A secret language of Kinks and Queens

Gayle is an argot from gay communities in South Africa.

Gayle, the language of kinks and queens, as Ken Cage has dubbed it, is an argot used in South Africa by white and coloured gay men. Argots, secret languages invented so that outsiders cannot understand, can also be used in the context of an “anti-language” — a term created by Michael Halliday in 1978. An anti-language describes how stigmatized subcultures develop languages in order to reconstruct the reality around them in alliance with their own values; these secret argots are a protest against the dominant culture, the external imposition of a linguistic value system which does not reflect the experience of the stigmatized community. These languages primarily develop during times of government crack down and social stigmatism: during the 70s, a gay argot developed in San Francisco (complete with a secret code involving handkerchiefs to accompany the spoken language), Polari flourished in Great Britain during times of repression, and currently Swardspeak, a gay language within the Philippines, is becoming more widespread among younger generations, due to increasing discrimination. Collectively, these languages are known as the “Lavender Languages”, a term derived from Betty Friedan, a lesbophobic American of the 1970s, when she called lesbians a “lavender menace”. Gayle, Polari, and other similar languages are used as a way to communicate between members of the community. If someone is unsure if another person is gay, they can approach them using Gayle. If the person is not a part of the community, they will be baffled by the conversation, but of course, on the other hand, if they understand the jargon, then both parties are on the same page.

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