Does IFP Sound Gay?
Okay, I admit the above is a bit of sensationalism. But, in theory, I got your attention, and I did so to illustrate the experience I’ve had this week of people reacting to the title of my doc, Do I Sound Gay? The film examines my quest to overcome my anxiety about sounding “gay” when I speak, as well as the origins of the “gay voice” and the nature of the stigma that surround it (facebook.com/doisoundgay).
I chose a provocative title on purpose. The fact is that “gay” remains a slur in our culture. Less than it used to be, yes, but more than it should be, especially depending on what slice of our culture you live in. My title—and my doc—are my little contribution to neutralizing that stigma and what it implies: that gay is bad, stupid, wrong, anything less than inferior, shameful and worthless.
So: the reactions. Some people give an acknowledging nod and say nothing—I’m sure every filmmaker has gotten that reaction at least once this week, but I still can’t help thinking, “Dude, I just asked you if I sound gay? You don’t have any reaction to that?” I’m sure that some people don’t react because they are uncomfortable being confronted with a stereotype. But who knows? Maybe they don’t see anything remarkable about the question or the topic, which, in theory is the world I want to live in. If that’s the case, it’s me who needs to deal.
The polar opposite of that reaction is super-engagement with me, right off the bat. “Do you sound gay? I don’t know. Do you?” or “You don’t sound THAT gay” or “Oh, yeah, yes, you do sound gay.” I don’t mind these comments—hey, I asked. And none of those reactions are “wrong.” But I don’t entirely know how to react. A cool breathy but inscrutable Grace Kelly, “Why yes, I do sound gay,”? A mildly sarcastic Gen-X, “Thanks for the feedback!”? My confusion might have something do with how far I have traveled since I started filming. When I started this project, I cared that I sounded gay. The lesson I learn along the way was not to care what people think. But what am I going to say, “Thanks. I don’t care!”
Overwhelmingly, the reactions I’ve received both to the title and the project itself have been positive, as I sense they have been, mostly, for all the filmmakers here. This week has been an incredible support, education and sounding board for where my film might be headed. But it’s also been a reminder that, as my mother always says (for real), “don’t ask a question, sweetie, if you’re not ready for the answer.”