For the last installment of the two-part series about Pinoy clever wordplay, we will talk about the gay lingo. Bekinese, swardspeak, beki speak, whatever you call it.
For better articulation, we will be borrowing some words from Danton Remoto’s essay. It was read at the International Conference on Queer Politics, University of Amsterdam, July 1998. Remoto aptly raised three critical points about the Philippine gay lingo. He said that it serves as a mediator in the universe of Philippine languages, it comes from a carnival of sources, and the heterosexual mainstream has appropriated the language without considering that it is a language of slippages. You may read the essay here.
However, we will only focus on two additional points raised in the essay. The Philippine gay lingo has the capacity to disrupt, and that it is forever advent, forever beginning, forever new. While the language is no longer as exclusive as it was back then, notwithstanding the power of mainstream media and appropriation of heterosexuals, the Philippine gay lingo carries on with its sole purpose of creating an environment safe for the group of people using the language, the LGBTQIA+ community.
Gay lingo: Capacity to disrupt
As early as the ‘60s, the Philippine gay lingo has played a role as a mediator of Philippine languages. The Tagalog-English code-switching gave birth to a more comical yet useful language. The act of using the names of TV personalities and influential people to describe something became a trend. You may think of it as codes used for operations or, let’s get closer, our peers and core friends. We often use codes or internal languages that are privy to our circles.
This is how the gay lingo was used before, and up to this day, we can still hear other people using it. With Ces Drilon unwittingly lending her name, you could either say Stress Drilon when you are stressed. You could also call someone Lotlot de Leon if the person is a loser. When it rains, you say, Julanis Morisette or when you need someone to be very specific, you say, Specify Pecache.
Despite the comedy out of the language, it is essential to note that it was used back then to ensure someone’s safety. It was used to make a statement, to disrupt, and to speak freely, or even shout on top of your lungs, without having to worry about the people around you knowing what you are trying to say. The Philippine gay lingo is a way of expressing liberation—free from scrutiny and free from harm. With its contrast in sophistication and vulgarity, you create a world with people who speak a language you can’t speak with just anyone else. If they can’t give you space to feel free, create spaces for yourself and others.
Today, gay speak thrives in almost every corner of every sector, industry, or group. We see rallyists using the language for dissent. We hear it on national TV. Our friends and families likely speak or at least know a thing or two about the language.
Gay lingo: Forever advent, forever beginning, forever new.
Just like any language, the Philippine gay lingo continuous to evolve. From the mere appropriation of TV personalities in the ‘80s, we now hear these street words being thrown out from time to time. One of which is charot.
While there are few references about the origin of the word, the earliest time it was used was in the ‘80s. Roderick Paulate played the role of Charot, for the movie with the same title, together with Vilma Santos.
The word, however, is a modified version of ‘Charing’, which is the word for when someone is joking around. You would often hear charot and charing used every after sentences. The word then evolved from Charing to charot, and now char, or chos. You can also hear these words spoken and written by people who do not identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Philippine gay lingo may no longer be as exclusive as before, but it continues to serve its purpose of connecting with people from different walks of life. It is a powerful language that creates a bigger world for the marginalized sectors. It is a language by the community and a language that anyone can now understand.
While the language is free for anyone to use, it is important to remember why gay lingo exists in the first place—why there was a need to create an entirely different language and drift of words. It is a language borne out of people’s experiences of being outcast from the inner circles of society. The Philippine gay lingo is a common tongue that serves as a sword for those who continue to experience oppression and discrimination. It will continue to evolve without reaching obsoletion.