I watched a documentary on Netflix a few days ago that was quite fascinating and asked questions I hadn’t even thought about before. Mainly, do some gay men sound “gay” for some specific reason, and if so, what is it?
It’s a film by David Thorpe, a gay writer who lives in NYC. He clearly sounds gay. The lisp, elongated vowels, the whole thing. And he didn’t like it. So he set about finding out why, and if there’s some way to ‘fix’ this. He interviewed everyone from Dan Savage to Tim Gunn. And lots of well-known gay men in between. Also he took a couple speech therapy courses (something which I’ve had a lot of experience with, after my brain injury destroyed my once beautiful speech.) He also spoke with experts in speech.
I highly recommend that you give it a watch. The title of this post is the title of the documentary. It’s not a movie, so I’ll go ahead and spoil it. The “gay sound” in speech is entirely cultural. I happen to neither sound gay, nor act it. Most people are shocked when I tell them I’m gay, or never suspect it. The same goes for my fiance. It’s most likely because when we came out, neither of us immediately immersed ourselves in gay culture. Sounding gay is learned. Unconsciously. We all have different speech “modes”. Surely you can remember changing the way you speak depending on whom you’re around. I know I do. Speech experts say we do this a lot. Sometimes several times a day. When you speak to a young child. When you speak to strangers. When you speak to your lover. Your mother. Your father. The people who work above you. Under you. There are countless examples. When gay men immerse themselves in gay culture soon after coming out, they’re often impressionable. Needing positive affirmation that they’re good, just fine the way they are, and often adapt to the way the gay men they are around speak. Meaning “gay speech” itself is evolving. It varies even from country to country. Our current manifestation comes largely from the 1940s.
Anyway there are scientific facts to back up what I’ve said in this post. Apparently experts in speech have studied this and have asked these kind of questions before David Thorpe ever did. In the end, he learned how to force his speech back to what it was in his first two years of college (before he came out). But without a constant effort, it would return to his new “natural”. Sounding “gay”.