One of the most obvious parts of FTM transition is the voice change. To me, it’s one of the clearest signs that the testosterone is doing its thing, and as such, is quite comforting, in a way. My voice started changing on the very first day I took T – it became hoarse and uncomfortable –  which shocked me by the speed at which my body was responding, but delighted me too – it WORKS!

I was fully prepared for the changes to my voice, or so I thought. I’d done my reading, spoken to other people like me, and so on. I knew that the voice would not drop smoothly and I was aware that the most likely pattern would be sore throat, drop, sore throat, drop, until hopefully my voice reaches a suitably masculine pitch after several months.

I was wrong. My voice does get sore before going a bit deeper, but then pretty much stays croaky and uncomfortable before the next stage of the process. I sound like I permanently need a throat sweet. I had, with the benefit of hindsight, been warned. I read the memoir of a transman in which he describes a woman he worked with asking him constantly about his croaky voice, and him fobbing her off with ‘oh, it’s just a bit of a throat infection’. Apparently, by the end of nearly a year, she was practically dragging him along to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. When I read this, I thought it was odd that his throat seemed ‘off’ all the time, as I was convinced there would be ‘good bits’ in between the drops.

My throat and voice feel ‘off’ all the time now, and I’m always clearing my throat (witness all the coughing on my videos!). The trouble I find when my throat gets really painful (and it hurts like hell at the moment – hence the inspiration for this post!) is that although my conscious mind think ‘it’s ok, my voice is just about to get deeper again’, my subconscious mind think ‘aaaargh! I’m ill’. It’s very difficult not to feel ‘ill’ with a really sore throat, cos quite important bits of my brain only know that pain=poorly. So I feel quite low, physically and mentally, with my brain constantly trying to get me to stop what I’m doing and rest up, so I can get better. Except that I’m actually fine, so there’s a lot of mind over matter, or even mind over mind going on!

Back to my actual voice. Those of you who’ve known me for a while will attest to the fact that I had a pretty high voice before starting hormone therapy. The very first video on my YouTube channel was made after 4 days on testosterone, and even with the accompanying slight gravel (yes, really, this is my voice showing signs already) you can hear how high pitched I used to be. Now my voice is still solidly within ‘female’ range, but I sound a bit like I’m speaking through a vocoder at times.

The trouble is, I’ve lost my very ‘top end’, but not yet gained a real ‘low end’. I thought, wrongly, that my voice transition would go from high to low. Nope. I occasionally sound low (though fuzzy), with squeaks and slides. It’s almost impossible to keep talking at just one pitch. When I forget about it, my voice just goes everywhere, and I just sound like a crazed woman who’s been smoking 50 a day for her whole life.

Talking on the phone to people who don’t know me is hard, as there is no way my voice sounds male, even though I’ve given them a male name. Problems come up all the time with telephone banking, ringing the barber for an appointment, doctor, you name it. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do except put up with the sore throats and be patient.

I love singing, but cannot sing at the moment. I used to love doing karaoke, but that’s a no-no just now. I went to a pub recently where they had a karaoke, and a new friend was trying to persuade me to sing. I said I couldn’t, and she took that to mean that I had a bad singing voice and didn’t want to look silly. ‘It’s ok’, she said, ‘you can’t be THAT bad’. No, I really can’t sing. It’s physically impossible. I wouldn’t just not hit the notes, I wouldn’t be making even the right sounds. If anything came out at all in some places. That brings me down, even though it’s superficial and hopefully only short-term. I miss my singing voice.

It has been suggested to me that whilst in this stage where voice-control is up the spout that voice training would be helpful. A lot of transwomen spend time training their voices to sound natural at a higher pitch, and I believe it can be very successful. As a transman, I am fortunate in that whatever I do with my voice, it WILL end up lower. Testosterone thickens the vocal cords, so the voice has no choice, really, but to head South, albeit bumpily, and with little control.

‘Trying’ to sound like a man is something I’m wary of, as I don’t want to seem like a stereotypical ‘wannabe man’ pitching my voice really low, but there’s probably something to be gained from at least thinking about what I’m doing with my voice, until it’s finally decided where it’s going. Until then, Strepsils and positive thinking!

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