Thursday, May 1, 2014

Do I Sound Gay?

Confession: I've always been self-conscious about "sounding gay." It's one of the main things that "gives me away" as gay. I knew that my anxiety came from my internalized homophobia telling me: Gay = bad, so sounding gay = bad. A compelling new documentary is bringing together some of the biggest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) celebrities to discuss a question that probably crosses the mind of every gay man at some point in his life: Do I sound gay?

From director David Thorpe, "Do I Sound Gay?" aims to present an intelligent and and provocative cultural analysis of the "gay voice." Throughout this process, Thorpe talks to linguists, celebrities, historians, voice coaches and total strangers to share their own thoughts and experiences surrounding the idea of 'sounding gay.'

In the tradition of funny-but-serious first-person movies like Supersize Me, Roger and Me and Good Hair, Thorpe encounters a colorful cast of linguists, historians, voice coaches, speech therapists, friends, family, and total strangers on the street, gay and non-gay, who share their wisdom and touching, funny stories about the "gay voice." There are also intimate confessions and hilarious anecdotes from LGBT icons - Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Don Lemon, Dan Savage, David Sedaris and George Takei - as they open up about the "gay voice."  Over the course of three years, Thorpe did 165 interviews in four countries.

Here are five reasons David Thorpe gives for making this film and a few comments from me:

Reason No. 1:

Some gay men are self-conscious about "sounding gay," even famous ones like David Sedaris. Let's start hashing out this whole "sounding gay" thing, so we can all be OURSELVES in this small but crucial way.  It's something about me that I've come to own and make it my own.

Reason No. 2:

"Sounding gay" is still a trigger for mockery, bullying and violence. LGBT kids are far more likely to commit suicide or drop out of school because they feel unsafe. Zach King, one of our brave young subjects, was viciously assaulted at school.  I was always made fun of for my "gay voice," sometimes I still am, and it has always, even to this day, raises my hackles.

Reason No. 3:

Hard to believe, but nobody has comprehensively explored the phenomenon of "sounding gay." Voice and sexuality – two fundamental features of human existence, and yet most people don't have a clue how they're related. Instead, we have stupid stereotypes. Let's toss 'em in the trash. Knowledge is power.

Reason No. 4:

A lot of people think it's okay to be gay as long as you don't act - or sound - that way. The daily pressure to cover, hide or "pass" affects many minorities. Let's relieve the pressure.

Reason No. 5:

Our title isn't just a title. Combined with our rainbow tongue logo, it's an empowerment icon, a sneaky, fun, viral way to say it's OK to sound – and be – gay. When the movie gets made, you'll see rainbow tongues everywhere, asking, "Do I Sound Gay?" 

The film is currently engaged in a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund post-production. Check out the video above or visit the project's Kickstarter for more information.


JiEL said...

I think that I speak like a «straight» guy.

The reason I'm so sure about it is that after 37 years as a teacher, I've never had comments from my students that they've suspected my gay orientation...

More, they were very convinced that I was «straight».
For sure, I was married to a women for 22 years and have 3 children but my way of speaking is more a «normal» one..

BTW, I don't like those «gay guys» who are exagerating their «gay way» of speaking in even using femenine words when talking about their BF or other subjects.
In French, many guys use the feminine way to talk about their BF...
Most of all I «HATE» those «leather big beef» men that you expect to talk a «manly» way but, when they open their mouth, are more feminine that a girl...

So, that's where I stand on this «delicate» subject.

I love REAL MEN...

(((( HUGS ))))

RB said...

I feel very badly for guys who sound gay. Basically they are outed involuntarily, and this should be a choice.

In high school there was a guy who sounded very gay. His choice of dress didn't help his situation either. It was terrible. terible to think how he was treated. But this was the 80's. I wonder what ever happened to him.

I know of other guys who came out in their 20's, but no one would have guessed they were gay. They had the opportunity to do it on their own terms and timing.

Michael Dodd said...

This caught my attention because my husband and I had just been talking about someone we recently met who had a very strong gay accent.

I know I have one, probably complicated by being from East Texas originally, being over-educated and concerned with proper grammar and rhetoric, and having spent three decades preaching and giving spiritual talks.

I hear echoes of the so-called gay accent almost every time I hear Southern preachers. I don't assume they are all gay. Some of it is regional, some of it is a sort of "stained glass speech" or tone.

