The Language Studies of Do I Sound Gay?

Kathi Littwin

Kathi Littwin/Courtesy of Sundance Selects

“I don’t think it sounds as bad as you think,” a friend says of filmmaker David Thorpe’s voice in Do I Sound Gay? — an autobiographical documentary in which Thorpe tries to lose the flame-y pipes fueling his midlife crisis. Many would say the friend also sounds gay, but he’s not bothered by it. Indeed, Do I Sound Gay? argues that there’s nothing wrong with a daintily limber timbre, with talking heads like Tim Gunn and Dan Savage concurring that a voice like Thorpe’s shouldn’t be squelched, but celebrated.

Still, Thorpe’s quest to butch it up is fascinating. In addition to seeing a speech pathologist who teaches him about code-switching (the act of changing language or style of language mid-conversation) and a Hollywood vocal coach who helps actors sound “straighter,” Thorpe finds that men raised by women adopt specific vocal cues — and that includes straight men accused of sounding like Truman Capote. There’s an ugly side to Thorpe’s journey, like when he meets a kid whose voice has gotten him beaten up at school. But most of his encounters are heartening. As he travels the world asking the titular question, perhaps one Toronto woman puts it best: “You sound like a human male.” RKO

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