GUILDFORD, United Kingdom — Life for LGBTQ individuals is slowly but surely improving in western nations. Members of this community can feel much safer and accepted today being open and honest about their sexuality in comparison to just a few decades ago. Despite the progress, a new study finds there’s still work to do to erase discrimination over the way people talk. Researchers from the University of Surrey say gay men are more likely to encounter discrimination and prejudice than lesbian women; particularly over the way they “sound.”
Homosexual men who believe their voice “sounds gay” anticipate facing bigotry on a regular basis, the report finds. They consciously make an effort to be “more vigilant” in various social situations.
Much of the study’s findings revolve around the concept of “essentialist beliefs,” which refers to the viewpoint that every person displays a set of characteristics which reveal some insight into their identity. Specifically, study authors investigated if essentialist beliefs toward gay and lesbian individuals actually lead to tangible discrimination.
Discrimination rooted in long-standing beliefs?
To start, researchers asked 363 heterosexual volunteers a series of questions about their beliefs and thoughts on homosexuality. For example, study authors probed into whether people believe “when listening to a person it is possible to detect his/her sexual orientation from his/her voice very quickly” or “gay/lesbian people sound gay/lesbian and there is not much they can do to really change that.”
The team also analyzed the participants to see if they hold any blatant discriminatory views of homosexuals. This included gauging their responses to statements like “I think male/female homosexuals are disgusting” and “I would not interact with a man/woman who sounds gay/lesbian if I could avoid it.”
The results revealed people view voice as a “cue” for determining sexual orientation far more often among men. Additionally, the participants’ views on “gay-sounding” voices has a deep connection to “avoidant discrimination towards gay-sounding men.”
More gay men fear judgments about who they are
This project’s second study included 147 LGBTQ individuals. Researchers asked this group about their beliefs regarding the sound of their voices and worries over being perceived as gay. This led to the conclusion that far more gay men than lesbian women believe that people can detect their sexual orientation based on their voice. These individuals also feel they really can’t do anything to stop that from happening. Consequently, gay men anticipate and worry about such events regularly.
“What we have found is that people have stronger beliefs about the voices of gay men than lesbian women. In particular, beliefs that gay men and straight men have different voices that allow people to detect their sexual orientation was linked to stigmatization, possibly explaining why some heterosexual individuals stigmatize gay-sounding men regardless of their sexuality. Understanding more about essentialist beliefs helps explain both the perpetration of stigma by heterosexuals and the experience of stigma by lesbians and gay men,” says Dr. Fabio Fasoli, a lecturer in Social Psychology, in a university release.
“It is clear from this study that voice and the perception of it are linked to stigma. This is important because it can have negative consequences for gay men’s wellbeing,” he concludes.
The study is published in the British Journal of Social Psychology.