“We Deh”: Women-Loving Women, Rurality, and Creole Linguistic Potentials

Preity Kumar



This paper draws on ethnographic interviews with women-loving women (WLW) in Berbice, Guyana, South America, to interrogate the Creole linguistic term “deh” as a cultural heuristic device central to the visibility politics in this rural community. The linguistic concept of “deh” is a localized Creole (a dialect produced from the mixing of African, Indian, and Indigenous languages), which unsettles the Western image of the “closet” and the discourse of “coming out.” “Deh” is a double-entendre referring to a spatial location, like “over there,” and to a romantic or sexual relationship between two people. How might the linguistic concept of “deh” open up a discursive epistemological space where same-sex desires are not marginalized or relegated in rural spaces? How do women loving women (WLW) create the conditions for their existence in rural spaces? Analyzing nine interviews with WLW, this paper explores how Black and Brown women-loving women embody and express their same-sex desires through the Creole concept of “deh” and argues that “deh” exposes the colonial violence of language. Through “deh,” WLW offers a framework for rethinking self-making and repositioning their relationship to the broader society and the state. The colonial/modern system imposes and projects LGBTQ as a global framework for understanding human sexuality; as a transgressive linguistic and embodied sexual praxis, “deh” destabilizes the colonial knowledge of gender and sexual practices in Berbice. As such, this paper can be read as an act of decolonizing Western knowledge systems.


Keywords: Guyana, LGBTQ, Women Loving Women, Rural, Creole, Coloniality