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'Gay accents' and when it's OK to butt into a couple's life

Hey Anna, your article responding to gay marriage/the idea of marriage made me decide to ask you this. Also, the Macklemore song ... I may be just being stereotypical but I don't know what to do. What do I do if I think my sister's fiance is gay? I am totally for gay people. Love them. Though I do not have a very good gaydar unless they are extremely flamboyant. I honestly probably won't do anything. I can't tell her what I think or I feel like it would get awkward between us. He is from the South, and it might be his southern accent, but I also sense the stereotypical "gay" voice in his. Where does that voice even come from? All gay guys don't have it. Sincerely, A Fellow Palindrome

To answer your last question first, many have pondered why some men “sound gay” and others don’t, and whether sexual orientations can be determined through voice, aka the gay lisp or accent. No one has done any substantive studies on it, however. The most interesting one I found was by Peter Renn at the University of Texas at Austin. He hypothesized that the gay lisp is more likely to develop in those who experienced gender nonconforming childhoods (regardless of whether they were gay or straight) and that “feminine speech patterns become associated with male homosexuality mainly through proxy.” Similar studies on lesbians revealed that no one can tell a lesbian by her voice alone, but researchers noted that it helps tremendously if she’s wearing a trucker hat with a beaver on it.

To answer your first question second, no, the fact that your sister’s fiance is dating a dude with a gay-sounding voice does not make him gay. If that’s your only evidence, it ain’t anything to write home about. What else you got? Was he a dance major? Does he read joe.my.god regularly? Does he have very strong opinions about Kate and William’s royal fetus? Even if he was and does, it’s still none of your business, Pal(indrome), and you’d be wise to keep this opinion to yourself, as you seem to agree. Unless you’re concerned for your sister’s safety, etiquette dictates that we stay out of other couples' business. As an aside, I can’t imagine that conversation going well, especially since it seems like you’re not that close, meaning she’ll consider it even more of an affront than it already is.

I’m curious why you were concerned enough to write to me but not enough to bring it up with your sister. Does she seem unhappy? Has she expressed concerns to you about her partner? We can’t ever know the status of someone’s romantic relationship, and it is uncouth (to say the least) to jump to assumptions. And we all know what happens when we do that: It makes an ass out of umptions--everyone’s least favorite kind of umptions. I’ve known many couples who seem bland, married and monogamous on the surface but in fact engage in kinky, bisexual lifestyles. This isn’t to say your sister or her fiance are that way, just that it’s impossible to know a couple’s inner workings until you subscribe to their PornHub livestream.

In the end, it’s her life, not yours. You’d be wise to focus your energies on things you have control over, and check your hypothesizing at the door.

P.S.: Many of you wrote in last week about the “real girl” column to correct me about whether the people her boyfriend lusted after where transmen or transwomen. While my advice is the same regardless, I admit that her usage was ambiguous and that I might have guessed wrong. I was mainly going off the part in her letter where she thinks her partner wants her to be more “boy-like,” short hair, no tits, etc. OK? Let’s go back to casually ignoring each other like before.

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