Pride & Joy Day 11: Flagging

[Today’s donation was made to Movement for Black Lives. Click here to see my Pride & Joy Project 2020 Daily Donations List.]

Pig Latin, Runes, Polari. I even read somewhere that Mandarin and Kanji were once secret languages too, designed to confuse enemies.

BBC’s David Robson writes, “… our language may be at its richest and most powerful when it is driven underground.”

Two decades ago, when I was but a teenager, gay Indonesians had our own form of Polari, although the structure itself is more like Pig Latin, with a set of morphemes added to words (mostly nouns). For example, the word “banci” (bun-chee), meaning an effeminate man, becomes “binancini” (bee-nun-chee-nee) by adding the infix “in” between the letter “b” and “an,” and the suffix “ni” at the end of the word. “Binancini” is later shortened to “binan” (“bee-nun”).

It’s fascinating to learn that these gay secret codes and languages became obsolete when the LGBTQ rights have been recognized (at least in some parts of the world). Gay men (and women) no longer have to wear earrings on the right ear to announce their sexuality to those in the know.

One code that refuses to retire into obscurity is the hanky code, otherwise known as flagging. It may have started in San Francisco during the Gold Rush. There were too many men and not enough women, and so men danced with one another. A blue handkerchief, or a handkerchief stuffed in the left back pocket meant he’d lead. A red one, or one hanging from the right back pocket meant he’d follow.

The hanky code gradually became a way to identify someone’s fetish. Imagine being in a bar or at Pride parade (seems like a lifetime ago), and it’s too loud and crowded and you have no time to waste. A color-coded handkerchief or bandana stuffed inside either your left or right pocket can be a time-saver. Today, some hook-up apps make it way easier to know one’s kink(s) without having to remember which color + which pocket means what.

Just remember, left pocket means top (active/giver), right means bottom (passive/receiver).

Click here to find out the meaning of the yellow bandana I have in my right back pocket. Hint: today’s hashtag is #thirstythursday.

Photography by Yuska Lutfi Tuanakotta.