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Straight men would rather promote men and women who don’t ‘sound gay,’ study reveals

Researchers also found that ‘gay voice’ is just a stereotype.


Ana Valens


A new study reveals that men with an upbeat, sing-song pitch and women with huskier tones are more likely to face workplace discrimination due to employers’ perceptions of their voices.

The University of Surrey study asked 40 straight men to listen to a variety of voices. Then, participants were shown an image of the speaker and asked what salary they would give to each person in a job. Participants were not told the speakers’ sexual orientation, but rather, made inferences based on each person’s voice. And among straight men, subjects were more likely to give a promotion to an employee who sounded “straight” than one that was coded as gay or queer.

“The participant didn’t know anything about the actual sexual orientation of the person. They were only exposed to a voice commonly perceived as gay or straight sounding,” the study’s lead author, Fabio Fasoli, told Broadly. Fasoli also explained to Broadly that voices were chosen based on “previous research” about categorizing pitch based on perceived sexual orientation. He found that a stereotype persists in which people think a feminine-coded voice from a man is “gay,” and that lesbians have a deep, butch voice.

However, the study also found that straight men were the only ones to discriminate. Female participants did not favor men with masculine voices or women with feminine tones. Instead, the playing field was level, as voice did not play a role in whether a person would be awarded a higher or lower salary.

As for why the men were biased, Fasoli thinks there are two explanations. “It could be that they preferred to interact with the straight-sounding person, or that they wanted to avoid the gay-sounding one—the results can be interpreted both ways,” he explained.

Regardless, Fasoli stresses that there really isn’t a difference between how a gay person speaks and how a straight person does. “It’s an interesting stereotype, but it’s clear there are no actual differences in pitches between gay and straight people,” he said.

However, the study does bring up another problem regarding speech in the queer and trans community. Many transgender people do not change their voices, and for transgender women, estrogen causes no vocal changes. This means that discrimination could impact the way trans people are hired and employed too, regardless of their sexual orientation.

H/T PinkNews

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