“The voice.” Not the TV singing talent show, but an early episode of Doc Martin, where Doc Martin calls a patient’s possible throat cancer case “the voice.” The patient was a singer composer. I don’t and can’t sing, but my voice has become just as important to me as a singer’s would be to them. As a I can pass on occasion, I have been misgendered by voice. I am soon to start hrt (hormone replacement therapy) if my blood tests check out for an early April follow-up visit to my endocrinologist. This will make me even more passable. So I go through some serious periods of distress or what is called gender dysphoria. In this post I will describe more fully my dysphoria over my voice and what I hope to do about it.
It all started over being called “sir.” Okay maybe not all started, but that is when it finally sunk in. It pains me to admit, but today a have a masculine sounding voice. My girlfriend says there is nothing wrong with my voice, but she has been hearing my voice for over 30 years, and me being a woman is new to her. So, I don’t see her as providing a good measuring stick. Most people I have talked to about it are non-committal in their view of my voice. I believe it is out of politeness, however, and so I can’t place much value in their approaches either. Is there anyone I can trust to be honest about the sound of my voice? Yes, but I haven’t gotten that far yet in this post.
It is hard to relate how it feels for me to be misgendered because of my voice. In comparison to being misgendered because of looks it is far worse for some reason. I think the answer is that I sometimes pass based on my presentation, but then I have to speak, and it is a blaring announcement that I may not be the woman I feel myself to be to others. It is such a sinking feeling going from being called ma’am, and then after speaking it switches to sir. I politely correct them, but it still continues.† So, my voice is problematic when interacting with those people that do not know that I am a transgender woman. For these people I want to be perceived as a woman, whether as a ciswoman or a transwoman; it does not matter to me. Of course, the latter view of me assumes that the person knows what transgender persons are.
Okay, so my interactions with others is problematic, but so is my interactions with myself. I have become ever more conscious of my voice, and how it does not match my gender—female; it sounds masculine. Sometimes it even disgusts me, and I definitely am dysphoric about it at times too. This internal mismatch is perhaps the worst part of my voice thing. Some people do not understand my dissatisfaction with my voice. What’s the big dif? Many woman have masculine sounding voices, but they’re still seen as women (I would add that sometimes they are misgendered too). And, there are many with an androgynous sounding voice. All this doesn’t matter to me because I don’t want those voices— I want a feminine voice. A voice that matches my internal sense of self as a woman.
But, I don’t plan to just settle on having a masculine voice. There is what is called voice feminization training. This can be done in a manner of ways. There are apps and youtubes that claim to work (I have know idea how effective they are); there are online therapists and coaches, and there are speech therapist one sees in person. However, accept for some apps and youtubes, they all cost—cost a good deal. This can range from what I have seen from $120 to $200 or there abouts. But there is a way of getting free training. Some universities offer free services by having you work with a graduate speech therapy student, supervised by a professor in speech therapy.
This last choice is what I have chosen, and what I have started to do.‡
† I have written about correcting those that call me sir in I am Not a Sir.
‡ This has now been interrupted because of the coronavirus until the summer sesmester starts.