- Spring 2018 | University of Toronto Magazine - http://magazine.utoronto.ca -

The Gay Voice

Why do some gay men “sound” gay? After three years of research, linguistics professors Henry Rogers and Ron Smyth may be on the verge of answering that question. After identifying phonetic characteristics that seem to make a man’s voice sound gay, their best hunch is that some gay men may subconsciously adopt certain female speech patterns. They want to know how men acquire this manner of speaking, and why – especially when society so often stigmatizes those with gay-sounding voices. Rogers and Smyth are also exploring the stereotypes that gay men sound effeminate and are recognized by the way they speak. They asked people to listen to recordings of 25 men, 17 of them gay. In 62 per cent of the cases the listeners identified the sexual orientation of the speakers correctly. Perhaps fewer than half of gay men sound gay, says Rogers. “The straightest-sounding voice in the study was in fact a gay man, and the sixth gayest-sounding voice was a straight man.”

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14 Comments To "The Gay Voice"

#1 Comment By stephen On September 19, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

In my high school there was a kid who “sounded gay” who would swear he wasn’t. But he eventually did actually “come out” as gay. So, it must be a fully subconscious sort of thing.

#2 Comment By KaOssis On April 20, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

I believe that gay men use a female persona to be campy. It’s a form of acting a part in a movie or a play, except that the audience is anyone within earshot!

#3 Comment By Burt On March 9, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

I’m gay and forgive me but….I believe that most gay men speak with that “affectation” because, perhaps as a defense, they feel the need to sound pretentious and/or “fabulous.” It is not just the pitch of the voice, but it’s the valley-girl-mixed-with-British pronunciation that, in my opinion allows them to feel better about themselves. The fact that most pronounce a mono-syllabic word using two-to-three syllables (the word “no” becomes “nuuuooow”) indicates to me a sense of pretentiousness and fabulousness, which perhaps they want to believe about themselves. Listen to the affectation of gay male clothing designers….they almost speak in another language altogether. Christian Siriano was born, I believe, in Baltimore and I am certain that his “affectation” has nothing to do with the Baltimore dialect.

#4 Comment By Ness On December 25, 2015 @ 11:40 pm

This article seems to be addressing a stereotype issue rather than looking at why this is a topic at all.

#5 Comment By kelly On March 10, 2016 @ 10:28 pm

I have always thought that gay men tend to speak far more quickly than straight men do. Of the gay friends I have/have had/I have met, they always tend to speak very quickly, compared with straight.

#6 Comment By Randalin On June 14, 2016 @ 3:25 pm

I wonder if it was a genetic attribute. For example, some male singers who have higher ranges and more ‘feminine’ sounding voices cannot be differentiated from a female; the majority have been gay. This could further back studies that argue sexuality is a genetic attribute.

#7 Comment By Sally Jones On June 4, 2017 @ 9:32 am

I have a family member who is gay. We are close in age and I’ve always known he was gay. He’s always had “the voice” – even as a small child. It wasn’t a learned thing with him, he literally sprang from the womb knowing who and what he was, just not how to articulate it. But the voice he eventually articulated it in? That had always been there.

#8 Comment By #8 On July 16, 2017 @ 11:06 pm

I’ve always been self conscious about my voice. My parents were extremely homophobic growing up, especially my mother, so trying to hide my gayness, including my voice was always a real struggle. I was terrified of my mother finding out, so I talked in a much more “normal’ boy voice around my family. However, I was much more comfortable in my effeminate voice and ways around my friends. Now as an adult, It’s hard to break that habit. I wish I could sound completely gay/effiminate because it prevents unwanted attention from girls. Having an effiminate voice usually prevents me from having to come out to every single person I meet, which gets annoying.

#9 Comment By Jenny On July 20, 2017 @ 9:45 pm

Regarding the idea that men who sing in a higher range are gay, I’m a professional singer and by far most of the countertenors I’ve met are straight. And most of my friends/colleagues who sing bass are gay. So much for that. As to the person above who said it was something he’s had to hide since childhood – I find that really enlightening as I had often thought it was merely affected. Thank you for correcting that assumption for me.

#10 Comment By Bill Mello On September 25, 2017 @ 3:28 pm

I believe some men actually are born with the so-called gay-sounding voice. I knew two boys as a child who had the stereotypical lisp sound and eventually came out later in life.

#11 Comment By Matthew On October 12, 2017 @ 1:30 pm

I have always had a feminine voice but never realized it myself until I would see videos or hear vocal recordings of myself. I tried to hide it to no avail and ended up coming out to family and everyone else when I was 20.

#12 Comment By Josie Geo On December 17, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

I work with a man who is married and raising his wife’s sons. Not just his voice, but very much about him (body language, his walk) makes him appear to be gay. He’s a serious Baptist and I pity him for what seems to be a very clear denial of the person he is.

#13 Comment By Lawrence On February 3, 2018 @ 8:30 pm

I have two voices. The gay voice happens when I live in my normal state of anxiety. The other, which happens to be deeper by a shade, occurs when I am feeling more healthy and confident, and secure in my self-in-the-world. It doesn’t happen often. When it does, people tell me I seem a completely different person. And that’s how I feel. I feel like me. Authentic, from the toes up. I don’t really care how I sound, but I do crave the feeling of authenticity that characterizes voice #2.

#14 Comment By MARK DEMOS On May 16, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

I’ve always wondered if it’s a sonic ‘device’ used (consciously or unconsciously) as a (relatively) subtle clue to potential mates, alerting them to the fact that the person is gay….