accent : Gay & Black Glossary
Gay people sometime affect an accent. There are many variants, but they all instantly
identify the speaker as gay. Characteristics may include: higher pitch, nasal whiny
tone, drawing out the vowels, sometimes into several syllables, campy vocabulary,
hooker-tough snappy delivery, lisping or bleating.
- It is a strong coming out of the closet. The accent identifies as gay no matter
what the occasion. It cannot be easily turned off once learned.
- It educates the public that gays are more prevalent than they thought, and they
are more varied than they thought.
There is a particular gay home-designer, clothes-designer accent that does imply
unusual competence and fashion sense.
- It is a Steppin’ Fetchit action, playing into the expected stereotypes of
the dominant a straights. Think of the fat, high-pitched, nasal clowns that report
gossip on celebrities. They exaggerate the gay stereotype for the entertainment of
straights much as shameless blacks entertained whites with stereotype-reinforcing
behaviour in earlier times.
- It is demeaning. The accents have the added implication of being harmless,
ineffectual, silly, concern with trivia, impotent and incapable, thus selling the
message that all gays are eunuchs.
- Straight people come to assume all gays have such accents, and thus drastically
underestimate the number of gays and their variety.
- It reinforces negative stereotypes generally.
Another is a cold, efficient, arrogant, clipped accent that goes with immaculate
Your choice, as a gay is whether you will affect such an accent, not whether
others will. You tend to pick up the accent of those you hang out with whether you
intend to or not.
Some people perceive any crisp accent or British accent as gay, perhaps because
theatrical people are trained to speak so plummily.
My personal choice has been to emphasize the slight English accent I picked up
from older relatives and my first grade teachers. I like to enunciate more clearly
than usual. If I had my druthers, I’d sound like Michael York or Peter
O’Toole, even though I am a Canadian. I try to exclude any of the sloppy,
vague, speech that straight Canadian men affect. I want to sound precise, not