Understanding Auditory Gaydar Experiences of Lesbian Women and Gay Men

Fasoli, Fabio; Hegarty, Peter; O'Rourke, Shannon and Frost, David (2024). Understanding Auditory Gaydar Experiences of Lesbian Women and Gay Men. Psychology & Sexuality (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19419899.2024.2314123


Voice-based categorization of others’ sexual orientations, known as auditory gaydar judgments, can represent stressful and stigmatizing events for targets. This mixed-methods study examined sense-making about others’ auditory gaydar judgments. Sixty-seven lesbian women and 77 gay men described negative episodes in which they thought that their sexual orientation was inferred from their voices. Those reporting such experiences also rated their emotional distress and their engagement with coping strategies. Those reporting no experiences explained why they might have had none. We analyzed whether participants’ judgments represented stigmatizing experiences and how gender conformity perceptions shaped individuals’ sense-making. Gay men reported experiencing auditory gaydar more often, rated such experiences as more emotionally distressing, and reported engaging more with coping strategies than lesbian women did. Gay men described both being stigmatized by others’ gaydar judgments and their own attempts to sound straight. Gaydar experiences of gay men were occasioned by deviations from gender conformity. Lesbians’ experiences were sometimes interpreted through emic subcultural gender concepts. In line with the minority stress model, auditory gaydar judgments should be considered as stressors contributing to individuals’ wellbeing, at least for gay men.

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