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Fear of never having a passable voice

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This is one of the things that gives me pause when it comes to going forward with transition.  I'm so fearful I'll never achieve a passable feminine voice, and it will continue to haunt me in every aspect of life, from job interviews to dating and everything in between.  I've seen all the youtube videos, I've practiced in my car, I've recorded myself and then listened to the playback, etc etc etc.  Nothing has worked.  Not even a little bit.


For those of you that have a passable voice, I assume you once felt like this.  How did overcome what seems like an impossible hurdle?  How did you go from feeling hopeless about it, to suddenly making progress?  I assume the answer will be "practice", but I've already tried that over and over.  And then tried some more after that....still nothing.  No matter what I do, I always sound like a grown-ass man trying to talk to a dog.

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For what it is worth, I have the same fears and anxieties. Have you actually tried speech therapy with a speech therapist and not a YouTube or online tutorial? My understanding is that the speech therapy does help a great deal, especially when paired with the voice feminization surgery. That, and countless hours of practice. I am not sure that there are not more techniques yet to be developed to surgically alter our speech apparatus. With more and more large university programs drawing from multiple disciplines, I suspect there will be some new developments. That may be wishful thinking, but the programs at the large university hospitals have ENT as well as other surgical specialties. Now that there is a greater demand for services and more patients will have funding sources, I think the improvements in technique will occur. At least we can hope. 


Hang in there. Rome was not built in a day. Good luck!

Sincerely Katie

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I wish i could find a couple of posts here that I have made in the past on this one. BUT:


You can have a "Passable" (I detest the term) voice and be a low baritone in pitch, so do not give up hope.  I know, some people want my neck for saying that, but it is true.  Women have speech patterns and even topic of conversation patterns that are different because of how they have been trained in "their space" by their peers.  I am a low Tenor and never have problems with people accepting me (much better term) for who I am.  One way that works very well, is just to listen to how women speak to each other.  Their conversations have more "color" to them than men's do, and more tonality.  Hello for a male is a single gruff tone.  For a woman it is two tones "Hel-lo".  Another place is in describing ordinary things: to a male a suit is "Brown" for a woman, it will be tan, fawn, wheat, camel or other colors, but not a plain old brown.  A person teaching me, had me write down at least five variations of every basic color, pink has so many variations in female talk. 


Another thing might be to see about joining one of the Gay / Lesbian Choruses in your area, and learn to sing which is a good and fun thing to do.  The choruses will readily accept your if they are like the ones where I live.  There are even Transgender choruses developing across the country. 


Female dialog -- go to your local library and go into the drama and theater books and check out one or two scripts with a lot of female dialog, and then read it aloud either alone, or to your pet, or maybe a live human. 


All of that will help you in your going forward, but as I said, my voice is on the deeper side of woman and is not foolproof on the phone, but a salesman can go piss in his own coffee as far as I am concerned and I have some funny stories from it for another time.

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Thanks for sharing. I feel the same way. Very frustrating. I’ve done online private classes with a voice coach but still haven’t seen much progress. I’m looking into surgery, but that isn’t as promising for older transgender women, so I’m kind of at a loss. Hang in there. Sorry I don’t have any good advice. Just want you to know that I share your frustration.

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I think for some, voice comes far easier than for others due to how we’re built. But most of it is technique. It’s mostly not about the pitch, rather how you produce the sound. In “male mode” I’ve been mistaken for female on the phone many times…and it was unintentional. Yet, I feel even in “female mode” I am not sounding consistently exactly like I want to. If you are just starting out….bear in mind it’s going to take time. Perhaps a year or more of practice to do it without thinking about it and consistently.

A thing to keep in mind is that there are muscles that need to be trained. So, just like with any muscles you need to start off slowly and increase the practice time, and in time you’ll be able to do girl voice better and for longer periods. Practice, experimentation, and exercise. Have fun with it and play around with pitch and quality until you find where you think you sound best. Try imitations, cartoon voices…stretch the muscles. I did this when alone, to avoid embarrassment, using digital recording for instant feedback. You will probably want to erase most of those most likely, as I sure did. Then one day you’ll be like….”there!” And then you’ll lose it again and wonder how you did it, but you’ll find it again. And in time the muscle memory will develop and it’ll become more natural and consistent. I have never had a voice coach personally, but if you can afford it, coaching may help.


I am a musician who had done singing as a male in a band but had to start from scratch singing as female. I never thought I would be able to sing. But, I’m getting there. Singing has improved my speaking voice too. Determination and a lot of practice….don’t give up, you can do it! 

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I went to a speech therapist for a while.  She measured my vocal pitch and determined that I needed to raise it by a full octave to achieve the "standard female range" quoted by all the textbooks.  I tried, but after a couple of sessions, it was obvious to both of us that I could not do it without damaging my vocal cords.  So I stopped trying for the full octave and settled for half an octave, which I could manage comfortably.  I made it a habit to try to keep my pitch up, and it is now pretty much second nature.  I can still hit my old male range if I try, but I have no reason to.


So I have a deep voice.  I used to be a baritone.  Now I am a contralto.  People can deal with it.  They'd better!


