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Review: Do I Sound Gay?

Wed 17 Feb 2016 In: Entertainment View at Wayback View at NDHA

Ever heard the expression “See Tarzan, hear Jane”? David Thorpe, the American journalist who we follow on his quest never mentions it but he’s a great example. He is at turns interested and baffled by how he and many other gay men sound. And he does have the whole contemporary shaved head, trimmed stubble gay man look going on, and very handsome he is too. Is his voice in conflict with his look? He’s anxious about his voice, that he sounds, well … gay. Thorpe’s is that particularly American style of gay voice, nasal, with an extra sibilant “s” and rising inflection. Let’s face it, there is a distinctive cadence that many, but not by any means all gay men have. There was a saying 10th century Constantinople “It’s easier to hide an elephant in your armpit than a queen in a crowd.” And you can very often tell a queen by his voice, whether he’s speaking Arabic, Mandarin or French. Some of us do sound camp, do sound girly but not like “real” girls – but somewhere between. Girly. That’s where the anxiety comes up. The gay writer and activist Dan Savage when asked in the movie why we even worry about it simply states “Misogyny”. I took him to mean it’s the cultural fear of being more like a woman. One of the random people interviewed on the street is even more explicit, a hot muscly bro who says something like “Men have more status than women, it’s just the way it is, so a man doesn’t want to sound like a woman.” Even if that’s true, it still doesn’t really explain just how that voice arises. They try to, theorising that maybe it’s because gay men spend a lot more time with their mothers and other females when young and pick up their speech patterns. Once again, the mother gets the blame. Calling Dr Freud. The paradox lies in the fact that there is no gay voice, but there kinda is. You’re not born with one, having sex with other men, or loving them, doesn’t automatically give you a gay voice. But some of us very clearly have it. Is it a conscious choice? Thorpe’s old straight friends tell him his voice changed when he came out. That seems kind of weird to me but hey. He goes to various speech experts and voice trainers to try and “re-connect” with his voice and change it to something he thinks is more authentic, more masculine. That is what lies at the heart of this – it’s only an issue if we think being camp, being femme, is a problem for a gay man. Attempting to understand what causes that voice that sound, and whether it even matters is at the heart of this sweet, warm and engaging documentary. But don’t take it too seriously. Michael Stevens - 17th February 2016    

Credit: Michael Stevens

First published: Wednesday, 17th February 2016 - 7:19pm

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