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  • Writer's pictureBen Turner

Do I Sound Gay? **

Director: David Thorpe

The idea of the "gay voice" is something that fascinates me. I, like many others, have had moments of self-loathing about the fact that my voice immediately gives away my sexuality and have - at least sometimes - wanted to be able to hide beneath the veneer of heterosexuality. As a topic that resonates with many gay people, there are certain aspects you would expect a documentary about the gay voice to address. What exactly is this voice? Where does it come from? How does it develop? Is it learned or natural? Can you control it? And while Do I Sound Gay? does touch on all these questions, it never goes far beyond scratching the surface, leaving the viewer as educated as they were before, never really getting off the starting blocks toward any depth of examination.

The film follows Thorpe, whose arrival at 40 has led him to examine the reason as to why he's still single. Seemingly, he has come to the conclusion that the only thing putting off prospective suitors is the nasal tone and the sibilant 's' that define his "gay voice". By assigning this personal baggage to his investigation, I suspect the audience are intended to see something of themselves in Thorpe, or feel a connection to his self-loathing, but unfortunately he spends the majority of the film whining about how he feels his voice devalues him as a person. He cites famous camp celebrities as evidence for his cause, but his argument in no way celebrates the achievements of these camp men or in any way celebrates the popularity they earned, but instead protests against them, sounding like the conservative middle-Americans that he supposedly espouses against.

Thorpe is annoying at the best of times. And that's got nothing to do with his voice. Instead, he spends the entire film naval-gazing, wishing that he was someone else, but completely unsure as to who. The film feels like expensive therapy, as though he wanted to share with the world his overcoming this plague with which he's afflicted. Except (SPOILER ALERT) he gives up midway through. For the purposes of anthropological observation - which is essentially the purpose of this film's actual existence - we definitely wanted to see whether Thorpe could actually change his voice. But with evidence throughout the film about people both becoming camper and less camp, what we really needed to see was Thorpe complete his journey and change his voice. But, y'know, it's not like what he decided to make this film about... Oh wait. Yes. Yes it was. With so much emphasis on his own journey over the investigation itself, this makes for a feeling that Do I Sound Gay? was only half-finished. Or, at least, Thorpe stopped caring anymore. Which is apt, because I stopped caring about him too.

Early in the film, Thorpe's friend Alberto refers to his voice as "not that bad". Briefly, he is challenged on the use of a negative word to describe the level of campness in his voice and while the film does go on the look at the negativity surrounding effeminacy, it takes the same stand-point as Alberto; that the "gay voice" is all relative against a scale of good (butch) to bad (camp). This is not what we come to expect from a film about LGBT People in the 2010s. There's nothing progressive or empowering or even interesting about gay men undermining their culture and wishing they were a little bit more like straight people. Unfortunately, that's just a bit sad.


Available to download, stream or buy on DVD.

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