A reader shares a similar story:
I’m deeply fascinated by this topic and look forward to any of your readers sharing their stories on their experiences. Like you, I haven’t worried much about whether or not I had a gay voice, but since viewing the documentary promo, one particular memory has been on my mind ever since.
In the sixth grade, a new boy transferred to our school, and his voice instantly identified him as Gay with a capital G. Even though I was deeply closeted at the time, I took a risk and befriended him, most likely because he didn’t exhibit the traits which made me apprehensive to be around straight boys. Like me, he wasn’t into sports, enjoyed reading and other “girly” pursuits, and had no emerging interest in the female anatomy like all the other boys did.
The major difference between us, then, was that his vocal mannerisms gave him away immediately and mine did not. I was always able to “pass” among all the straight boys, whereas my new friend was constantly bullied and mistreated for being different, even though we were virtually the same in all other aspects. That’s how much the public perception of sexual orientation is tied into the way you speak.
There was one particular incident which burns my heart to remember:
my poor friend was enduring the usual taunts about his femininity by a group of aggressive classmates and, as usual, I did nothing to help him or stop it, lest I too become branded as a faggot. During this specific incident, I distinctly remember watching the bullying and telling myself, “Whatever you do, don’t ever talk with that kind of voice. Even when you’re an adult and able to be openly gay, always keep your voice masculine to avoid being harassed.”
That’s how easily the closet strips you of your humanity. I was witnessing a friend’s humiliation at the hands of others, but rather than come to his rescue, I used the opportunity to remind myself of the need to adopt the vocal cadence of all the straight boys.
I wish I could find that boy today (he only lasted at our school for a year, and I’ve long since forgotten his name), just so I could know that he made it though the rest of his school years with grace and bravery. I’d like to apologize to him for my failure to speak up and defend him when he needed me most. Perhaps that’s why the topic of “gay voice” interests me so much; 40 years after the fact, I’m still coming to terms with the choices I made and didn’t make on that day, and those choices were based entirely around how we speak.
Thanks for letting me tell my story.