Voice Training

My voice made me uncomfortable in the early part of my transition. After your nose and jaw, your voice is the cue that most people use to determine gender, and my voice was deep and not at all passable. Now passing doesn't seem like a big deal to many non trans-folk, but being able to pass successfully saves transgender people, especially trans-women, lots of harassment and discrimination. I anguished over my masculine voice in the first couple of years, and I thought it was a pipe dream to try changing it, something that scam artists sold to desperate trans-women. I was very wrong.

I have been working with a voice coach who specializes in transgender voice training for a little over two months. My voice is now starting to become passable. Of course, it's never going to be Julie Andrews, but it's starting to sound ambiguous enough that it's not going to cause someone to immediately misgender me. The training consists of projecting your voice up into the nasal mask area, thus preventing the lower tones to resonate in your throat, chest, and head.

It takes a lot of work, but the hardest part was dissociating myself from my older vocal patterns. After decades of living with my own voice in my head, my identity had become intertwined with it, and I stressed that my new voice was something fake or put on. But speech is a behavior, one that is learned as much as anything, and that tip from my coach helped me dissociate from the old voice and enjoy learning a new speech pattern. The change has been so gradual that most of my colleagues haven't noticed the change (the ones I asked were surprised that my voice was different). 

If our speech patterns are so pliable, how deeply ingrained is gender performance? How much of gender can possibly be genetic? I suppose like all things, it is a complex tapestry of the strands of agency, environment, and genetics. It is easy for those who have never struggled with their own gender identity to propose simple explanations, but for me, and I think anyone who is transgender or queer, each day is lived at the intersection of these three strands.