Gay people in Myanmar have adopted a secret language

Their slang can help protect them from abuse

Wednesday has just turned into Thursday in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, and pleasure-seekers are on the prowl in a glitzy neighbourhood. Drivers slow down to inspect sex workers waiting by the kerb. Three of them, all transgender women, chat brightly. Your correspondent tries to eavesdrop but even her translator cannot understand. Theresa, the most forthright of the three, withdraws the lollipop from her mouth. “Yeah, we’re speaking bansaka,” she shrugs.

A dialect of Burmese spoken by gay and transgender people in Myanmar, bansaka, meaning slang, involves switching vowels within words (coffee, a loan word from English, becomes keefaw) and giving new meaning to Burmese words. Puns feature heavily. Asin, an adjective used to describe gemstones of great clarity, refers to an attractive man. Neologisms often riff on popular culture. To say one likes reading Tayza magazine, once popular among young men, is to signal that one is attracted to such people.

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Source – The Economist

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