What? I Can’t Hear You
By Jude Samson
Our voices. So many slogans and chants and mottoes proclaim for us to “speak up” “speak out” “shout out” and so forth, but in our daily lives far too many of us suppress our voice. That is, we are physically forcing our voices into a quieter range because we’re uncomfortable with how we perceive our voices. We feel we’re not manly or womanly-sounding enough to “pass” with our voices so we’ve developed a defense mechanism or a blending-tactic in an effort to minimize potential attacks or “clocking.” Whether we do this at a conscious or subconscious level doesn’t really matter, the problem is – too many of us do it.
THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE WORLD WILL GO ABOUT THEIR DAY NOT EVEN GIVING A THOUGHT TO HOW THEY SOUND TO OTHERS AROUND THEM.”
The vast majority of the world will go about their day not even giving a thought to how they sound to others around them. We hear ourselves constantly, but it may not be how we sound to others. Ever watch a video where you can hear yourself speaking and think “Holy cow, is that what I sound like?” You sound almost like an entirely different person and there is a scientific reason to this phenomenon (which you can read an interesting explanation about over here). Ultimately, we are never our best judge for what we sound like, so it’s important we realize this immediately before we go beating ourselves up about how we think we sound to others.
Trans guys have the benefit of testosterone in that it does create voice change. For many of us it will start to feel like a tickle similar to a sore throat. You may find yourself trying to “clear” your throat more than usual or feel as though it’s “scruffy” as it starts to deepen. It will, in most cases, act like male puberty wherein your voice will crack and it could take quite a while for the vocal range to finally settle into its natural tonality. This is typically deeper than your original voice, but could vary dramatically from person to person just as it does with cis-men where you could still be at the higher range or you could wind up deep down. Guys can have the option to work with a vocal coach to help deepen their voices further, but overall the HRT will take care of the majority of the work. Trans women, however, are not as lucky as the HRT for them does not naturally alter their voice range. This, in turn, means they have to actively work at and train their voices to reach into higher registers and this could take many years of training and working at it every day all day and being constantly “on guard” with how they may sound.
..IT CAN BE EXTREMELY EMOTIONAL FOR A TRANS PERSON TO HEAR THEIR VOICE OR PERCEIVE HOW THEIR VOICE IS BEING HEARD BY OTHERS..”
While it’s easy to say to a trans person “just speak however it comes out” or “you sound like you sound, deal with it” it can be extremely emotional for a trans person to hear their voice or perceive how their voice is being heard by others. This could be a “dead give-away” to some trans people with a voice that doesn’t “match” them in some way. I, for example, have a much deeper voice now than when I was Pre-T but the manner in which women speak is different than how men speak and therein the combination of the manner of my speech and my deeper voice will often have people assuming I’m a gay male. Take a look at a really insightful documentary about how people (specifically gay men) sound. David Thorpe’s documentary “Do I Sound Gay” can be a great insight into the manner of speech and how that speech is perceived by those around you.
Be that as it may, one of the biggest methods of countering this issue is by speaking in a much lower voice than we may normally speak if we’re in public, around those we’re unsure about or even having a heavily dysphoric day. Whatever the causation, speaking in whispers can be perceived as insecurity, fear and inability to stand up for oneself. Ultimately, we should take to the world, bold in our speech regardless of how we sound, because each one of our voices is important and should be heard. It’s an easy thing to say but when our lives are at very genuine risk, it’s not always as easy to put into action, but I call upon my brothers and sisters to speak with strength, speak with pride and speak with confidence. The more we do, the more we will be not just seen and made visible, but the more we will be heard.