Do I Sound Gay?

August 4, 2015 at 6:26 pm | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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It’s a provocative question. When I first heard of this film, I was immediately intrigued. I respect people who are willing to explore difficult and controversial topics, particularly ones that nobody is talking about. And, the truth is, there is a particular male voice that is generally associated with homosexuality. As Bill Maher once said, not every gay man has that voice but every man who has it is gay. Or, at least, that’s the perception. So, a documentary that purports to explore what causes this voice immediately fascinated me. And apparently not just me, judging by the celebrities interviewed. I had expected a rigorous examination of various possible causal factors for this vocal phenomenon, along with some of the funny anecdotes one can see in the trailer. I guess I had really expected humor and insight. However, it turned out to be a much darker and less illuminating road than I had anticipated.  First time writer and direct, David Thorpe is the  star of this very autobiographical film that follows his own struggles with his voice. What we get over a lean 77 minutes, is Thorpe and various gay men of his generation discussing how ashamed they have been of their voices their entire lives. With a fair dose of self loathing (and some self loathing about the self loathing), we listen to David, his friends, David Sedaris and others discuss how they have come to terms (or not) with the voices they have. To be fair, many of the men (such as Tim Gunn, Dan Savage or George Takei) do not seem ashamed of their voices but the overall tone of the film felt like one of embarrassed confession. We also watch as Thorpe attends speech therapy classes and attempts to sound more “masculine.” Along the way, we are exposed to some theories about the origin of this voice but they all seem to fall into one category: you copied the speech patterns of the women around you and not the men in your lives. And while that could certainly be a factor, I doubt it’s the only theory out there. Many African American men have noticeably recognizable voices that are much deeper in timbre; do we conclude that is solely because of environment? It seems genetics may well play a part but that concept is not addressed at all. Instead, we have a theory that reminds me uncomfortably of the “overbearing mother, absent father” hypothesis used to explain homosexuality at one time. I think the theory deserves addressing, it just should not be the only one mentioned. But, then, it occurs to me that this is not a film about the causes of “the gay voice” but, rather, it is the story of one man’s path to a form of self acceptance. Fair enough. That’s just not the film I signed up for.

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