More important, I learned from the speech therapist, is controlling the pitch inflections: how your voice rises and falls during a sentence.  I learned that, as a male, I would habitually drop my pitch at the end of a sentence.  That is a very male habit, and I worked hard to break the habit.  I don't raise my voice at the end of a sentence as though I were asking a question (I don't want to sound too blonde), but I don't let it drop, either.  I let my voice rise and fall as I speak.  It feels natural now.


My choice of words has changed, too.  I will use more expressive words, like beautiful, gorgeous or pretty, instead of the male catch-all "nice".


So, my voice could be mistaken for a male voice, but it seldom is, except on the phone.  If someone has an issue with it, my attitude is, "Deal with it, suckers."  Not my problem.

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First: stop worrying about passing. Unless you have started transitioning around puberty, you will probably not pass 100% of the time. So what!  Don't let that stop you or slow you down.  Passing is over rated in my opinion. I to was worried about it. It hurt every time someone "mis-gendered" me.  I realized that if I constantly worried about and worked towards being a "cis-woman" my life would be miserable.  I am a Transgender woman! I accept that, I am happy with that. I can live my life socially, and as I finish the medical side of things, physically as the woman I've always wanted and felt I should be.  My recent FFS will probably cut down on the misgendering as the BA did when I got that.  However, I got those to help me "see" the real me and not the old me trapped in a male bodysuit. It's not for others to "see" me as a cis woman. 

As for voice. I've tried and failed to change my voice to be "passable". even when I focus really hard and change my voice from it's "normal" pattern I still get misgendered on the phone.  I haven't truly put the time and effort into it though. But once I shifted my perspective I didn't care as much.  I plan on working on it more, but probably not hard core until all my surgeries are done and it can be my only focus. It is hard work. It requires energy and focus and I don't have that right now with all the other transition related stuff going on. AND THAT"S OK! 

Keep working on it, but don't obsess or become pathological about it. Find a bunch of girlfriends and just hang out with them and be yourself.  Time and exposure will help you form the patterns of speech and you will enjoy yourself so much more not worrying about it and having a supportive female social circle.  After all that, if it still really bothers you and you can't get your pitch up go have your chords shortened.  You won't be able to talk for months and there's a risk you end up with a real raspy voice though.  If you haven't changed your patterns and vocabulary you will just sound like a higher pitched male though. 

Another route to go is a voice coach that works with actors and singers.  They help you expand your range, tone, cadence etc.  They help you in developing the muscle awareness and skills to change your voice.  Downside to them is $$.  


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I begin voice therapy next week not to change my pitch, but to change the way I speak. Right now I just try to relax and I like to try and be more melodic when I’m in a conversation which is fun and liberating. Luckily I don’t have a deep voice.

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12 hours ago, Erica Gabriel said:

not to change my pitch, but to change the way I speak.


@jkm This is good.  Women's voices come in all ranges.  Learning how to talk is very important.  Don't draw words out like the "Valley Girl" (cue Frank Zappa) which is an exaggeration but try to lose that male monotone.  Listen to others and you'll hear what I'm writing about.  



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I was sent to a speech therapist because of the vocal spasms I was having.  Turns out this particular therapist also worked with their mtf patients.  So we worked on it.  Turns out I was able to get my voice up to within the low female register.  Mostly it was a lot of relaxation practice.  Look up straw speech therapy.  

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One of the promising things on the horizon is that more and more speech language pathology programs are having their students learn and provide speech therapy in school. There is a much greater awareness of the need for speech therapy. There will be greater availability, and there are more Ear, Nose, and Throat academic programs offering surgical options for voice feminization. I have great faith that this will spur on more research into speech related procedures. There has been a paucity of research to date. I believe the future will bring us more options. 




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  • 3 weeks later...

So much good advice! This is one of my many seemingly impossible hurdles. Yes, I have a vocal coach, and, yes, I practice. But it is so hard to imagine that I will achieve a naturally feminine sounding voice.


I just have to keep at it! I also think I will record myself so I can play back the same phrase from previous weeks & months to hear my progress. As an avid amateur classical guitarist, I have experienced how slow improvement in technique and tone can be. Recordings have really helped me recognize improvement that is imperceptible week to week.


I love the suggestion of reading dialogues from scripts to practice phrasing. That is a wonderful suggestion!  


Last bit not least. I have to just start using what I have learned all the time and not worry about what others think. There are not enough hours in the day to practice only in private. Also, as in playing an instrument, practicing in private is entirely different than playing in public! 

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2 hours ago, Saoirse 2 said:

Last bit not least. I have to just start using what I have learned all the time and not worry about what others think.


This is the ultimate WISDOM of all of it!!  Quit worrying and LIVE.

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2 hours ago, VickySGV said:

This is the ultimate WISDOM of all of it!!  Quit worrying and LIVE.

It took me years to do this but after all it has been well worth the effort.  I once worried about my voice but today it's just me.  As one friend, who is also a speech therapist, says...."Women come in all ranges, you have the voice of a smoker".  While true i'm fortunate to have licked that habit.





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