Before I begin, I should insert somewhere in this text, not that it matters to me but out of respect for those to whom it might matter, that I don’t know what Sasha’s sexuality is. I only spent a few hours with the chap, and we never talked about sex. The guy was 18 after all, and I’m almost old enough to be his father (hmm… technically I am old enough), so it didn’t seem right to me to bring it up. Besides, the guy was the same age as some of my former students when I used to be a high school French teacher, and you just don’t go there. It doesn’t even enter your head, no matter how objectively hot they may be, to cross that invisible line.
So… what I wanted to discuss was how I feel pretty confident in judging a voice as sounding ‘gay’ or not, but it only works when listening to native English speakers, be they American, English, Australian, whatever. I’m useless in other languages. When I lived in Poland I dated a guy who all my friends described as having a really effeminate manner of speaking, but I totally didn’t detect it. I couldn’t care less how he sounded, but it always surprised me how sure they were and how clueless I was about his way of talking.
I was reminded about this subject when reading a review of a documentary recently released called ‘Do I Sound Gay?’. Apparently there’s nothing genetic about a gay man’s voice but rather is a product of who his influences were as a child. Since many gay kids choose to hang in the kitchen listening to their mums and aunties gossiping rather than to play ball with their dads and brothers outside, it’s natural that they pick up speech patterns from those women. I try not to listen to my own voice, so I can’t say if I sound gay or not, but based on the fact that I spent probably an equal time in the garden with my grandpa as in the kitchen with my grandma, I probably sound, well, bisexual.
What was so funny to me for the Elska Lviv project was that my assistant, Andriy, would sometimes whisper to me during a shoot “he sounds sooooo gay”, when absolutely I couldn’t hear it at all. Like with Sasha K, sexuality didn’t come into conversation much in Ukraine, partly because it still is rather taboo there, so I only had vocal clues and mannerisms to go by, but my gaydar was useless there. But it’s interesting to view men in sexually objective terms, since usually the people we meet are accompanied by a strong first impression from their voice. It’s nice to meet a guy and not have that first impression be coloured by the sexuality of voice. Sex is everywhere, but it’s a little less forward in a foreign language.
To see more of Sasha K., pick up Elska Magazine Issue (01) Lviv, available in select shops worldwide or for order at www.elskamagazine.com
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