General Question

ubersiren's avatar

Why do people trying to talk like a gay person just talk with a lisp?

Asked by ubersiren (15046 points ) July 21st, 2009

I’ve known many a gay man in my day and I’m not sure one of them ever had a lisp, yet when someone is trying to mimic a gay man, he simply does the limp wrist thing and talks with a lisp. Where did this come from, and why does the stereotype continue? Have the people doing this routine ever met a real gay person?

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66 Answers

Facade's avatar

Because that’s how some of them talk?

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

I had a gay co worker once with a pronounced lisp. I think he may have been faking the lisp. It was pretty over the top.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Because a lot of people think gay men are trying to imitate women.

Likeradar's avatar

I’ve heard a few people who are gay talk like that.
but I’ve also hard a few hetero people talk like it.

Wikipedia has an entry about it. Kinda interesting.

People continue to do it because it’s a stereotype… it’s the same reason Jews are presented as money-grubbing and having big noses, and black people are presented as sitting on their porches eating watermelon.

Bri_L's avatar

@aprilsimnel – But I don’t know any women with lisps.

fireinthepriory's avatar

It may be the most “extreme” or recognizable aspect of the gay stereotype, and the easiest thing to imitate. It’d be hard to imitate being attracted to men. :)

aprilsimnel's avatar

Well, this explains more of what I meant in more detail.

cookieman's avatar

Same reason some morons think all black people say “axe” instead is “ask”; Chinese folk can’t pronounce the letter ‘R’; and Italians call people “mooks” and say “whatayatalkin’about”.

While there may be a kernal of truth to these, they are clearly stereotypes perpetuated by stupid people as short-hand for something they can’t be bothered to understand – ‘cuz dey be ig’nant rednecks.

See there…Now I perpetuated a stereotype.

dalepetrie's avatar

I’ve certainly met (and seen live TV interviews with, etc.) gay men who do speak with a lisp. It’s a stereotype, and like all stereotypes, even though it’s wrong to ascribe the actions of a subset of people to an entire group of people, it does come from somewhere, it’s not just made up out of whole cloth. And what I’ve found is that regardless of the lisp, that really “femmy” way of talking that some gay men do, does tend to come out in even the most “straight sounding” gay men I’ve known when they get overly excited about something. And of course, I think there are even some gay men (I’ve met a few in fact), who really wouldn’t talk with a lisp, but do, just to “gay it up”. I’ve found that some guys I’ve known when they come out for the first time, they get all in everyone’s face with the “I’m queer, I’m here, get used to it,” and they often perpetuate the stereotypes by making themselves “obvious” in any way they can. But as with anything, it varies from person to person, I’m just speaking from my personal experience.

andrew's avatar

Interesting thing is that the lisp also trancends culture—I’ve heard gay men in Paris speaking french with a pronounced lisp.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

I’ve met several that have a limp wrist and lisp. I’ve met several that have not.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

why do some Caucasians say “dawg” and “homie” when they try to act black? it’s a stereo type.

gailcalled's avatar

@Andrew; Th’est vrai? Diffithile à imaginer. En ethpañol, peut- ëtre mais en franthais?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

as a side note, not in a condescending manner or in any way meant to insult… but I can do that flamboyant gay voice like a champ for some reason…

Dog's avatar

@andrew Non! Je suis vraiment surpris! Je pensais que c’était un Américain stéréotype.

YARNLADY's avatar

I’m pretty sure it was popularized by a famous gay person in the movies or on TV, as a comedy act poking fun at themselves.

gottamakeart's avatar

I’d say its likely this behavior most often is a symptom of homophobia.

ubersiren's avatar

@Facade : Some straight people have lisps, too. I don’t get why lisp = gay.

filmfann's avatar

I have known a lot of gay men, and only a few of them had lisps. No straight men I have met have had a lisp.

gailcalled's avatar

That gay men lisp is a myss.

Facade's avatar

I’ve heard many black gay men speak with a lisp, but not other races…

eponymoushipster's avatar

Everyone knows Sylvester the Cat was a raving twink, and the gay community has just picked up on him as a mascot.

