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Older transwoman. Should I get voice surgery?


Penny Patton

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I just starting on the road to transitioning and have been watching a lot of videos about voice feminization. I've begun doing the exercises they recommend. I've been doing this since December. At the moment I'm considering voice surgery as a "last resort" if I don't get satisfactory results from coaching and practice. However, I'm not getting any younger, I'm already 43, and I've heard it can take years for the coaching route and I'm concerned I won't have my true voice until I'm in my 50's.

 

I'm not opposed to voice surgery, but I've heard the results aren't always good and I'm concerned if I go that route and don't like the results, I'll have lost the option to get there through voice coaching. Am I worried about nothing? Should I take the plunge once it's available to me (And how long into HRT would I have to wait before they'd let me?) so I can enjoy life as a woman to the fullest while I still relatively young? I'd love to hear your advice and experiences about this.

 

Thank you!

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I don't really have any advice for you.  My experience was with a voice therapist. 

 

After a few sessions, we established that I could not get my voice into the "approved" female range without damaging my vocal cords.  I needed to raise it a full octave, and it was obviously not happening.

 

I was able to comfortably raise the pitch by half an octave, which was better than nothing.  The more useful aspect of the voice therapy was learning to add more feminine inflection to my voice.  For example, the male tendency is for the pitch to drop at the end of a sentence.  The female tendency is for the pitch to stay steady or even rise at the end of a sentence.  So learning not to let my voice drop was valuable.

 

I did about half a dozen sessions with the speech therapist.

 

I decided early on not to have vocal surgery, for several reasons.  There was the cost, of course.  Also, while the surgery can raise the pitch, it cannot alter the resonances of the larynx and sinuses.  If those resonances happen to sound very male, raising the pitch will not change that.  And, of all the surgeries that trans folks consider, vocal surgery has the lowest success rate.  I have heard the results when it does not go well: it can sound pretty bad.

 

I am not trying to scare you off.  Most often, the results are good.  I am just explaining my reasons for rejecting it.

 

In the end, I decided to accept the limited results of the vocal therapy.  My voice is the feature most likely to "out" me, and I get "sir-ed" on the phone a lot.  C'est la vie.  I am a trans woman and I make no apology for that.  I am not trying to be stealth.

 

I started my transition at age 62.  I am 67 now, and pretty much done transitioning.

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1 minute ago, KathyLauren said:

I am a trans woman and I make no apology for that.  I am not trying to be stealth.

I feel the same way, @KathyLauren. If I focus and take time to form my thought before speaking, I can do reasonably well. But, if someone notices - it is what it is.

 

I've noticed a few cis-women, whom as they've aged, have experienced a deepening of their voices, and it doesn't seem to bother them - and it DEFINITELY doesn't bother me...LOL!

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  • Forum Moderator

Kathy is right, this surgery has a low success rate.  Add to that you still need to have voice therapy to train your new voice.  Everything I've read and heard says its not a slam-dunk.   Save your money.  Work on your pitch, inflection and cadence.  You will be fine.

 

PS: At 43 you are not old! 

 

Jani

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  • Forum Moderator

What Jani said. I didn't start voice training until I was 48. My voice is fine and higher pitch than some of my cis-female friends. It's all good.

 

Resonance and cadence matters more than pitch anyway. Anybody can do cadence and resonance.

 

Hugs!

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Yeah, this is a tough one to swallow for me too. I agree with the above. I have a deep voice. It sucks, but I'm stuck with it. I'm 69 yrs old, and retired. I don't have the money for the surgery anyway. The next time around hopefully the universe will get it right. 

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  • Admin

74 now, 63 when I came out full time.  My throat went through torture from Mononucleosis at 25, and that was enough for me as to my goals for more than dental work.  I just got done editing a video I made of my Chorus yesterday.  Our Executive Director is a Trans  woman who is 18 months older than I am, but she is attractive and acceptable AND she is PROUD of her very strong and pleasant Baritone, and we have one early 40's chemistry professor, almost glamorous who gets an octave below her.  Neither one has been given trouble for their voices. They are just very pleasant women to be around.  What they do have going for them is that both have feminine speech patterns and body language.  Feminine speech is much more varied in tone and word choice that we were used to in male situations.  Feminine faces are more animated than male voices.  Males tend to be combative even in ordinary and friendly speech.  Women approach each other as equals and friends who are not competing.  My suggestion to help your voices is going to be taking up singing with a group that will take you where you are and work with you.  My speaking voice is low Tenor to higher Tenor depending on the actual conversation.  You might also look up Toastmasters Intl. and join the female gettogethers  with them.  They will help you get confidence on speaking as you, even with the voice you do not think fits you right now.  So many fun ways  to handle the voice situation without surgery.

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  • Admin

Penny, when I transitioned I was 55, and practices with the help of a CD.  My voice wasn't especially deep, but I almost always got "sir'd" on the phone.  Over time, and with practice, especially on cadence and resonance, my feminine voice developed.  Unless I'm having a long conversation I can use my female voice effectively, and rarely get "sir'd" on the phone.  But after, say 10-15 minutes, it gets tiring to keep up the voice, and it will drop a bit.  But as others have said, it is the things you can successfully work on, and when face to face, the expressions, body language, and smile that convince people they're talking to a woman.  I wish you luck!

 

Carolyn Marie

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That's what I noticed about how the male way of speaking is conclusion-based, dictatorial and one-sided, women is more dialogue and exchange. I think it really is the archetypal mars/venus, attraction and repulsion energies. 

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Hey Penny

Yeah i did the surgery and it did not make a bit of difference.

I had to VT with a coach for over 2yrs. She actually was impressed enough with my voice to end our training 

However, I still get sir on phone and my voice always gives me away at social gatherings even with R/C and my fem traits.

Then again, I stop work on it. Cuz it really was screwing with my Dysphoria,

sorry I am not much help. 

I can tell this..I known plenty of TG whom had successful surgeries .

Good Luck 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I echo what has been said, the success rate it extremely low. I was born with a more feminine voice, but still had to work on how I speak as to have more feminine speech. 
 

 

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  • 5 months later...

Hi. I recently had voice feminization surgery with Dr. Haben in Rochester, NY. There's another thread with a woman who wasn't so happy with the results, so check out that discussion, too. I agree with what most of the people above said. This surgery is probably one of the riskier ones, but I really wanted to have it done. I'm only about a month and a half post-op, so I still have a couple of months (or more) before I can really judge the results. I'm quite satisfied with the results, however. My pitch is noticeably higher and that's what I was aiming for. My voice is still a bit weak, but I only just started talking, so I feel confident that that will improve. I thought Dr. Haben did a good job. If you decide to get this surgery make sure you have plenty of time to recover. Good luck with whatever you decided. 

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