A few days ago, I watched Do I Sound Gay – a recent documentary following David Thorpe and his journey to understand the stereotypical ‘gay voice’ and to see what he could do to change his own gay voice despite being an openly gay man. The documentary joins Thorpe as he talks to researchers, vocal coaches, friends, strangers, celebrities, etc about the gay voice and while the conversation primarily focuses on gay men, there is a universal message that it’s okay to be who you are – gay voice and all.
Overall, I did like the film and a part of it was the fact that it does address the misogyny in gay (and mainstream) culture and how there are many people who have been or are self conscious because of how they speak. In an interview with Co.Create, Thrope talked about why is this is of such interest to many people, saying that:
The gay voice is a symbol—of homosexuality, of femininity—and symbols are very powerful. So it was important for me to address the gay voice as something larger than the gay voice and something representative of gayness, of femininity, and how it can provoke homophobia and misogyny. It seems like a small thing, but the disruption it causes is enormous.
I think that the gay voice and other related issues are important to talk about (especially in context of people feeling self conscious or being bullied for having a gay voice or the like) because while we as a society are slowly moving forward to be more accepting and less homophobic, we all still learn and absorb harmful things. Things like homophobia and misogyny and related phobias and -isms still exist and are incredibly harmful in how we perceive ourselves and others. And I really appreciated Thrope’s work in addressing this issue, along with why people are self conscious, bias against, or just hate the gay voice.
One thing that the documentary brings up that I also really appreciated is the concept of queer coding – or how a character (usually the villain or antagonist) in different media forms are given traits usually associated with queer people (often gay men). Think Scar from the Lion King or Jafar from Aladdin or Prince John from the cartoon Robin Hood. The character isn’t explicitly said to be queer but it’s just enough of an association to allow for the subtle and subconscious idea that queer is a really bad thing.
While the documentary does focus on gay men and lacks a sense of intersectionality, I did really like many of the things that were covered – like how misogyny does exist in gay culture and gay men and the historical and still current concept of queer coding. Ultimately though, the journey starts in this place of insecurity due to sounding gay to Thrope being proud of how he sounds. Because after all, there’s nothing wrong with sounding like a gay man or sounding like yourself.