Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1018-2101
  • E-ISSN: 2406-4238


A general address term in Communist China, ‘comrade’ was appropriated by gay rights activists in Hong Kong to refer to members of sexual minorities. Examining its level of acceptance among non-activist gay and lesbian Hongkongers, this article argues that non-activists’ ideology about sexuality accounts for their rejection of and their preference for strategies that leave same-sex desire unspecified. This study demonstrates how the discursive history of a label can both enable and impede its political efficacy. It also sheds light on the internal resistance that representatives of minority groups encounter when introducing new labels for those they supposedly speak for.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Bakhtin, Mikhail
    (1984)  Problems of Dostoevsky’s poetics . Edited and translated by Caryl Emerson . Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  2. Boellstorff, Tom
    (2004)  Gay language and Indonesia: Registering belonging. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology14: 248-268. doi: 10.1525/jlin.2004.14.2.248
    https://doi.org/10.1525/jlin.2004.14.2.248 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bourdieu, Pierre
    (1991) Language and symbolic power. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  4. Butler, Judith
    (1993) Critically queer. In her Bodies that matter: On the discursive limits of ‘sex.’New York: Routledge, pp. 223-242.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Cameron, Deborah , and Don Kulick
    (2003) Language and sexuality. New York: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511791178
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511791178 [Google Scholar]
  6. Chou, Wah-Shan
    (2000) Tongzhi: Politics of same-sex eroticism in Chinese societies. New York: Harrington Park Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  7. Fang, Hanquan , and J.H. Heng
    (1983) Social change and changing address norms in China. Language in Society12: 497-507.
    [Google Scholar]
  8. Goffman, Erving
    (1963) Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. New York: Simon and Schuster.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Haliday, M.A.K
    (1976) Anti-languages. American Anthropologist78: 570-584. doi: 10.1525/aa.1976.78.3.02a00050
    https://doi.org/10.1525/aa.1976.78.3.02a00050 [Google Scholar]
  10. Jacobs, Greg
    (1998) The struggle over naming: A case study of ‘queer’ in Toronto, 1990-1994. World Englishes17: 193-201. doi: 10.1111/1467‑971X.00093
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-971X.00093 [Google Scholar]
  11. Labov, William
    (2001) The anatomy of style-shifting. In Penelope Eckert & John Rickford (eds.), Style and sociolinguistic variation. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 85-108.
    [Google Scholar]
  12. Loo, John
    (ed.) (1999) A New Reader for Chinese tongzhis (Essays and conference proceedings) [wa-yan tongzhi san duk-bun]. Hong Kong: Worldson Books.
    [Google Scholar]
  13. Matthews, Stephen , and Virginia Yip
    (1994) Cantonese: A comprehensive grammar. New York: Routledge.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. McConnell-Ginet, Sally
    (2002) ‘Queering’ semantics. In Kathryn Campbell-Kibler , Robert Podesva , Sarah Roberts & Andrew Wong (eds.), Language and sexuality: Contesting meaning in theory and practice. Stanford: CSLI Publications, pp. 137-160.
    [Google Scholar]
  15. O’Connor, Patricia
    (1994) Narratives of prisoners: A contribution to a grammar of agency. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Linguistics. Georgetown University.
  16. Penelope, Julia , and Susan Wolfe
    (1995) The original coming out stories. Freedom: The crossing Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Schegloff, Emmanuel , Gail Jefferson , and Harvey Sacks
    (1977) The preference of self-correction in the organization of repair in conversation. Language53: 361-382. doi: 10.1353/lan.1977.0041
    https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.1977.0041 [Google Scholar]
  18. Scotton Myers, Carol , and Wanjin Zhu
    (1983)  Tongzhi in China: Language change and its conversational consequences. Language in society12: 477-494. doi: 10.1017/S0047404500010204
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0047404500010204 [Google Scholar]
  19. Seidman, Steven
    (1996) Introduction. In Steven Seidman (ed.), Queer theory/sociology. Cambridge: Blackwell, pp. 1-30.
    [Google Scholar]
  20. Wong, Andrew
    (2003)  Tongzhi, ideologies, and semantic change. Doctoral dissertation. Department of Linguistics, Stanford University.
  21. (2005) The reappropriation of tongzhi . Language in Society34: 763-793. doi: 10.1017/S0047404505050281
    https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0047404505050281 [Google Scholar]
  22. Wong, Andrew , and Qing Zhang
    (2000) The linguistic construction of the tongzhi community. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology10: 248-278. doi: 10.1525/jlin.2000.10.2.248
    https://doi.org/10.1525/jlin.2000.10.2.248 [Google Scholar]
  23. Zwicky, Arnold
    (1997) Two lavender issues for linguistics. In Anna Livia & Kira Hall (eds.), Queerly phrased: Language, gender and sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 21-34.
    [Google Scholar]
  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): Hong Kong; Language and sexuality; Naming; Semantic change; Social category labels
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error