Debunking the 'gay voice' stereotype
People are sometimes quick to assume men with high voices are gay, but sexuality and linguistics are actually not as closely related as we thought. Journalist and filmmaker, David Thorpe, set out to break down this stereotype and prove it wrong.
David's friend Kris Marx, a produce buyer and restaurant consultant, has a very high-pitched voice, which many of his friends explain as "all treble, no bass." On the other hand, David's friend Matt Bernardo, a senior VP for a business enterprise, has an extremely deep voice.
Because of the linguistics of their individual voices, people are quick to assume that Kris is gay and Matt is straight, when in actuality, the opposite is true. Kris is straight and married with a family, and Matt identifies as being gay.
"In the end, if someone thinks I'm gay, they're wrong, and there's nothing wrong with that," Kris said. Matt also said that on the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes people don't believe him when he tells them that he's gay.
Ron Smyth, an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough explains this discrepancy. "Women and men, on average, make subtle differences in speech sound," he said. For example, women make their 'S' sounds with their tongues in a more forward position than men do, so it naturally sounds acoustically higher.
It's also important to recognize that we model our speech after the people we are surrounded by. While Kris spent much of his life surrounded by women and living in an ashram, Matt grew up with four brothers and one sister in a male-dominated family.
From a young age, we identify with speakers that capture energy and character that we find engaging, emulating their voices subconsciously. Ultimately, the characteristics of our voices truly are a product of our observations and our surroundings.
For more coverage, visit NYTimes.com
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