Does your voice have you down?
One of the most difficult prospective events to cover when dressing up to go out is conversation. Say you want to go out on the town and get a bit bold, you decide to peel on your black dress, you break out the 4 inch heels, load up the wristlet, spend 45 minutes minimum on your makeup and hair, then breathe in REALLY deep to collect your courage and let it out in a big, booming, masculine sigh. The thought of chickening out wiggles its way into your brain; you can’t be a knockout with a voice manly enough to knock another person out, right?
There are myriad ways to address your voice concerns; unfortunately they all involve immersion and practice, practice, practice. I will begin by telling you how I brought mine to a comfortable place:
When I began to get serious about addressing my lifestyle in a healthy and constructive manner, I knew that altering my voice was probably going to be the most difficult and gradual change that I would endure, but that it would also be the one thing that would pay off the most. I went in knowing it would be hard, and that I would be working on this 24/7. I started by actively controlling the timbre of my voice. I began by trying to restrict the registers that my voice operated on to the higher and more consistent in tone. This removed much of the bass from my voice. I then began to sing. I found a band that I liked that had an androgynously voiced male singer and another that had a clear as a bell female folk vocalist. I constantly sang along to both artists and first tried to match the voice of the androgynous singer, when I got there I pushed hard to come anywhere near the girl’s beautiful voice when practicing. I never stopped, when I felt comfortable I altered my voice publicly. In 5 months time I sounded nothing like the booming man my voice previously advertised me to be. It was a fun and challenging exercise and my voice is solidly androgynous, with a fairy light speech pattern that (as a friend recently pointed out when she met me for the first time in person) no man would ever dare use in public.
Take a look out into a crowd the next time you are at the mall or at an event, take a look at the women that are there; big, small, short / long hair, old, feminine, androgynous… and try to think about how much of a factor their voice plays in their ability to pass. That’s right, I want you to take a moment and examine whether a natal woman passes on their voice’s merit alone. You will notice something immediately: even if they don’t have a feminine tone, they don’t talk like men. There is a different posture to their voice. There is a deliberation in the way that they talk that is learned through female socialization which does not normally appear in the speech pattern of men. Unfortunately the differences may be highly localized, so I can’t give a great example. Try to study the way women talk in your age group, your occupation, and in your neighborhood. You can learn quite a bit by immersing yourself in these sorts of chunks of female culture.
I have heard of quite a few trans-women considering vocal surgery and I completely understand. They tell me that they want absolutely no chance of slipping due to exhaustion or inebriation. Okay, I’ve heard far worse reasons for things just as drastic. I, personally, can’t bring myself to go under the knife and risk a tracheal collapse in the future (should they have to shove a tube down your throat in an emergency room, for example) if I can achieve similar results through hard work. There are resources around the internet that you can search for that will enable you to hear the voice of women that have had the operation and I was not impressed, not when I’ve heard flawless female voices come from people that were born and assigned male that have never had the surgery.
If you are thinking of developing your female voice to use it only temporarily, you will still have to practice, maybe an hour a day or so. I dove in seeking a permanent change and settled comfortably on a voice that was on the female side of in the middle. It was quite difficult, but it was fun! Plus, I got to sing to a lot of good music.
image credit: Harlequin_Colors