Saturday, March 21, 2009

Open Forum: Do Gays Have Different Mannerisms?

If someone paints the gay community with a broad brush they are labeled as being insensitive, ignorant, or worse yet homophobic. To suggest that all gay males are effeminate, or that all lesbians are butch leaves out many people who do not fit these stereotypical behaviors.

But is there some truth to the stereotype? More and more research is coming out to suggest there are some genetic differences among most queer people. Gay men typically have a higher pitched voice, raised eyebrows, bigger lips, and have feminine expressions and mannerisms whereas lesbians tend to be on the opposite spectrum with deeper voices, lower eyebrows, and a more masculine disposition.

While this may not be true for all people who self identify as queer, is it possible there is a feminization and masculinization of the brain that is occurring which alters the way we behave from heterosexual and cissexual people?


Anonymous said...

I'm a feminine lesbian, but I'm also pretty hairy. I'm guessing then that this proves some truth?

Anonymous said...

I'm a feminine gay guy with a somewhat higher voice, and I don't try for it, it just happens. I would believe this to be true

Rob said...

Not sure where I fit in. I have a higher sounding voice, but I do enjoy Sports and stuff like that. My Mate on the other hand, could never be mistaken for Straight (which means I guess I'm stereotyping him), but take Richard Simmons and John Elton, combine them, and there you have my mate.

Certainly there are attributes that are probably more common among gays and lesbians, but that's not always the case. I know of one guy who is about as femminant as it gets, and he has been Married to his Wife for some 30 years.

T. R Xands said...

I only WISH I had a deeper voice *sad* however, I've suspected I have slightly higher testosterone levels but it looks like that's just genes.

There's no simple answer to that question because it can vary so much but I'd guess that on a whole gays do have different mannerisms from heterosexuals/cisgender people. I got into this a little the last time I jokingly asked my mom was gays look & act like but the consensus from her & my friends seems to be that gays act like just like everyone else so not sure what to make of that :/

Anonymous said...

I agree with this also. I'm a feminine lesbian for the most part, but I do have a deeper voice, which as said above, I can't do anything about. I've always thought this for a long time though, that I've been able to pick out gays from straights based on mannerisms. I've been wrong once or twice, but not too often.

SG said...

Is there truth to the stereotype? I think if we look at overall averages, there will probably be a small group difference, but like other comparisons, there is probably a substantial amount of overlap between homosexual and heterosexual mannerisms.

Additionally, much of the research is based on self-identified gay people, who may differ from those who are not self-identified or in the closet. If it were possible to account for this, the differences may further decrease.

With respect to mannerisms, there is probably a social or psychological element to it. Are gay men more feminine on average because some biological or genetic factor? Or is it because they self-identify as a gay person that they feel more comfortable expressing traits typical of the other gender?

With regards to the last question, feminization and masculination may play a part in creating a difference, however, I think cultural, psychological (personality, for example) and social learning factors are also important in creating a difference in mannerisms.

Anonymous said...

I always feel that the real question is why is it important to the mainstream how we project ourselves as LGBT people? I'm bisexual and feel I take on a gender neutral frame of mind and even some of my behavior is gender neutral. I feel like in both the hetro and gay community folks want to "fix" or "correct" my gender expression... I've done a lot of academic study on gender expression and sexual orientation and feel the gay community seems sort of ashamed of those who transcend gender and ghettoize these folks as transgender even when people do not identify as trans (I feel more at home with Queer b/c I do not want to be the other gender or sex this is just my expression as a person within this sex or gender...) So, I think these studies are important for the heteronormative gay community to understand and hope they will become more inclusive...and better feminist!

Anonymous said...

It is not just biology even though some people are inherently more masculine or feminine, but EVERY social group, sports team, type of business and minority group has their own way of communicating. This includes different vocabulary and mannerisms in gestures and in the way they dress. Each is a totally different subculture.

European men, gay men, and soccer players can kiss when in their own group, but do not take it into other business or social areas.

Is Ebonics hereditary?
Does every Gay man say “Girl” when he was two?

It is like saying rapping is only for Black people because they are the only ones genetically able to do it. NO, it was created in their culture and we identify that trait with the urban black male. White people can rap; we just use our “Rap Dar” (rap radar) and know that there is something wrong or different hearing rap from a person who is not part of that group. Like Will Smith is black, but we are uncomfortable hearing him rap because it is not his particular subculture and we don’t identify him with that.

