On Transition, pt. 2 (and Earliest Trans Memories, pt. 6): My Complicated Relationship w/ My Voice

Look! I added a subtitle to my already-cumbersome blog post naming-scheme. Woo!

As of today, I’m about 4.5 months into transition. More people than I can number know that I’m trans at this point, and more people have been told than I know. With only a couple notable exceptions, the response to this has been overwhelming in its positivity. Would that I had started all this sooner, but then, that’s pretty much how that story always goes, huh?

Honestly, transition has actually been pretty fun so far. The changes that just 4.5 months of hormones can have on a person are frankly shocking, but in the best way possible–every day is literally an exciting new adventure. I look 10 years younger, my skin is infinitely better, my mood and self-motivation are off the chart…

And yes, the boobs. Boobs!

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In all of this excitement, however, there are still two things that cause me pretty regular dysphoria. Well, three if you include that ever-shrinking thing between my legs, though I can at least hide that. What I have a harder time hiding? My beard and my voice.

In the case of the former, I can at least theoretically get laser once I can afford it (soon, I hope). Voice, however, cannot be so easily corrected.

Most people who are new to trans issues aren’t aware of how hormones affect the voice, and assume that anyone who starts cross-hormone therapy will naturally “gain” the voice of the gender they are transitioning to. Unfortunately, this is only true for transmasculine individuals, and apparently even that is not a universal fact. That is because testosterone causes the vocal folds (chords) to grow and lengthen during male puberty. This is why boys’ voices drop and crack during this time.

Unfortunately for transwomen, this process is irreversible: once these parts of the vocal tract change in dimension, they remain there. Therefore, transwomen’s voices do not change through hormone therapy alone.

Now, surgery does exist to “shorten” the vocal chords (a speech pathologist would never put it that way, but it helps those of us who don’t specialize in this study), but personally, the idea of that terrifies me. For one, you run the risk of losing your voice completely, or permanently damaging it. For another, I can’t even afford a ~$200 groupon for six session of laser for my face. If I ever have the money for one of the vaunted “trans surgeries”, I can’t imagine choosing voice feminization.

Fortunately, another option does exist: voice training.

Yes, through sheer force of will (and it has to be sheer), those of us who have already gone through male puberty can actually have a completely female-sounding voice. Proof of this can be seen in the following video, where a fellow transwoman demonstrates the difference between her old “male” and her current female voices:

This is one of the most common stressors for transfemme individuals, because it requires an inordinate amount of research and self-study on how human voice is “created”, as well as constant (c o n s t a n t) practice. It requires speaking in what feels like a very “fake” voice, recording yourself, and collapsing under the self-hatred of listening to near-infinite recordings of yourself.

Fortunately, none of this is completely foreign to me. When I was in high school, I (more-or-less concurrently) practiced both feminizing and masculinizing my voice. What can I say? Trans puberty is freaking weird.

I dunno, let’s start with my on-again, off-again relationship with voice feminization.

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The above image, as best I can remember, was the front page of a huge huge PDF file on voice feminization training that I came across when I was 14 or so. A PDF file I not only downloaded, but printed, bound, and hid in my nightstand. A PDF I read inside and out multiple times, causing me (per its recommendation) to forego spicy foods and milk (two of my favorite things) in order to help me not strain as I practiced, well…”finding my female voice”.

I knew at that age that there was still time for me to develop and retain my naturally (yes, post-pubescent) high-pitched voice. I did the exercises frequently when no one was there to hear me. I reveled in the fact that I could have a woman’s voice, even if it was only in secret.

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That was, until I went to Movie World (the local video rental store) with my dad one night, where a clearly-male college-aged clerk was walking around the store, singing in the most beautiful and natural female voice. Seriously, it was incredible, because he presented 100% male, but his singing voice was 100% female, and good. I remember thinking “how do I learn how to do that!” right before my dad commented on it. I don’t remember his exact words now, but they were along the lines of “he had to practice so much to do that; don’t you ever do that”.

And so I didn’t. Instead, when we got home, I buried the manual underneath the rest of the trash in my can, tied the bag, buried the bag in the bottom of the kitchen trash, tied that bag, and buried that bag beneath all the others in the can outside.

Inexplicably, around that same time, I decided that the reason I had been so bullied up to that point was because my voice was so naturally feminine. I don’t remember my voice changing much during puberty, and by the time I was in my early teens, it was the highest voice of any of my male peers. That, combined with a lisp I still carried from early childhood, contributed to what I had reasoned was a “stereotypical gay voice”. I was bullied for being gay, and because I couldn’t figure out why that was, I figured that it was my voice which was to blame.

This, I did not download a PDF for. Instead, I simply sang Johnny Cash until it made sense. It helped that my high school girlfriend went to a church where everyone sang in parts (male-female, bass-tenor, etc.). I thus made it my goal to sing in the bassiest voice in the church while we were dating.

Over the years since, I played back and forth with practicing “male” and “female” voices. I suppose it probably followed the same cycle of self-hatred that caused me to so frequently lurk on trans boards before inevitably purging a search history no one would see anyway.

So what about today?

Well, voice training is terrible. Ask any transwoman. Not because it is actually that difficult, but it is one of the most effective dysphoria mills I have encountered since transitioning, for all the reasons listed above. But I am making progress, slowly but surely. One day, I’d love to be able to make a video like the girl above, but I’m still not quite there.

Anyway, since this is a transition post, I am going to end with some timeline pictures, because holy shit my face is changing and I’m obsessed with comparing selfies from when I first started HRT to today. For the first time in my life, I actually like looking at pictures of myself! ^.^

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“Just Woke Up” with a bit of last night’s makeup in the picture on the right.

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“Sitting on the Toilet at Work”

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At my work desk, now with computer glasses!

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And finally, the evolution of my makeup skills. Still a long way to go, but man I’m happy with how far I’ve come already. The picture on the left was taken the day I started hormones, the picture on the right was right at 4 months. Same outfit in both!

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