Do I Sound Gay? (questions from a new documentary)

Do I Sound Gay title page

I’m not sure where I originally read about this documentary, but I was intrigued to see it.  (Currently it has a very small release, primarily in big cities, but it can be seen on demand through Time Warner)

It follows David Thorpe on his journey to find a more neutral, or less stereotypically gay, voice and shows interactions with a speech-language pathologist and a vocal coach as well as clips of what are obviously lengthy practice/homework sessions.  I was fascinated.

Do I sound gay david thorpe

The primary focus was on shortening vowels, decreasing a fronted /s/, speaking from lower in the chest cavity and adjusting intonation patterns.  Throughout the film, a number of high profile, gay men in media (ie. Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, George Takei, David Sedaris) reflected on their own voice.

I was shocked to hear how many had received speech services in elementary school, prompting one of them to say that speech  was more like a club meeting of future homosexuals of America.  Really?  Well, there’s some food for thought.  Would you see a student with a lisp that is more “gender inappropriate” than truly disordered?

But my real interest was in how we identify with our own voice and the assumptions we make about others based on their voice—whether that be their level of education, socioeconomic level or sexual orientation.

I’m never delighted to hear myself recorded (is anyone?), but to hear a large number of people express loathing, actual loathing of their own voice was distressing.

So today, I’m opening the floor for discussion.  Love your voice or loathe it?  Ever give much thought to remediating voices to achieve a more neutral, “acceptable” quality?  Anyone out there work on their own voice to remediate an accent or dialect they felt was holding them back in some way?

FYI The movie was great and I would highly recommend it, however at approximately 50 min in there were a few unexpected, short, sexually graphic clips.  While partially blurred, it still made for an awkward moment with teens and my mom.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Jena

    Great post!

    I can’t wait to see this film. As an SLP and lesbian I have always been interested in gay male voices – both ones that “sound gay” and ones that don’t. What a fascinating idea for a documentary.

    1. admin

      Jena, check your on demand channel. It may be that it’s more available now. It was interesting to hear the stereotypically gay voices and how some said they purposely camp it up for certain social situations. Others had a more traditional male pitch/voice. Many “changed” their speaking style after coming out. Something to think about there! I have never given any thought to a lesbian voice. Is there any? Kim

  2. Linda

    What a thought provoking article! I’ve often thought about what makes someone’s voice sound gay (no answers here) but never associated lisp treatment in therapy with it. Something to think about….

    1. admin

      Linda, It’s never crossed my mind before either! Kim

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.