It is like the gay for pay guys in porn. They either get it a little wrong and you know they are not into it, or they are faking that they don’t like it when you notice they really do and are really not totally straight.

It is like talking street language at a business meeting. You will not be taken seriously.

It is like Michael Steele and now many white republicans trying to talk all “ghetto’ to make the Republican Party more hip. It just doesn’t work because we expect uptight prejudice white people in that group and when black or gay men say they are part of that group you take a double take.

It is Patrick Swayze in Too Wong Foo.

They are all train wrecks you find weird, interesting or funny and you just can’t look away. You know there is something not totally correct or you say, “WTF?”

When you talk with your friends, each of you says things in different ways, you are more comfortable saying things your own way, and you follow what is socially accepted in that group that you identify with. It fits, it works, and it is comfortable.

It is learned behavior emphasizing a social, economic, ethnic or business group that you belong to or one you want to belong to.

If you are masculine lesbians living in a well off area you may begin to act and dress the same to identify with that group. You are not born with Birkenstocks on your feet or physically unable to grow long hair.


Phillip Minton said...

I posted this funny video recently that kind of simplifies the science behind this, but they are discovering that what happens in the womb can definitely affect sexuality and on top of that, mannerisms.

I'm a gay guy that, from what I've heard, appears masculine, but at the same time, when I came out to everyone, the most common response I heard was, "We're not surprised." So something about me let's people know that I'm gay. I don't try to appear either way, so in my opinion, it's innate.

Stereotypes are in fact based on truth. It's just not an umbrella truth that applies to a whole group, because when it is, that's when problems occur.

SirrahPro said...

There are stereotypes for every "group." And they are stereotypes because to some extent, they are true. They are not true for every person in the that "group." I'm often referred to as the "whitest black guy," or "the straightest gay guy." But how do black, white, straight, or gay people act? We see some commonalities and we place a label on as to who that belongs to. Sometimes we can "pick'em" and sometimes we can't. Is your "gaydar" working?

-Dj SirRah

Anonymous said...


Cerberus said...

I don't fully believe that they are natural stereotypes, but rather social norms that have formed for "signifying" queerness.

I think that in the 50s and earlier those who admitted to their homosexuality or were most active in the community were those who were already suspected due to their lack of gender conformity and that these representatives became a cultural shorthand that later gays would adopt or pay attention to when deciding to come out or face their homosexuality.

You can already see this play out when someone is battling their new found attraction to the same sex and they immediately refer to their compliance or similarity to the stereotype or ask whether they should adopt the stereotypes. Often times, the stereotypes serve as shorthand for interested partners.

As such, it's a cultural phenomenon that defines gay culture rather than an inherent gender dysmorphia shared by gays.

This reinforces in that those with some level of gender fluidity are most willing to accept their homosexuality, while those closeted struggle most of all with their gender conformity in hopes that'll stop the gay. Similarly since gender as defined by society is at least partially, possibly mostly cultural to begin with, someone letting that go would naturally seem less gender conformist "naturally" than someone strictly policing themselves.

I think it's part of the old thing where if you relax the restrictions on the options, then people will take the time to figure it out for themselves rather than just going on what the genitals say.

And that's not fully getting into how often when we come out, we feel we should be "super-gay" and thus play up stereotypes to "better fit in".

Anonymous said...

I dunno, I don't buy it, I think it's more a matter of visibility bias and retconning.

Anonymous said...

i think it s like with being drunken: you behave spontaneously in a "drunken" way, when you are drunken, but you can also behave that way, when you re not drunken or force consciously that behavour, when you re already drunken.

there are typical mannerisms, and they almost always show, that somebody has a certain bisexual tendency. but they do not always have to meen, that the person is gay. and not all gay persons have a lot of mannerisms. a gay or bi person (or even bi-curious)who has maybe just few mannerisms will certainly start behaving more in that "gay" way, when he or she is around homosexual or bisexual people a lot. it s then also about playing the role to perfection. even straigth people like to "act gay" sometimes, when there is a certain atmosphere, just as an experiment.

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