After a bad breakup, fortysomething writer David Thorpe came to realise how much he hates the way he talks, the high-pitched, nasal, effeminate and slightly lisping speech that characterised the ‘gay voice’. While looking into training to rid himself of the speech patterns he fears will repel potential partners, he also delves into where the voice actually comes from, and why gay men would chose to ‘sound like a pack of braying ninnies.’
Be honest, have you ever given any more thought as to how many gay men talk other than that they talk like that because they’re gay? The concept is a surprisingly complex one, and while it’s a subject evidently requiring greater exploration than a 77-minute personal documentary, Thorpe nevertheless touches on a number of potential influences on how the gay voice came about.
Possibilities put forward include its adoption as an aural manifestation of the acceptance of one’s identity (“I fought for decades to embrace being a faggot” Thorpe declares) or a result of spending more time around women as a child and subsequently mimicking their feminine inflections. Another suggestion is the voice is partially a mimic of accents perceived as refined and sophisticated, typically upper-class British ones, which leads to an interesting perspective of numerous Disney villains such as Scar, Captain Hook, Jafar and Shere Khan being perceived as gay. You could argue that the vocal characterisations in this case are more likely to be on account of Hollywood’s cyclical obsession with casting English actors as bad guys due to its cultural inferiority complex, but for many young Americans it nevertheless equated gay voices with despicable iniquity.
A number of interviews with celebrities intersperse proceedings, each offering varying takes on how sounding gay (or not) provokes immediate assumptions and reactions. Numerous points are illustrated by clips from film and TV showcasing the developing visual and vocal shorthands with which gay men have grown to be associated, including some extreme examples like Liberace and Rip Taylor who made a career out of excessive flamboyance without their sexuality every being explicitly declared.
A number of conversations with Thorpe’s own friends are also included, maintaining the personal connection to the subject matter as they discuss how his voice developed from when he was younger (a time where he can’t even remember what he sounded like) to when the gay voice became more prominent in his own speech.
What begins as one man’s attempt to exorcise his own neuroses soon develops into an anthropological study of self-defined identity. While brief and a little underdeveloped, Do I Sound Gay? is nevertheless an entertaining and thoughtful look at a little-considered phenomenon.
DO I SOUND GAY? / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: DAVID THORPE / STARRING: DAVID THORPE, MARGARET CHO, TIM GUNN, DON LEMON, DAVID SEDARIS, GEORGE TAKEI / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 30TH
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10