New documentary film looks at what it means to sound like a gay man
Just thinking about the question posed in the title of this film causes a visceral reaction from me. I have always hated the sound of my voice when I hear it played back in a video. For as long as I can remember I have had mild anxiety every time I’m on film or being recorded. I don’t stress too much about it, but whenever I see myself I ALWAYS think, “I sound SO GAY!” I’ve always know that I’m not alone in hating the sound of my voice, but this film, Do I Sound Gay?, brought up issues for me that I hadn’t thought about in years.
The film is a self-analysis of David Thorpe, who made the film over the past several years because, like me, he didn’t like the way he sounds; he grew to resent his “gay voice.” Thorpe sets out to change his voice and along the way he has a chance to speak to some really big hitters in the LGBT community. Activist Dan Savage lends his voice and advice along with actor George Takei, CNN host Don Lemon, comedienne Margaret Cho, and humorist/author David Sedaris.
Thorpe spoke to Hotspots about why he made the film, the hard work he put into making it, and why he thinks the topic resonates with so many people.
In the film, you mention at the beginning that marriage equality had just been passed in New York. That was 2011 — so how are things going for you now, and why did it take four years to get the film made?
I had a job as communications director when I started filming and I eventually left it because the film became a project that I needed to give all of my attention to and I got funding to make it. So to answer your question, almost nothing has been going on for me except getting the film made.
Did you see yourself as a filmmaker before you made Do I Sound Gay?
I think I fantasized about making a film kind of like the way everyone does, but I never saw myself as a documentary filmmaker. As a journalist I did a lot of first person work for NY magazine, and it’s not a jump from that work I was doing to this project. I did a short called “Gay Volleyball Saved My Life.” I’m just one of those people who likes to take an introspective look in my work.
How is the film resonating with the community at large?
It’s so thrilling to see the way it’s resonating with people, gay or not. I had no idea that our voices were such a great way to open other topics like homophobia, misogyny and popular culture. I’m really excited as the film has gone wider and wider, that people continue to engage in the film’s subject. I wonder why there isn’t more out there on this topic because everyone seems to be interested and everyone has a voice. We talk about fashion all the time but we don’t talk about voice; we treat it like it doesn’t change, kind of the same way we like eye color.
What was it like hearing your friends be honest with you, and sort of call you out about having “changed your voice” and playing your “gayness”?
I didn’t know that my friends and family noticed the way my voice changed. But it made sense because when I came out, I wanted to be as gay as possible. I wanted to cultivate this aristocratic educated persona. When my childhood friend Michele told me that I sound like an imposter, it was both painful and liberating. I was paranoid that my voice was putting people off, and here she was telling me just that… it was painful because, certainly now, this is me, it’s the way I talk now. I’m not trying to be this television pansy persona.
How can our readers in Florida view the film?
DO I SOUND GAY opens tomorrow July 31 at Cinema Paradiso-Fort Lauderdale, 503 SE 6 Street, Fort Lauderdale 33301. Check showtimes at www.paradisocinemas.com
Do I Sound Gay? is now playing in several markets. You can take a look at DoISoundGay.com for all of the places you can catch a screening of it this summer. If you are traveling and want to see a great film while you are there, this is a great choice.