pRIdE
by Megan Terry via Flickr.

I've never been particularly good with the local gay lingo, perhaps more formally known as swardspeak. Given the quirky language stems from a weird mix of English, Filipino / Tagalog and Spanish languages and interlaced with various local pop culture references, it's never been something easy for me to pick up. And I freely admit that I'm not exactly great at speaking our own language (I know - shame on me), but that's the consequence of my upbringing and so I just roll with it for now.

But it's interesting how what is pretty much its own dialect has developed specific to queer culture. But have you ever wondered why? What functional purpose does a secret language serve the queer community? At the same time, even when we speak in normal English or Filipino, the way most queers speak is also tailored to the audience in some manner. We've developed a different set of cultural norms of sorts in how we communicate and what we like to talk about.

So here's my quick take on the "language" and some insights as to why it works.

First, we must acknowledge that a large part of all this is about sex. Whether in terms of hard core gay lingo terms or just euphemisms we utilize in conventional conversations among fellow queers, we never seem to hesitate to make references to sex, sexual organs, hot guys and all that. In the same way that the Filipino language has evolved to have so many different terms of rice and rice-based delicacies, queer speak is littered with a million and one ways to talk about all things related to rutting in the bedroom.

Flickr: sea turtle - Buddies
by sea turtles via Flickr.

And this is not a bad thing - one could argue that it's just such a big part of the whole queer sub-culture.But WHY its such a big part of our culture is probably the more interesting question to explore.

Upon further reflection, I figure it has more to do with us being guys than us being queer. If you think about how conversations go between "hardcore" jock-types and ultra-geeks, there's a lot of sexual banter that's naturally part of the conversations. Blame our raging hormones or whatever, but sex is always going to be part of the conversation. Among straight "dudes" its a way to assert dominance and show that one guy is more "manly" then the others. Among geeks its often ironic in its usage, to poke fun at the stereotypical lack of sexual relationships among geeks and other such socially-challenged individuals. And for queers, we're just following along the lines of the same biological imperative.

And thus this may help explain why we have swardspeak to begin with. We've developed an entire secret language to communicate solely among our peers within the community. While use of the so-called language is enough for anyone to clearly identify you as a member of the community, it does help protect what you have to say against those casual listeners who more often than not won't understand your references, terms and gestures.

Flickr: sea turtle - Buddies
by sea turtles via Flickr.

At first I thought the revelation was there - that swardspeak exists to protect our sexually-charged conversations from prying ears. Perhaps it started as a transactional language - a way to secretly and securely proposition other queers even while in the closet until the language evolved into something much bigger and thus no longer secret or limited to the community. But that seems so shallow, and with the prevalence and the continued evolution of the language, the whole secrecy of sex argument doesn't work anymore. Plus add in the fact that even in conventional conversations were queers are involved, a certain degree of sexual banter, flirting and innuendo is automatically part of the conversational flow.

So why hide? Or are we even hiding?

Flickr: imdavidk - NOH8
by imdavidk via Flickr.

Language, after all, also serves the function of identity. When a group of people speak a single language, it implies a bond of community to some extent among them. In the same way that the French hold pride in their language and their ability to determine when someone is a non-native French speaking person and so on. Understanding swardspeak and the ability to communicate using the lingo does help foster than sense of kinship among the LGBT community to some degree and thus in plain sight (or hearing) of the rest of the world, we get to continually reinforce that we are a valid group within the greater population and one that deserves full recognition.

What do you think? What value is there in having our own secret language and sub-culture versus the rest of the country (or even the world!) Do you feel it reinforces your identity? Is it all just for fun? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
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  1. Sample naman ng gay lingo d'yan :)

  2. Cebu has a different gay lingo to Manila. Still the same pattern a mixture of English, Tagalog, Spanish and the Pop Culture. There are also words that are said and read backwards. It is funny how bekis (in Luzon) and Toyabs (in Cebu) create their own language and culture. They are related but both exhibit many differences! Enjoy Diversity!!!

  3. Korektiva, Atetra.
    Seda naman kota na-kite na blogelya na ganitey ang kuda.
    Sadako nga lang na wa-i na masyadong tasa na nora magbera nitis.

  4. Elmer:
    Looks like Lanchie provided an example for you.

    Well that's interesting! I always figured there would be variants along those lines, bust still a different deal entirely to hear confirmation. Enjoy diversity indeed!

    OMG - I have NO idea what you just said. LOL

  5. brycethomason26 July, 2013 14:59

    It is not
    my purpose to get into a religious discussion here, I only site the on top of
    because it tends to illustrate my earlier point of a gay lobby and a strong "gay agenda.