Awhile ago, someone asked on Reddit’s AskScience about gay people’s voices. Is there a way to tell someone is gay by just their voice? My response unfortunately didn’t post, so I’m posting it here and now since I should be studying for my linguistics exam.
First off, there is no single gay voice. Not all gay people have the same voice, just like not all straight people have the same voice. There are certain features that are typically associated with gay people just like there are features typically associated with females. If you identify as one of those groups and don’t have that feature, that’s normal. If you don’t identify as one of those groups and do have that feature, that’s normal too. But if you knew the typical gay speech features, you could probably make an educated guess about someone’s sexuality. Just like if you know typical female speech/writing features, you can make an educated guess if someone is female online by how they write.
Also, your sexuality is not the online feature that affects how you speak. Your age, culture, gender, socioeconomic class, geographic location… all kinds of other things come into play. Gay people in San Francisco probably have different speech features than gay people in Texas.
But this particular question seemed to be asking if there is something biological going on that makes gay people sound gay. The major biological thing I can think of that affects your voice is the size of your larynx (or some other bit in there), which affects your pitch (how high or low your voice is). And indeed, women usually have smaller larynxes and thus higher pitched voices. I’m going to guess the typical gay male voice is more high pitched than the typical straight male voice, so that would indicate gay males have smaller larynxes.
But then I thought — well, you’re making the assumption that people are born gay.
And then I thought — god, that makes me sound really ignorant and like a gay people hater!
But then I thought — well, I don’t think I was born straight.
Of course, I don’t really know for sure. I mean, when I was a baby, a little kid, I didn’t think about sex. I didn’t know what gay or straight meant. It was just… non-existent. I suppose there could be a gay or straight gene inside me that was suddenly awoken upon puberty and I realized “hey! I like men!”. But I feel like instead, I had experiences in my life where I learned I was attracted to men and not women.
Actually, now that I think of it, yeah, I suppose you could be predisposed to be one or the other (or the many other sexuality types on the spectrum). It’s probably different for gay people because they are being told “boys like girls and girls like boys” and then they think “well, *I* don’t feel that way”. I was being told what I already felt, so everything worked out fine. Some sort of confirmation bias thing, but not really at all?
So I guess it’s easy for straight people to say you were socialized into being straight, because everybody is generally socialized into being straight. But wait, that’s not what they say — they say gay people were “made” gay. And well, if straight people are made straight, gay people must be made gay too, right? Does this somehow make sense?
Wow. I think I just fully understood how the “you weren’t born gay” argument works and then fully understood why it’s wrong.
So, like I said, when you’re a baby, you’re not straight or gay or anything. But — there’s a difference between sexual orientation and sexualness, I guess. Babies can have a sexual orientation, but they don’t express it in a sexual manner, I suppose? That makes sense, right?
I can’t quite put it into words, but I think I’ve convinced myself now that you are born with a sexual orientation. Huh.
All I really wanted to talk about is that I wonder if there’s a connection between larynx size and sexual orientation? Someone should do a study. Would that prove you are indeed born gay? Probably not, but maybe it would support that notion at least a bit.