How they communicate with one another is perhaps the most striking, fundamental difference between humans and other species on this planet. Language is the brush with which humans paint the rolling landscape of their history, nervously sketch the dreams of their future, and cautiously detail every present interaction. The voice is arguably the primary tool utilized to enrich and communicate the human experience. For queers, especially youth, their voices are the first indication of difference and, often, marks them as targets for intolerance, violence, and exclusion. Paradoxically, one of the most interesting tales in queer history is one that is rarely told. As a sensitive topic, theorists, activists, and gays alike steer clear of discussion surrounding the ostensible differences between many queers and their heterosexual counterparts. The Documentary, “Do I Sound Gay?” by David Thorpe is one of the first attempts to break the silence surrounding this issue, directing attention toward the experience of having a “gay voice” and encouraging self-acceptance among gays.
The kickstarter page lists several reasons why the documentary is focusing on what many call the “gay voice.” The page lists being self-conscious, bullying, the lack of discussion, the pressure to act “straight,” and empowerment among the top reasons why this documentary is incredibly important. The page is going to be active for another 26 days and needs about 80,000 more dollars to fund the project.
David Thorpe interviews an eclectic mix of specialists on what it means to sound “gay”, as well as celebrities like Margaret Cho, Tim Gunn, Don Lemon, Dan Savage, David Sedaris and George Takei on their experiences being or sounding gay.
It is groundbreaking to turn the discussion on the gay experience in this direction. Little is understood about what Thorpe refers to as “the gay voice,” and very few have ventured to discover what insight may be gained from sharing the experiences of queers who have been mocked, harassed, and devalued based on the sound of their voice. Empowering queers to accept their own voices shifts the focus from the quality of one’s voice to the content of one’s words, breeds self-acceptance, and allows the LGBTQ community to understand the dynamic, intersecting ways society permeates oppression across many demographics.
While Thorpe colloquially describes the topic of his conversation as the “Gay Voice,” an individual’s propensity to bed members of the same anatomical sex is impossible to distinguish from the quality of one’s speech. More accurately, many men worry that their voices will sound overly effeminate and expressive. Gay men are especially targeted, as their sexual desires fall outside of what has historically been considered normative behavior. There is an important link between gay men and the adjective “feminine,” and by proxy, females.
In her article Homophobia and Sexism: The Pros and Cons to An Integrative Approach, Nicole M. Capezza seeks to explain how homophobia and sexism are related concepts and forms of oppression, stemming from a social structure with a rigidly enforced, unequal gender divide. She makes sure to highlight the ways, however, the two prejudices are unique.
Capezza beautifully explains how archaic, unnecessary notions regarding the division of labor may have influenced what skills and traits are taught to men. The adoption of behaviors traditionally associated with women, such as compassion, femininity, and kindness by men is seen as a betrayal of the traits typically associated with males, dominance and aggression. This “betrayal” is highlighted when the offender is homosexual, as his desires disrupt the logic behind traditional labor division – that partnerships are always between a man and a woman.
Capezza lists several sources to support her argument, citing studies that show how those who support traditional gender roles are also more supportive of domestic abuse, sexist views, and hold anti-gay beliefs. The traditional gender binary creates a hierarchy in which femininity is unequivocally weaker than maleness and masculinity. And with the presumed strength of masculinity comes control, power, and resources.
Capezza discusses benevolent sexism, as well, wherein the presumed “weakness” of femininity is forgiven, when women are limited to roles defined strictly by their biological capabilities. Thus, the appropriation of femininity by gay men is not only a betrayal of the gender binary and an affront to its rationale, but also a questioning of the fundament that women are innately weaker. Often, the “gay voice” Thorpe refers to, even in children, is the first indication of this defiance – and is often met with hostility from peers and authority figures alike.
“Do I Sound Gay?” will hopefully explore the experiences and voices of queer people, opening the discussion on self-acceptance and, hopefully, expose the link between sexism and homophobia.
By: James Ryder
Homophobia and Sexism: The Pros and Cons to an Integrative Approach
Nicole M. Capezza
Springer Science And Business Media, LLC, 2007