Study Sees Roots of 'Gay Lisp' in Boyhood

It may explain the stereotype, says researcher
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 13, 2015 12:00 PM CST
Study Sees Roots of 'Gay Lisp' in Boyhood
Stock photo   (Shutterstock)

A documentary that's new on Netflix called Do I Sound Gay? explores the controversial topic of how some gay men sound, well, stereotypically gay. When it comes to the gay voice, Medical Daily notes that "as a society we associate" a lisp with being gay, though the lisp is actually in "no way linked to a child’s future sexual preference." Now preliminary data from a University of Minnesota study may shed some light on where our belief in the so-called "gay lisp" comes from: The study found that boys ages 5 to 11 diagnosed with gender dysphoria—they don't identify as boys—are more likely to use "th" sounds when pronouncing the letter "s" than their peers. While all boys with gender dysphoria certainly don't become gay men, they are "statistically more likely" to do so, says researcher Benjamin Munson, who presented his findings at the biannual Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

"The authors speculate that stereotypes of gay adults may be rooted in the speech of boys who go on to identify as gay," writes Kelly Servick at Science. Based on the findings, one of Munson's theories on the "gay lisp" stereotype is that when we were children we recognized the lisp as the speech of "less masculine" boys, and so we assume adult gay men will speak the same way. "It's definitely plausible," a sociophoneticist not involved with the study tells Science. Discussing the documentary Do I Sound Gay? at Decider, Tyler Coates writes that he's felt the need to deepen his voice throughout his life, even after identifying as gay. "The film is about finding comfort in one’s own skin (or, at least, comfort in one's sound)." (This DNA test may be able to predict who's gay.)

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