Jun 26

“Do I Sound Gay?” Documentary Examines a Stigmatized Trait

I’ve been out of the closet since 1989, but I had never ever discussed my anxiety about “sounding gay” with other gay men. When I started shooting, I discovered that it was a source of deep, lifelong anxiety for one of my best friends! The most surprising thing about making Do I Sound Gay? was the discovery that, by and large, gay men have a keen awareness of how “gay” their voices sound but rarely, if ever, talk about it. I made the movie because I wanted to have that conversation and explore what that keen awareness might mean. David Thorpe, interviewed for Filmmaker Magazine

In my high school in the 1960’s—a place and time in which no one talked about homosexuality, by the way, but did have a “Queer Day“—the thing I knew on some level is that I was “different” from my female friends. Not only that, my two closest male friends were different from the other guys—and one of the interesting characteristics of both friends was the way each sounded when speaking.

Not all gay men, of course, have this “gay voice.” But in the new documentary directed by David Thorpe called Do I Sound Gay?,many notables—including, for example, Tim Gunn—address this phenomenon. And to know Gunn is to know a variation on the kind of voice I’m talking about.

Dan Savage, George Takei, and Margaret Cho are also among the celebs who agreed to be filmed regarding this subject. Also, writer David Sedaris, who opens the trailer for Do I Sound Gay?:

Britt Peterson, Boston Globeciting a specific finding of the filmmaker: “Since the late 1990s, Thorpe has been recording men whom others deem to sound gay and analyzing their voices. He has found some consistent variables among those speakers: the gay-sounding voices had long and high frequency sibilants (hissing s’s and z’s pronounced with the tongue close to the teeth — the root of the incorrect lisping stereotype), some longer vowel sounds, and a lighter ‘l’.”

Among other things we learn in Do I Sound Gay? is that some men of any sexual orientation might “sound gay” and that the origins of this could involve, in infancy and onward, unknowingly modeling their speech after their moms or other females.

Why should we care about such details? Because increased knowledge can help work against the virulent stigma operating here. “It’s not just homophobia, it’s misogyny as well, or at least discomfort with boundary-blurring realities of gender. ‘The fear of effeminacy is part of culture at large, both in the gay community and outside the gay community,’ Thorpe told [Peterson].”

But today Thorpe, who reportedly used to “butch up” his own voice—a voice that Neal Broverman, Advocate.com, says “sounds like my deceased nana in a good mood”—feels more at peace about how he comes across.

If you want to see this film, the doc’s website lists upcoming screenings. As of July 10th, it will be available on VOD and will also gradually start to reach beyond the film festivals and into theaters.

Jul 24

“American Savage”: Outspoken Advice-Giver Dan Savage

Dan Savage, the outspoken author of American Savage, is a gay guy with a musical theater degree who for 20 years has been penning a popular sex-advice column, “Savage Love,” and for five years a related podcast.

Other accomplishments:

American Savage

His new book is called American Savage: Insights, Slights, and Fights on Faith, Love, Sex, and Politics. Publishers Weekly states, “America’s most in-your-face sex columnist and gay-rights activist comes out swinging in these pugnacious, hilarious essays. Savage…proffers more unvarnished and often sacrilegious bedroom and relationship advice…”

Interviews Related to American Savage

A Publishers Weekly interviewer queries Savage about a bit of “unconventional” advice he gives on the issue of marital infidelity. Savage’s reply is consistent with his personal and general view that being “monogamish” (somewhat open to having other partners at times) is a valid choice:

It’s going to happen, so why not do it right? I’m not condoning serial adulterers who are abusing their partners or putting them at risk. But there are times when cheating can save a marriage—for example, when one spouse is seriously disabled and the other, to stay sane, gets his or her needs met elsewhere, discreetly. Or maybe it’s a terrific marriage except for very divergent needs for sex. It overemphasizes the importance of sex to say that, if a marriage is working in every area but sex, a spouse must divorce first and cheat second. There are times when people should cheat first and divorce not at all.

To the question, “Why do you think you get so many calls from straight guys asking about sex with women?,” interviewer Elizabeth Denton, Time Out, gets this from Savage: “Straight boys feel like, as a gay man, you have this secret inside scope on what girls are doing and thinking. I’m like someone who’s never been to London but could draw you a map of the Tube. I’ve never seen a clitoris up close, but I can tell you exactly where to find it.”

Advice-giving is likely to have its pitfalls, and here’s one piece he’d take back, he tells Benoit Denizet-Lewis, The Good Men Project: “I once told a woman who didn’t like her husband, or wouldn’t leave him, to encourage her husband to take up drinking and driving. You really don’t want to suggest that someone take up drinking and driving in print. It’s a sure way to get several million angry letters.”

Denizet-Lewis also found out that Savage’s own go-to for receiving advice was his mom, who died in 2008. In an unrelated question about the last time he “really cried,” the answer? When she died.

And the book dedication goes to his male parent: “For my father, who lives in a red state, watches Fox News, and votes Republican — but loves me and mine just the same.”

The thing he’s most proud of in his life is his nuclear family, he tells Denizet-Lewis. “I know that sounds so Rick Santorum–y, but I’m most proud of my little family that exists despite the odds.” The adopted son of Savage and his partner is now 15.

Publishers Weekly, reviewing American Savage: “Savage is that rarity, a liberal—verging on radical—who defends his positions with steel-trap logic and scornful humor laced with profanity and stripped of politically correct cant. But in his own way he’s a champion of ‘family values,’ which emerge in warm domestic scenes with his husband and son, in moving reflections on his mother’s death, and in his common-sense understanding of sexual fulfillment as an anchor for stable relationships. Underneath Savage’s scabrous, bomb-throwing exterior beats the heart of a softie.”