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’Do I Sound Gay?’ leads to student, faculty talk

Daniel Kempler, Kelly Farquharson

Daniel Kempler and Kelly Farquharson, speech experts and faculty in Communication Sciences and Disorders, led a discussion following the Bright Lights screening of Do I Sound Gay?. (Photo by Nick Eaton '17)

Do I Sound Gay? was the documentary film screened and discussed at Emerson’s Bright Lights Series in the Paramount Center on September 17.

The documentary is directed by David Thorpe and examines the existence and accuracy of stereotypes surrounding the speech patterns of gay men, or the “gay voice.” The film looks for answers to the questions of “Why do some people sound gay but not others?” and “Why are gay voices a trigger for bullying?”

Following the screening, students were led in a discussion by two speech-language experts who teach in Emerson’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Department: Assistant Professor Kelly Farquharson and Professor Daniel Kempler.

The film follows Thorpe as he seeks out the help of a speech-language pathologist as well as other professionals and celebrities in trying to rid himself of his “gay voice.”

His journey throughout the documentary led students in the audience to ask important questions, some of which focused on their thoughts surrounding dialects, misogyny, the Bible, and phonetics.

In the film, multiple professionals explain that sometimes when gay men are growing up, they tend to pay more attention to the voices of the females around them, which could lead to them having more of a feminine voice.

When this point was discussed with students, one said, “It felt misogynistic to me, and [that] wasn’t really brought up”; several others voiced their agreement.

A student, who majors in Acting and is taking a dialects course, asked the faculty members where certain voices come from.

“In my class, we talk a lot about dialects,” Farquharson said, “and that there are such minor variations in tongue positions that affect those very obvious dialects that can tell a lot about who you are and where you come from.”

Another student, who said he is gay, described issues surrounding how he communicates.

“Since coming out to my family and generally being more comfortable being gay and being around gay people,” the student said, “I noticed that my speech has changed a little bit, and they have noticed it too. But they don’t want to say that I sound gay, so they say the word ‘sophisticated.’ But I definitely see the difference that my voice has gone through.”

Bright Lights is a twice-weekly film screening and discussion series sponsored by Emerson’s Visual and Media Arts Department

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