apuffalogic's picture

CBC Radio's language show, And Sometimes Y, ran an episode a few weeks back, which can be found here, in which various experts pontificated, pinpointed and debated speech differences in the gay and lesbian communities.

You don't have to listen to the show; but what do the speech differences sound like to you? Do they even exist at all?

Lol-taire's picture

That was quite

That was quite interesting.

One of the gay boys I know is very luvvie in his speech. But it's difficult because most of the boys I know are these well spoken, rather affected types and none of them sound- or are- that typically manly-down-the-octave-butch. And the 'gayest' sounding boy I know is ostensibly straight (although that's very controversial).

I don't think I have an identifiably lesbian voice, but I do have a very strange and changable way of talking and laughing; often quite flamboyant.

And within my group of friends we have a lot of words and phrases not used elsewhere- 'lol' pronounced like loll to mean funny or express schadenfreude, 'upsetting' expresses everything from disapproval to existential awfulness, 'horribly witty'/ 'terribly witty' acknowledges an awful pun or bit of wordplay. 'Jereremy' refers to the singer Jeremy Warmsley. 'All ages' as in "there were loads of all ages types there" refers to all ages gigs renowned for their horrible underage neon legging wearing audience, who are very... upsetting. There's loads of others.

So the people we're with- and I imagine especially small insular communities- do impact the words we use and the way we say things; dialects emerge very rapidly.

I don't know anything about cars though.

whateversexual_llama's picture

I think There's a gay lingo.

I think There's a gay lingo. GLBT, a lot of people don't know that acronym. I'll say "FTM" and people will have no idea what I said. A lot of the time people say tranvestite or hermaphrodite and I want to correct them- transsexual, intersex. What you said is derogatory. Just like fag.

I dunno.

Be yourself. 'Cause if you're busy being somebody else, who's gonna be you?

jeff's picture


Some of it was just silly, until the linguists came on...

Usually, this is viewed backwards. Like, when someone comes out, they start talking "gayer," when they actually stopped repressing that aspect of themselves (whereby their "straighter" voice was the real affectation). So, I think it comes down to internalized homophobia, setting, and to whom you're talking. I mean, I know I have straight relatives who don't get into any interesting verbal repartee, so why even bother?

I don't think it is always code switching, either. You can not be in the mood to have playful banter, and sometimes it indicates sexual attraction, so if you're really not into somebody you may not engage them that way. Living in the gay neighborhood, this is all pretty normal stuff.

Historically, I think there was more coded language, when it was more difficult to be gay. Now, more people divide up their lives more, whereby they might want to seem straighter at work, but gayer with friends, but I think all of this really comes down to gender roles and expectations.

Closeted guys are less likely to want to appear anything but 100% masculine. As they said in the piece, some people still think "straight-acting" is some badge of honor. And there are probably more straight guys who might have to butch it up just because that is their expectation, and straight girls who have to be more feminine for the same reasons, whereas gay people can sort of just drop all of that and find where they are comfortable wherever it lands on the masculine/feminine scale.

It all largely comes down to gender role expectation.


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milee13's picture

Eh, sounds about right from

Eh, sounds about right from my experiences with psycholinguistic classes.

Disney's picture

Well the link worked fine

Well the link worked fine enough until it stopped playing and I kept trying just because it sounded so interesting!

I finally listened to the whole piece and it was definitely interesting, the guy at the beginning was right about his voice, haha; but then mine probably sounds a decibel higher! I swear that his voice sounds very nice to me though, so part of what they said at the end about attraction surely seems valid to me in more than one way.

The second man to come on sounded way less friendly to me lmao, but I pegged him as gay after a few words, (and then I recalled the fact that he was a Toronto actor, fitting a stereotype). I found it interesting that the woman speaking from start to finish was a lesbian, IMO the voice fits the bill but I also know at least three girls with similar sounding voices who are completely straight.

I'm in complete agreement with them about content being an indicator, because that's more blatant and could coincide with a mental analysis of clothing or eye contact. If you're staring at a dozen naked people who are all looking away and not interacting, then you have NO idea who's gay or not. If you slap clothes on, well you may not know who's just flamboyant or poor or stylish or wearing imposed clothes. If you get eye contact going, some people can detect very keenly off of that, while others don't.

When you hear them say something, I think that acts as another trigger, but then there are LOTS of guys with high pitched/non-deep voices or really feminine laughs who are (semi-unfortunately) not gay! The clincher from what they discussed and what my viewpoint is, is introducing meaningful content. Admittedly, there are billions of idiots around the globe, and being gay doesn't mean you can't be uneducated, unintelligent or uninterested but as the lesbians commented on; a woman knowing a lot about cars says what? A man having a keen knowledge of broadway indicates what? Then again, as someone ELSE said later on, stereotypes might as well be what the content factor is... but then again, everything might as well be a stereotype, or are physical characteristics (excluding vocalized thought) different?

In terms of your original question; the speech differences to me between a gay and straight male sound identical to what the original guy said "light timbre and sibilant or lispy s's"! With the actor who came on, I identified his 'gaybonics' from the way he said 'for sure', it was said quickly and had actual emotion... and honestly, I don't think many straight men use the term 'absolutely' that often, so that was a latter content bit that aided my labelling him as gay.

I think that gay males tend to speak more quickly and are actually ABLE to do so, we also make eye contact a lot better than straight males, and whenever I see a gay male speaking, he seems more down-to-earth in the way that he literally holds his head/face. I see straight male politicians with their heads elevated and not looking anyone in the eye; I see male teachers doing sweeping glances and staring way downward. I view gay males as speaking more head-on or at least varying it, instead of being craned up or down! Sadly I don't have much experience with lots of gay men (hahaha) but I think that there are way more straight males that speak DOWN to people (i.e. dismissively, pompously etc.) than there will ever be gay men to do the same. A gay man might also avoid doing that regularly because of the ever-present worry of being attacked for the dismissive behaviour.

I can imagine vocalization in layers, and definitely see the 'breathy' part one of the interviewees commented on. A barking straight male voice to me, seems to have an upper, heavy, angry layer; whereas just a normal gay male voice has a middle-low layer of breath or pent up emotion.

I honestly find it hard to identify a lesbian from a straight girl, but I think lesbians come across as being a lot more subdued in many ways (at least initially) and that can translate to voice layering too, haha. The interviewer's voice throughout doesn't VARY near extremes, when she laughs I don't get a 'wavering' in the image of her voice layering, as though her voice is more compact but still expansive. Even when she has a real chuckle over the gay actor's gay stereotyping voice, I can imagine any straight girl's voice going way higher and having a lot more emotional GLEE embedded in it. And I think glee is a great term to apply here, since I don't pick that up very strongly from any of the lesbians who speak. Not to say that they don't get happy and laugh and are cheerful, but I don't detect GLEE.

Listening to the gay actor again, his words also flow a lot more evenly than any straight boy at my school ever would, even the best of them. It makes me think of gossiping or storytelling, but only to a degree. It's as though those two things are weaved into the voice layering of most gay males, but not TOO pronounced, as with a gossiping girl or storytelling middle-aged/old man. Hmm I'd also consider the stress gay males place on vowels, think of how you say 'there' or 'there are' or 'here' and imagine a manly straight boy saying those same things. Hear a difference?

Neat-o clip!

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