November 11, 2014

The Voice Problem

Even now, so many months into my “full time” transition, I’m conflicted about what I should do about my voice.

Here’s the thing: I use my voice in my work A LOT. Heck, I’ve been recording podcasts with it! But while I function just fine in life with the voice I have, I know it’s also a significant tell (along with my laundry list of other tells in everyday life) when I meet people for the first time, a significant challenge to their perception of me as a woman. I always get “sir’d” on the phone. One listener called me an “obvious tranny” when they heard my first Skeptoid episode; honestly I wonder how many people pay no attention to the voice at the beginning and just assume they’re listening to a man. I think my voice even plays a part in why friends who interact with me on a weekly basis will sometimes say “him” when referring to me in the third person.

Not to mention that the voice is such a difficult part of the transition process. Vocal training is … well, it just feels ridiculous to be sitting in front of a laptop going “HEEEEEEEEE, HOOOOOOOOOO, HAAAAAAAAAA” while tightening your throat and then watching a recording of you making all these tight, funny faces while you fail to sound even remotely feminine. I’ve expressed this to my therapist, who has told me that she hears similar complaints all the time from trans women. It’s tedious and it makes the throat hurt.

With hormones, at least I know that, by popping those little blue pills everyday, I’m setting something in motion. With my voice, I have to spend thirty to sixty minutes a day doing something goofy, and with no guarantee of any changes when I’m done. So far, I just end up dropping back into more comfortable speaking patterns after every session.

And part of me feels like I’m reaching for an impossible goal anyway. What’s the point of sounding feminine? To blend, right? Well, I am not one of the lucky ones when it comes to look and build. I’m always going to be read anyway. Why put myself through the struggle of getting my voice to sound half-feminine when I’m going to give myself away long before I open my mouth?

Besides, I like my voice. I have trained my voice to be very expressive over the years and capable of a wide range of pitches and volumes. When I get in front of a classroom I *need* to be interesting, lest I come off as Ben Stein. A skilled speaking approach can liven up even boring material. Do I want to give up one of the teacher’s most valuable tools in favor of a half-assed falsetto?

I’m conflicted, is what I’m saying. I think that at some point I *do* need to make the effort, if only because it’s something I can change. Can’t change being 6’4″, can’t change the broad shoulders, the big hands, the complete lack of hips; but I can give the world one less thing to judge.

No Comments

  • Your voice is engaging and expressive, especially when speaking about a topic you are passionate about. I thought teachers just needed to be LOUD; so it never occurred to me you had to “train” your voice. Maybe I am missing the big picture; but trading your voice (a gift earned through hard work I am sure) away to lessen a strangers’ judgment seems like a poor exchange. Everyone is always going to be judged about something, and most harshly by strangers. Do not let these strangers influence your speed or direction; as you travel the path right for you. You know best if/when it is time for a change.

    • ” Maybe I am missing the big picture; but trading your voice (a gift earned through hard work I am sure) away to lessen a strangers’ judgment seems like a poor exchange.”

      Thank you for that. Honestly, sometimes I just get so overanalytical about these things that I loose sight of the more straightforward truth of the matter. Very well put. 🙂

  • As I recall from the gaming table, your falsetto isn’t half-assed. I could tell you were making an honest effort and not playing for laughs. If your range has crept up at all, you’re probably getting there more than you think.

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