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polari

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Polari was a language spoken by queers from the late 19th century till late 20th. Polari was a means for queer people to conduct conversations in public, without drawing attention. Attention would have likely got these people prosecuted or imprisoned. Within this period in England, homosexuals would be prosecuted with either 2 years imprisonment with hard labor, or chemical castration. It was a strategy of concealment. A strategy of survival.


It’s a hybrid adaption of the the English language, a gay-slang language originally associated with travellers, buskers, beggars and prostitutes. It was a language of nomads, having its official roots from nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time. It was built by and for the utility of these communities, but lately, in the last century, took refuge in a community that felt foreign and afraid within their own society.


From the same period, Oscar Wilde commissions the Green Carnation as a symbol of queerness. Appropriated from a long standing tradition in Oxbridge, where scholars would dress a white carnation in their lapels on the first day of exams, gradually replacing into shades of deep red to their last; a metaphor for exams being like a battle or war. Wilde notes the rarity of the green Carnation, that it is an unnatural colour for it to behold. He employs it as a kind of satire on the oppressive and prosecutive paradigm of the time; that homosexuality was seen as something unnatural, an unnatural kind of love.


Wilde himself was trialed and prosecuted for his homosexuality in 1895 and faced two years imprisonment with hard labour. He died two short years after his release aged just 46 as a result of health implications from his sentencing.



2021


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