Nially_Bob's avatar

I imagine it began similarly to how most stereotypes do. An individual or group of male homosexual/s had spoke with this lisp, some other people noticed and so assumed (perhaps maliciously) that all homosexual males speak in such a manner.
My personal system for discovering if a guy is homosexual is by gauging how often he use the term ‘fabulous’; if it is any more than once per year, he’s is.
^Facetious^

gailcalled's avatar

So, if someone uses awesome all the time, what does that make him?

gailcalled's avatar

And you’re the guy who knows what an eponym is, too. Boo hoo.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@gailcalled Below the drinking age

Dog's avatar

Does anyone know how the stereotype started?

gailcalled's avatar

No, although I’d like to say “yeth.”

ubersiren's avatar

@Dog : @YARNLADY mentioned something above, but I’m not sure if she was thinking of someone in particular or not. @YARNLADY?

YARNLADY's avatar

@ubersiren I can’t recall the name, I was hoping someone else would.

eponymoushipster's avatar

@YARNLADY Charles Nelson Reilly?

YARNLADY's avatar

No, it was more like the early 1920’s or 30’s

eponymoushipster's avatar

@YARNLADY duh. no one was gay back then.~

Ansible1's avatar

Mr. Slave?

dalepetrie's avatar

@Ansible1 – Geez Crise.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I can do a pretty decent gay voice, but it isn’t with a lisp. It has more of a falsetto lilt to it. I once used that voice on my outgoing phone message just to screw with people. I like to use weird voices on my outgoing message, cuts down on the telemarketers and gives my family and friends a laugh.

tiffyandthewall's avatar

i think maybe they watched too much Three’s Company, and they’re trying to go mr. roper style.

Jack_Haas's avatar

For the same reason people speak like Apu from the Simpson’s when they want to imitate Indians: it’s funny.

cookieman's avatar

@Jack_Haas: Unless you happen to be Indian.

Likeradar's avatar

@cprevite Or have any real sense of decency or understanding of multiculturalism.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@cprevite It’s a pretty bigoted thing to say: just because someone is Indian doesn’t mean he’s a humorless narcissist.

cookieman's avatar

@Jack_Haas: Is that what we’re calling minorities now? I guess I missed the Klan meeting.

@Likeradar: No doubt my friend.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@cprevite @Likeradar Mais Sacre Bleu, oui oui you are rrrrright!!!! Oh la la I was wrrrrrong aboot zat!!

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@cprevite My personal physician is Indian, and I give him a hard time about his accent sometimes. He just grins and he gives it right back to me and makes fun of my Midwestern accent. Of course, I have a pretty good relationship with my doctor, and we can talk about anything, as tease each other, or whatever. This usually occurs AFTER his serious diagnosis of my health.

The last time I saw him, he mentioned his neck was sore and stiff. I gave him a two minute deep shoulder rub and it perked him right up. It completely changed his attitude, made him feel better, and there wasn’t anything uncomfortable about it for either of us. I felt good to be able to help him, after all the times he’d helped me with my medical issues.

People are people, no matter their skin color, or background, or ethnicity, and too many people are pointing fingers instead of offering handshakes. Just because you point out differences in people, that doesn’t make you a racist. Some people are too fucking uptight. Lighten up.

cookieman's avatar

Of course, I have a pretty good relationship with my doctor.

@evelyns_pet_zebra: In this situation…you should absolutely “lighten up”, because you’ve earned that right by fostering an honest relationship with the guy.

Unfortunately, I see too many folks use humor as an excuse to be rude and condescending to people they barely know who are different from them.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@cprevite this is true, I agree with you about people using humor out of ignorance. I see it all the time. Prejudice is pretty damn common here in the Midwest. The stereotypes I hear from some folks about blacks, Mexicans, gays, Asians, etc are astoundingly stupid.

Recently in another thread I was accused of stereotyping people from Canada by calling them Canucks. The term Canuck is NOT derogatory in normal context. I know, as I have had that discussion with at least ten different Canadians. Now if someone says dirty fucking canuck yeah, that’s derogatory. But then, you could replace the term Canuck’ with any other ethnic term and it would be discriminatory as well.

gailcalled's avatar

@Jack_Haas: That takes care of how the French do not talk. Any groups left to insult? I am a senior citizen. Perhaps you can make some generalities about me.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@gailcalled, “Hey blue haired old grandma, How about I help you across the street? I don’t see any boyscouts around” =)

gailcalled's avatar

Listen, striped person, at least I have all my teeth. And Milo thinks I am still gorgeous.

cookieman's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra: Agreed. It’s all about context.

