Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Do I Sound Gay?

Caught this documentary the other night-- really interesting. Do I Sound Gay? explores prevalent speech patterns among gay men. Featuring interviews with by David Sedaris, George Takei, Dan Savage, and Margaret Cho, the film ranges widely as it explores links between the voice and the self.

I certainly don't rate as an expert on any of the issues faced by the LGBT community. But I've recorded and edited an awful lot of different people's voices, and in listening to various vocalizations I've noticed a lot of subtle differences in enunciation and wondered what might be encoded in these nuances. This is where I really connect with the film. We hear from speech pathologists and a voice coach about the social significance of pronunciation strategies, and we even get to examine the waveforms of the protagonist's recorded voice at a couple of points. Fascinating.

Mostly I just want to reommend this film, so I won't get too in-depth about it. But to focus in briefly: I was happy to see Dan Savage get to what I feel is a central matter here. The film acknowledges that the (stereotypical) intonation of gay male speech is often derided because it sounds like (stereotypical) female speech-- in a word, it's "effeminate". Savage has one word to explain the negative connotation: "misogyny". Again, this opens up a whole set of issues beyond my expertise or present space considerations. But I'm glad this film is encouraging the conversation, as I'd call it an important one to be had.

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