This week, a discussion of voices (as in the noises we make with our mouth--parts). I'm not a speech therapist or voice trainer, but I've got a bit of perspective / experience that I think might be helpful. However, this is more of an overview than any in depth training.
It is meant as a "hey here's what worked for me" as a trans woman. I briefly discuss trans men, but a more in depth coverage will need to happen in a future episode when I can get one or more transmasculine folks to directly speak to issues unique to trans men.
Our web site is www.transgressive.net We can be reached at [email protected] we can be reached on Twitter @transgressive21 and at Facebook at www.facebook.com/transgressive.podcast
I've also been making articles on Medium.com with some of the transcripts from my episodes (though probably not this one as it is so very auditory in nature) - those cam be found at digitalsorceress.medium.com
Today's episode is called trans voices. Now this entire podcast is just Basically designed to be a voice for trans people, but in this particular case, I mean, voices, as in the noises coming out of our face-holes. Today, I'm going to do something I haven't done in over 30 years. Stay tuned. You're listening to Transgressive, a podcast about gender identity, LGBTQ and social justice issues . In case you missed the memo. My name is Tananda and I'm a trans woman. I was assigned male at birth, which means that when I was born, the doctor held me up, looked between my legs and said, "Oh, it's a boy". And it means that I went through male puberty and thus my voice among other things , uh, became irrevocably deepened. There is this sort of popular mythology that if you castrate a male, that their voice will rise. This is utterly false. I think perhaps the source of that myth might be the castrato, which were young boys who were castrated before puberty. They were singers in church choirs and they were castrated to "preserve their angelic young voices". However, as I touched upon in a previous episode, depending on how your body reacts to the testosterone from male puberty, once your voice lowers, that's it, you're never getting it back. There are surgeons who have been working on voice altering surgery for male to female trans people. But as far as I can tell, it is still very hit or miss and not entirely effective. For trans men, they do get some deepening of the voice after going on testosterone, but very often the physical size and characteristics of their voices are mostly set . So while they will get some deepening, it will not be nearly the same as if they had only gone through male puberty. A lot of people I've met in my life and I'm including cis-gender people don't like their voices. They don't like the sound of their own voice when they hear it recorded. This is kind of a natural thing because we don't quite hear ourselves the way the rest of the world hears us. So it's a bit shocking. It's a bit different to hear your own voice coming out of speakers. And of course, the different fidelity of recording can also alter that I myself take several takes on many paragraphs to make sure that I'm sounding the way I want to. What you hear in my podcast is pretty much my everyday speaking voice, but it is again, something that I carefully curate to make sure that I'm sounding my best when I'm talking to you. Another misconception is that it's just the pitch of your voice. This is something a lot of trans women actually kind of have to figure out or be told is that it's not just the pitch of your voice. You can raise the pitch of your voice quite high, but it's also about the timbre ... about where in your body, your voice is actually resonating. And also it's very much about your inflection and your manner of speech. I suppose I should preface this by saying that I am about to talk about some stereotypical traits, gender stereotypes. I know that these stereotypes don't exactly apply to everyone everywhere, but one of the tools that trans women and trans men use to better pass to better fit in as a member of the gender they are presenting as is to learn and understand speech patterns and mannerisms and other things that will allow them to blend in better. I am not making any kind of value judgments on whether people who do or don't do so are more or less valid. I am simply talking about strategies and realities of attempting to make changes to your presentation, to be more in line with the gender you are presenting. Okay. Big disclaimer, out of the way. So, as I was saying, one of the differences between men's and women's speech patterns is that women tend to have more variance in their tone. They will rise and fall sort of a sing song thing. The expression of this will vary from individual to individual. And I'm really only talking about American culture and English speaking in general, because that's where I'm from. And that's what I know. Gosh, these disclaimers are just everywhere. Aren't they? Anyhow, the variation in pitch is seen as a feminine trait. One of the things that I have seen change in the many years since I transitioned is that people now have access to the internet. And there are many videos shared by fellow trans people and also by speech pathologists and speech therapists who provide some really interesting and valuable information and education on the subject of training, your voice. Many of the trans people of my generation just kind of had to learn from each other and from observation and kind of winging it. Timbre is another part of the differences between voices. This is sort of hard to explain, but when you speak, your voice could be coming more from resonating from your chest, or it could be coming more resonating from up higher in your throat. It's a little difficult for me to demonstrate, but I'm going to try, this is me talking more from my chest. You'll notice that my voice is a little lower. Now I'm going to raise it up a little bit to try and not talk from my chest so much. And you'll notice a qualitative difference in those last two sentences, bringing those factors together and trying to find a voice that is comfortable for you to speak in and present is one of the things that you have to do when you transition. Actually, you don't have to, it is perfectly valid for a trans woman to just say, "My voice is my voice, how it is. And I don't care". I always want to take care to emphasize that I'm not saying in any way, what things shouldn't be or how someone should be. This is merely observational based on what I did, what worked for me, the thing is that I know several trans women who are very unhappy with their voices and I've heard people say, "Oh, my voice is too deep. I'm never going to be able to pass. I'm never going to be able to present as female and have people not immediately know I'm trans", and thus what I promised earlier, something I haven't done in over 30 years, I am going to try and show you just what a difference that simple learning in that practicing can do. I'm going to use my old voice. This is actually quite emotionally painful to do it is dysphoria inducing, but here it goes. [Sung Excerpt from Type-O-Negative song, Christian Woman - sung in baritone]. And, and for contrast, here's the next verse as I would sing it today ,: [Mezzo Soprano rendition of a second verse from "Christian Woman"] Any delusions of adequacy when it comes to singing, but it was the only way I could bring myself to do that voice. So I mentioned that it is emotionally painful for me to eve n do that, but what's also interesting is that having worked so hard to make my voice something that worked for me, I also noticed that it is absolutely something that is natural to me now. It is unnatural for me and was unnatural for me to attempt to lower it that way. When I'm tired, I'll drop some of my inflection, but still, it's just a case of it becomes second nature to you. In the last year or so. I developed night terrors and I'm assuming it's stress from pandemic related stuff. But the point is that I interestingly find that when I wake up in the middle of the night screaming, it's not with the old voice I have. So ingrained how I speak that even unconsciously, it's pretty much how I sound. I mentioned this because again, I'm really speaking to my specifically trans sisters who might have difficulty with their voices or difficulty if they're starting out; difficulty believing that they can ever get their voice to something that they feel will be comfortable for them. It is my hope that perhaps this episode will help some folks to see their voices as something they can take charge of and that they can make some positive changes with. Our website is www.transgressive.net. You can reach out to us [email protected] We can also be reached at Twitter @transgressive21. Please consider leaving a five-star review on your favorite podcast platform. I'm Tananda and this was Transgressive.