BFI Flare: Do I Sound Gay?

Directed by David Thorpe
Screening at BFI Flare on March 26th & 28th, 2015

by Joanna Orland

Single and unconfident David Thorpe decides his voice sounds unmasculine and gay.  Determined to break the cultural stereotype of a ‘gay-sounding’ gay man, the director begins a journey to change his voice, and along the way explores the cultural and physical roots of  the ‘gay voice’.

As a documentary, the subject of the culturally stereotyped gay voice is fascinating.  Thorpe interviews speech therapists, linguists, famous gay public figures (George Takei, Margaret Cho, Dan Savage, David Sedaris…) in search of answers on why some gay men have this voice.  An examination of the evolution of the voice within queer cultures and popular media is divulged through clips of everything from Disney to Liberace concerts.  What begins as this exploration of the ‘gay voice’ evolves into a journey of self acceptance as this is Thorpe’s real issue at the heart of Do I Sound Gay?.  An issue that slightly detracts from the more substantial elements of the film.

While it’s important to make a documentary personal, and in this case examine the significance of self-esteem in relation to vocal identity, Do I Sound Gay? takes the personal a step too far to the point of becoming self-indulgent.  There are a tad too many interviews with Thorpe’s friends and family when perhaps a bit more objectivity is needed to get the point across less pretentiously.  This viewpoint gives the film a more light-hearted feel, when in fact, a broader exploration of the issue is far more substantial.

In spite of this overly personal touch, Do I Sound Gay? is an interesting documentary on the cultural and physical roots of the ‘gay voice’.  With a bit more science and sociology, this film would be just that little bit more impactful.


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