Spectrums: Vocal Pitch Characteristics of those Outside the Gender Binary

Open Access
Schmid, Hope Elizabeth
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Evan Bradley, Thesis Supervisor
  • Jean-Marc Authier, Honors Advisor
  • Laura Evans, Faculty Reader
  • gender
  • pitch
  • transgender
  • vocal pitch characteristics
  • non-binary
  • gender spectrum
  • vowel formants
  • fundamental frequency
Vocal pitch characteristics such as fundamental frequency (F0), minimum and maximum frequencies (pitch range), and vowel formant frequencies are influenced by biological, cultural, and sociological factors. Studies have been conducted to look at the perception of transgender voices as well as the efficacy of voice-therapy on transgender people. However, no studies have been conducted looking at those who do not identify as male or female and who identify instead under the “non-binary” umbrella. This study seeks to identify vocal pitch characteristics and spectral characteristics, such as vowel formants, of those who identify as “non-binary” and to observe any differences in these characteristics when compared to female and male identified people. Participants were recruited from the Penn State Brandywine Campus, Penn State University Park, and the Philadelphia queer community. Twenty-one people participated and were recorded reading the Rainbow Passage. Their voice recordings were analyzed using PRAAT for average fundamental frequency (F0), average minimum frequency, average maximum frequency and vowel formants for vowels /i/, /a/, and /u/. Results from the study show there is a main effect of gender on pitch. Those who identified as non-binary patterned in between the cis-female and cis-male groups and they produced pitch statistically significantly differently than those in the female group. Their vowel formants also were roughly in between the vowel formants of those in the other two groups. These findings indicate that those who identify outside the gender binary tend to produce pitch and other vocal characteristics in a way that is neither strictly feminine nor masculine and perhaps includes some influence from both feminine and masculine characteristics.