@gailcalled: That’s because you are gorgeous (despite smelling like Ben Gay). ;^)

Jack_Haas's avatar

@gailcalled I thought it was pretty clear… I am french and I enjoy stereotypical french speak because it’s hilarious. People should get over themselves.

gailcalled's avatar

@Cher Jacques; How should we have known that? (No profile, I note.) Usually the audience decides what is hilarious and not the soi-disant comedian. What do you mean by “People should get over themselves”? That’s a very general criticism.

@cprevite: I will rethrain mythelf from making a bad joke about Ben Gay.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@gailcalled Right about the profile which was quite surprising to me since I filled all the fields out on the day I signed up. I probably did something wrong.

In context it was pretty obvious that I was making a point and not trying to be funny.

You’re right when you say my last point was too general: people who would be offended by a stererotypical accent should stop making everything about their own precious little person.

gailcalled's avatar

@Jack_Haas: There is a huge number of people who are offended by stereotypes, I believe.

Try the profile again. Doing it is pretty-straightforward. Even I, an aging crone who grew up using a manual typewrite, can do it.

Jack_Haas's avatar

@gailcalled I think there are even more people that like to be offended on other people’s behalf. Personally I don’t understand how anyone could be so weak as to be offended by words, much less by humor. I don’t get the whole concept behind that. The major difference I see between people who get easily offended by humor about a group they belong to and people who don’t care is narcissism, a need to feel precious, self-absorption etc… and a serious need to be deported to Afghanistan, Darfur and other places where words like “hurt” mean something.

gailcalled's avatar

As a Jew, I would take issue with your specious arguments about humor and words. But life is too short.

Jack_Haas's avatar

Life is too short… says someone with 18175 fluther points.

I don’t see what the fact that you’re Jewish has to do with anything. Many Jews lived in the US during WWII and weren’t directly exposed to the kind of genocidal hatred we have here in Europe. It’s been a major source of tension between European and American jews after the war ended. And as far as I know, many left-wing American Jews unwittingly play along with the “anti-zionism” scam.

Maybe you find my arguments specious as a PC person more than as a Jew.

eponymoushipster's avatar

how did a question about gay lisps turn into someone dropping a hard J?

andrew's avatar

[MOD SAYS]: Keep it on topic folks.

Clair's avatar

I’ve met a few with a lisp. But most gay men I’ve met (which is a ton) sound and act perfectly normal. I guess they do the lisp thing because if they acted normal (the way most gay men act) then it wouldn’t very funny…?

bea2345's avatar

Many years ago, my husband and I saw two Fire Services Officers standing on the pavement outside the main fire station in Port of Spain. We were driving by, and were stopped by traffic opposite the pair. Their joint heights would have exceeded 7 feet. One was holding the hand of the other, saying, “There, there.” My husband exclaimed, “Disgusting!” which only made me laugh, because the one speaking had a kind of lurking grin.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Lisp… pronounced “Lithp”

DominicX's avatar

I actually do a know a couple with slight lisps; it’s not as strong as it is when people imitate it, but it’s there. I don’t know why they do it; I think it can be cute. As a gay guy, I don’t lisp but my voice is naturally a little high/girly, but it’s been that way my whole life and it’s nothing I can control.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

I know someone with a lisp and gay people that I know do not sound like that. I think people do it because it is sometime portrayed like that on tv.

Zuma's avatar

Once upon a time the (the 1950s) only people anyone knew were gay were people who couldn’t hide it. Instead of getting all bummed out by the rejection, they made a comic art form out of it called “Camp,” which was a gross caricature of the effeminate homosexual stereotype, much the same way Drag Queens are a gross comic stereotype of femininity. The Camp style for Drag Queens and their friends. Lisping and mincing are exaggerated for comic effect

In the 1970s, the Gay Liberation movement encouraged more traditionally masculine homosexuals to “come out” and smash these demeaning stereotypes; so the Camp artform/cultural idiom tends to survive only among drag queens, among older gays, or in repressive places where the only visible “homosexuals” are the effeminate ones (like Mexico).

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