The documentary, "Do I Sound Gay?" has been on my radar for quite some time, and I was excited to hear it was on Netflix. After seeing it, it was definitely good, but also rather difficult to watch at the same time. Aside from a couple of content warnings--news footage where they show a gay kid getting assaulted, and a couple of censored porn scenes as examples of hyper-masculinity in gay culture--David's story was also largely my story.
The Gay Voice
There's a definite "gay voice" that acts as a flag or a tell for many people. Sometimes erroneously, but fairly often it's accurate. Listening to someone, it's easy to hear certain affectations that sound "gay"--at least in North American culture, more on that later. I'm damn sure I sound gay, given I've been asked a few times when streaming if I was (the answer is yes, duh).
In the documentary, speech academics talk about certain tells, such as elongated 'S' sounds; overly-enounced 'T' or 'K' sounds; the voice tone sliding up into a sentence, or ending up when more masculine voices end down. All of which now I can clearly hear in my own speech in this Archimonde N kill video (surprise, we downed Archimonde last night! hooray!).
Of course, there's the question of why do I care? And is it really a bad thing?
Self-Hate, or Valid Concerns?
It's easy to dismiss the documentary early on as David being a self-hating gay--many of the reviewers do, and I know I was tempted to at the beginning as well. But at the same time, how much of that is rooted firmly in trying to pass as straight, to hide, not draw attention to oneself? When you spent most of your early life hiding in fear of getting beat up, or even killed, hiding is a pretty sensible maneuver.
Into adulthood, I know it's something that I've been concerned about when giving presentations to my peers. Are the other programmers going to take me seriously if I sound like a queer? Early in my career some of them evinced homophobic attitudes, but thankfully later in my career it hasn't seemed to much matter, which is a huge confidence booster. But these are totally valid questions to ask oneself, especially given research into female speech affectations being a liability in the corporate environment.
And then there's the fact that my voice apparently didn't always sound "gay." Mirroring David's experience, sometime during University my voice became more nasal, higher pitched. More from my throat and nose than from my chest. I knew this because my sister commented on it, wondering aloud if my singing voice would be different when my speaking voice had changed. I apparently never noticed the change, but then again it happened gradually for me, but "suddenly" for my sister.
Was it because I was mimicking the gay peers I generally didn't have growing up? Was I flaunting my sexuality as out and proud now that I didn't have to hide, over-compensating and camping it up? Where did that voice come from?
It's not so much a matter of, "Oh god, why did this happen to me?" as it is an intellectual curiosity at this stage of my life, but there were times when I was younger where I wish I could have code switched to a "straight masculine" voice more easily.
Something the documentary didn't touch on but I thought was an interesting bit of info is the whole speaking from the throat/nose vs. the chest. Both times I was in Australia, the standard way to talk in Sydney and Melbourne is from the throat it seemed--or at least it was easier to mimic the accent by speaking from the throat--and most voices tended to be higher than they are in North America. The documentary pays lip-service to this by having a couple of interviews with other language speakers, but never sits down to make a serious comparison, so I don't know if it's really extensible outside of this continent.
Overall, it was a fascinating documentary. One which tackles head on historical stereotypes, cultural contexts, and even the dangers that the gay voice can represent. Something a little different, but something pretty interesting in my personal opinion.
#Documentary #Sexuality #Gay