Men Who 'Sound Gay' Likely to Face Discrimination, Study Finds

by Kevin Schattenkirk

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday February 17, 2021
Originally published on February 16, 2021

Men Who 'Sound Gay' Likely to Face Discrimination, Study Finds
  (Source:EDGE Media Library)

A new study finds that gay men are likely to face discrimination because of "gay voice," the Daily Mail reports.

In the study, published by the British Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found that a majority of respondents believe they can determine a man's sexual orientation based on the sound of his voice. On the other side of the coin, determining a woman's sexuality by how they sound isn't so easy.

"Gay voice" can include, as the Daily Mail notes, "a sibilant 'ess' sound... a singsong quality, breathiness, or overarticulation." Some believe it's inherent and others believe it's learned.

Straight people who believe gay people are identifiable simply by the sound of their voice are prone to holding anti-gay bias. Such bias is stronger in those respondents who believe some people cannot rid the "gay" in their voices.

The study also found that gay men who believe "gay voice" exists are likely to believe they have it as well, and are more likely to be aware of and anticipate stigmatization and other people's responses to them. Furthermore, gay male respondents were found to be more defensive. One of the study's co-authors, social psychologist Fabio Fasoli, said this is a consequence of gay male respondents anticipating "more acute rejection from heterosexuals."

Internalized homophobia is a consequence, with gay men manifesting self-hatred for not "passing" and adhering to heteronormative standards. Fasoli continued, "sounding gay reflects common stereotypes associated with gay men that are still seen as negative. For a man, sounding gay implies not conforming to the norm of sounding masculine and heterosexual."

The study was undertaken by researchers at University of Surrey investigating beliefs about sexual orientation and the sound of people's voices, and how these beliefs might be connected to acts of bias and discrimination. Researchers surveyed 363 heterosexual and 147 gay identifying participants.

Lines of related inquiry examined whether straight people feel gays and lesbians can willingly change the sound of their voice, if they would avoid men or women who sound "gay." A similar question was posed to gay and lesbian respondents, but in terms of whether they would avoid particular people for fear of being bullied or discriminated against.

Kevin Schattenkirk is an ethnomusicologist and pop music aficionado.

Comments on Facebook