Yup, I’m going to talk about this today as it’s a question I’ve been asked a lot by people at work and friends who’ve known me for years for a while now and have noticed how much my voice has changed since I started my transition. Questions along the lines of ‘How do you change your voice?’ and ‘Is that something the hormones do?’ If only it was that easy. For transmen, yes, hormones do change your voice as they alter vocal chords and produces an Adams Apple, but for transwomen, no, unfortunately. Unless you’re lucky testosterone’s long since left it’s mark there along with the dratted, hard to hide Adam’s Apple. No, vocal feminisation is one of those things where it’s all down to hard work, practice and finding something that works for you. There’s no magic pill for that one. I am aware there’s procedures such as tracheal shaving but as I really don’t know much about that I’m not going to go into it.
Now there’s a million and one videos floating around on Youtube with various ways and exercises for feminising your yoice, some which may work, some which might not. I’ve had a nose around and looked at a few but got a little irritated that so many of them that if I followed I’d end up with a rather American accent, and I’m reasonably fond of the one I have right now thanks. I will post a link at the end of this to one video I found recently because a lot of what was on there was stuff I’ve been doing myself for some while now and might be useful to some of you.
So anyway, I know I’ve briefly discussed how I’ve got my voice to where it is now (and some of you have heard it as I’ve taken to posting videos of Max and her antics recently) but here I can go into more depth. For me anyway, the key to feminising my voice lay with many years of singing to myself at home and while out with friends. It’s no secret that Bruce Dickinson is one of my favourite singers, nor is it a secret that I can pretty well match him note for note, particularly his higher register, aside from that scream we hear on Number of the Beast. When singing with friends in places such as round the camp fire at re-enactment events if I could sing whatever we were singing in a higher key I’d do it. I loved being able to sing high and keep up with some of the female singers we had at the time, though back then I didn’t know why this made me feel happy.
One quirk of my singing voice was there’s always been a bit of a dead patch mid range, between my high and lower register that I’ve never been able to do much about and made switching from one to another difficult and when singing to myself my voice would naturally prefer to drift to my high side and stay there. As it turns out this little annoyance would later come in handy.
So anyway, I began coming out to everyone and one of the first things I thought about was what to do with my voice as what I had then would be a dead give-away. My singing voice I settled on very quickly. Softening the tone and adding a bit of breathiness to my notes came very naturally and this began to transfer over to my speaking voice in time once I got that to a pitch I felt happy with. When going out and about I found I could pitch my speaking voice up quite high, which surprised Richard at first and managing short sentences for social interactions such as paying for stuff in shops became quite easy to do.
Keeping that voice up full time after 30 years of doing something else took a little while though. I’d do these signing and humming exercises at home. This wasn’t anything I’d read about, something I came up with myself. Just a few notes hummed at the sort of pitch I wanted to talk at a couple of times a day just to give my voice a reminder of pitch and resonance, and I found this helped. I suppose it’s a bit like a singer singing scales to warm the voice up before a performance. With time and practice I was able to talk for longer in my new voice, though it became tiring at first.
Then one day I got up and decided I’d push myself and go all day using my new voice. This was also a day when I had a horrible head cold and sore throat. I’m not sure how but I managed to keep my voice where I wanted it all day and this was when I was also doing a 15 hour shift at work too. I soon figured if I could keep my voice composed in those conditions I could do it all the time. A couple of days later I went to an induction day at the Charing X GIC where in among other things transition related, vocal feminisation was talked about and I learned about the importance of resonance, and how men talked from their chest resonance wise and women talked from their head, so it’s literally a case of getting things off of my chest, if I wasn’t doing that already. Cue me occasionally resting a hand on the base of my neck when talking or singing just to feel where I was resonating over the next couple of weeks.
Now in various videos you see the women talking and deciding to compare with how they used to sound by lowering their voice to what it was. This is something I can’t do, and frankly have no intention of doing. Going back to that so called dead spot in my range I mentioned earlier, it’s as if a barrier’s formed or a mental block. It’s the only way I can describe it. I can think about my old voice but I can’t physically bring myself to try and use it and to be honest, I’m quite happy about this. True, it’s meant giving up half my singing range, but as I preferred my higher range and struggled with low notes I’m not missing much aside from the ability to sing to Rammstein, though be honest singing that two or three octaves above Till Lindemann’s register would sound daft anyway I imagine.
What I’m now working on is projecting my voice as Richard’s often complained I’m mouse quiet when at home while my voice was getting used to doing what it does now. Strangely when I’m at work I don’t have this problem so I’m having to frequently remind myself to turn the volume up and project more at home. Richard once remarked my voice is fine when I have headphones on, nice and feminine and nice and loud for him to hear. Again I’ve been using singing to help as I’m getting some power back into my voice and help with things and it’s getting there and I can talk quite loudly while keeping everything where I want it to be because of this.
I’m also having to think about my breathing more as I find I can keep my voice stable and loud if I’ve got a full set of lungs. Again, this is all trial and error and what works for me won’t work for anyone. Over time Richard has commented this is less of an issue now though to be fair on him, he has hearing issues and there’s certain frequencies he really doesn’t pick up so it’s possible my new voice is straying into one of those patches he can’t hear too well and this is something he’s said himself.
The other thing that’s ongoing is enunciation as I’ve noticed this had gone downhill since changing my voice at first. That’s the ability to articulate your words clearly instead of everything being a mumbled blur. This isn’t the first time this has happened as I’m aware I’ve had speech therapy for this when I was a kid. Again it’s an ongoing thing I have to remind myself frequently to do this while talking though according to Richard I’m not doing too badly with this and I’m not dropping syllables when I speak. For him as someone who has trouble hearing this makes the difference between being able to guess what bits he hasn’t heard correctly or not. Feel free to insert some witty joke about my voice passing here.
All in all to get to here I am now has taken several months and I’m still working on things. Weather this would have taken less time if I waited till I saw a voice coach I don’t know, but that’s the the problem. I’m not waiting a year for the GIC and getting access to a voice coach. I’ve decided that anything I can get done myself transition wise I will do.
Anyway, that’s about all I have to say on this matter though if anyone has any questions feel free to ask and I’ll do my best to answer them. Meanwhile, here’s that video I promised. I’ve had this up on Twitter before so some of you may have seen it.