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Many homosexual men in Indonesia speak what they call bahasa gay ‘gay language’, a linguistic phenomenon based upon bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian), Indonesia’s national language. Bahasa gay, is also known by gay men and other Indonesians as bahasa banci, a closely related language variety. Banci is a nationwide (and somewhat derogatory) term for male-to-female transvestites; two well-known bahasa gay/banci variants of the term are binan and bencong (thus this language is also called bahasa binan or bahasa bencong). To date, the fundamental condition of bahasa gay’s existence is that although some terms transform words from local languages such as Javanese or Balinese, at the overall grammatical level bahasa gay is always based on Indonesian (bahasa Indonesia), the national vernacular. Although Indonesia has considerable linguistic diversity, bahasa gay is a self-consciously nationwide way of speaking. All of the derivational patterns used to produce bahasa gay lexemes originated in one region of Indonesia but became nationally distributed through gay social networks. The language’s fundamental logic is not that of alterity but of creative transformation of a dominant state discourse. It is a conscious (and often humorous) language game.
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