I don't automatically think someone is gay because of his speech, any more than because of his haircut, his shoes, his clothes or his job.

But sometimes these things do set my gaydar a-ticking a bit.

Anonymous said...

OK, yeah. I know what is meant by "sounding gay". It is interesting that in group, there are those who "sound gay". And those that don't.

Anyway, interesting post.

Peace <3

crotchdiver1 said...

While I'm not offended by effeminate speaking(acting)Gay guys, it's just not my forte. I simply do not chose(nor do I think I could) to act that way. It's not who I am. I'm not slamming anyone's way of acting in the very least.

I've always known I was Gay. I like what JiEL said. I too was married for 19+ years and I too have three very fine (now adults) children. They are the love and joy of my life.

I'll be turning 58 in a couple of months. Even though I knew I was Gay I HAD to live in the straight world. Back then...well, one just didn't acknowledge such a thing. One couldn't - yet I always knew my orientation.

There are times that I'm internally conflicted. I'm Gay yet, unless on purpose I choose to camp it up, so to speak, I'm straight up 100% masculine. That's just my life story. I'm comfortable with myself. It's just this internal juxtaposition of being Gay and not being the stereotypical nelly, queeny little thing that somehow bothers me at times.

Greg (my partner of 12 years now)and I were talking a few nights ago. I posed the question, why is it that when you acknowledge your self as Gay to another person that it gets immediately slapped to what we do in the bedroom? You sense it, you can almost read the pondering on their face. Like, OK, you're straight. I really don't want to know what goes on in your bedroom. Why, apparently, does our orientation necessarily preclude people to assess what goes on in our bedroom? That's just not right nor is it fair.

We as a LGBT community need to educate the common public that we are they same type of people that they are. Our orientation is meaningless in the real scheme of life. We all have joys, we all have woes. It's called life as a human being.

JB, Lil Bro? Once again thank you for broaching a somewhat heady subject. HUGS!!

SteveXS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveXS said...

I enjoy and appreciate your blog so much and think you bring wonderful insights, wisdom, esthetic beauty, and fun to the blogosphere. But what you're calling "the gay voice" is really the sissy boy voice. We all know gay runs the gamut. At one extreme there's the cigar-chomping leather dude who sounds like King Kong and on the other, guys more like, well, Johnny Weir. All are gay. There is no particular "gay voice." Many gay boys and men feel embarrassed about the effeminate way they speak – which is learned – because those who hear it equate it with being a sissy. which they equate with “bad,” “queer,” etc. Not always true, of course. I mean Ralph Reed sounds like a big sissy but he's straight-straight-strait (he says). No condemnation, let's just be clear.

Adam said...

In response to "Crotchdriver's" comment, I think your handle says it all. Because a lot of gay men define themselves by their sexuality and make sex a cornerstone of their lives..the hookup apps, the bathhouses, gay pride events that are opportunities for more than pride and often include the leather and bondage themes....the very public way that is celebrated, isn't lost on a straight audience. So is it any wonder that they wonder?

I'm always pleased to meet gay men for whom sex is a part of their life and not the defining element. Unfortunately, the majority don't embrace their sexuality as merely one part of a well balanced life. And because gays are now more visible than ever, of course my str8 friends wonder if I spend my weekends in a sling at the bathhouse ugh. We do it to ourselves

Anonymous said...

Since I started taking a steroid inhaler for my asthma my voice has lowered an octave. But like your body, no need to be self-conscious about one's voice. What you got it fine!

crotchdiver1 said...

In response to Adam's post: My sexuality/orientation represents a fraction of my life. Being Gay doesn't define my life necessary unless I choose to do so - and that is rare.

I chose the handle crotchdiver to, on purpose, be provocative. I'm not afraid of "popping" balloons here and there. I'm just your average tell it like it is type of guy. I've lived my entire life defying labels. As a human being, my life is really quite multi-faceted.

Yes. I agree with you. There is a certain percentage of the Gay community that represents the stereotypical fulfillment in the straight community's mind. My partner and I don't represent that in our lives, and it truly gets annoying sometimes.

The one thing that IS important in my life is being a Dad to my three kids. If anything above all else should define me? I'm a Dad first. Nothing else matters. (Well, my Partner does matter as well and he knows it.)

As long as people aren't going to bed with us or signing our paychecks what does it matter???

JB, again, thank you for a really good post.