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Colorado Research in Linguistics

Document Type

Working Paper

Abstract

A great deal of work has now been published on the perception of men’s sexual orientation on the basis of phonetic characteristics. In this paper, I present a pilot study focusing on a population that sheds new light on this topic: female-to-male transsexuals. As individuals who were raised as girls but self-identify as men, trans men (as they are also called) are often perceived as gay-sounding after undergoing the drop in vocal pitch that is typically brought on by testosterone therapy. Using recordings of read speech from three trans men and five non-trans men who were each rated as gay- or straight-sounding by listener subjects, the analysis presented here shows that trans men are perceived in much the same way as gay-sounding non-trans men, despite a number of differences in the acoustic features of their voices. Ultimately these findings lend credence to the notion that there is no single gay-sounding phonetic style, but rather multiple styles that are lumped together perceptually as gay-sounding on the basis of their deviation from norms for straight-sounding voices.

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