David Thorpe and Dan Savage Have a Lot to Say about the “Gay Voice” by Regan Reid
David Thorpe sounds gay. And, though Thorpe is gay, for a long time, it really bothered him. But it bothered him more that he was bothered at all. So he decided to make a documentary about it. He talked to voice coaches and linguists about how and why some people “sound gay.” He worked hard to “sound straight.” He interviewed historians about the cultural history of the gay voice. And he talked to famous gay celebrities, like Tim Gunn, Dan Savage, and David Sedaris, about accepting how you sound and who you really are.
I met up with Thorpe and Dan Savage during the Toronto International Film Festival to discuss Thorpe's debut feature documentary, Do I Sound Gay? We were seated in a crowded restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel in Toronto and, after we all got over our excitement that Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany were sitting behind us (at least we thought it was them), we talked about what it means to “sound gay,” the use of the gay voice in kids movies, and one particularly contentious Louis C.K. skit.
VICE: When you set out to make this film, what did you want to accomplish? And how did that change over the course of making the film?
David Thorpe: I wanted to come to terms with my voice, whatever that meant. I broke up with a boyfriend, I had no confidence and I was on this trip to Fire Island that I should have been excited about, but instead of being excited, all I could think about was how much I hated the voices of the chattering gay men around me. That felt like a real low point for me, because I fought so hard to come out and embrace being gay, and I've really fought hard for the gay community as an LGBTQ and AIDS activist, and advocacy journalist. I couldn't believe that I was in my 40s and still hated sounding gay and was afraid of sounding gay. So, for me, the real Come-to-Jesus moment making the film was when I interviewed one of the men on the street, the young guy who says: I wish I didn't sound gay. I can't get a boyfriend because I'm too effeminate.”
He said other things that were not in the film, but he essentially said, I hate my voice and I wish I could change it. And I just thought, holy crap, what's going on?