Friday, October 29, 2010

Speaking to the World

In this unusual journey of Transition I have had to worry about a lot of things regarding the process of changing from one gender to another.

If I showed you a picture pre-transition you would simply be amazed at how an overweight scruffy boy became the girl I am today. There was weight loss, hair removal, hair growth, HRT, and still more that has to be done.

Most of those have just taken time and money. Putting myself through some intense pain or just being diligent in my daily life.

One thing, however, was eluding me.

My voice.

Some people might disagree with this but I am a rather talkative person. When I am comfortable with my surroundings and who I am with I sometimes don't shut up. Though I also love to listen. Often I just want to gather in what others are saying and process it before I actually do say anything.

However with regards to transition I never liked my voice or was very comfortable with it. Which meant I didn't always talk very much. So I often got(and still do) labeled as shy.


Because I was quite terrified that once I opened my mouth any thoughts of who or what I was would instantly be dispelled, confirmed or whatever. I was fearful of the reaction.

The one I was most fearful off was having cis girls suddenly realize how different I was and...well...being shunned because of it.

I felt the acute sting of that a long time ago in middle school as girls stopped including me in things or just treating me as a curiosity and not a friend. Sad, but true. I didn't fit into their dynamic because well I was supposed to be a boy.

Back in present day the problem was changing my voice into something that, while might not be super feminine, was in a range of vocal patterns so that people wouldn't question anything.

So very early on this became one thing I started working on whenever I could. For over two years I tried everything I could to find. Self help CDs, online video guides, general guessing and playing with my voice.

Not one of those seemed to work.

Not a pleasant thought when I started to realize I did indeed needed and wanted to transition.

I was really rather stuck on this issue. Surgery was an option but that certainly wasn't high on my list of things to do. There are enough horror stories out there about this already. The was to be the option of last resort.

Fortunately right around the time I was feeling this frustration I headed down to SCC for a few days in 2009. While there I sat in on a seminar presented by Kathe Perez of Exceptional Voice.

The moment she started teaching some of her techniques I was hooked. Not only did what she taught mesh with things I had learned about speaking in a theater, but they also crossed over into the musical training I had when I was in public school.

It just worked in my head.

The issue was that she lives and works in Colorado, while I was over a thousand miles away in the Midwest. Not exactly conducive to working together.

That is until she mentioned that she was now able to conduct sessions over the internet via Skype software. (Think free video conferencing if you are not familiar with it.)

With that in mind I contacted her shortly after I got back to discuss working with her. Discussed costs, She isn't cheap but she wasn't overly expensive either. I would just need some time to work it into the budget.

Thus in December of 2009 I start her basic six session course, meeting every other week for several weeks.

Almost immediately I loved working with her. The instruction and techniques she taught me were even better then what was hinted at in the seminar.

She is also a wonderful person and very considerate along with amazingly sweet. It just made it a joy working with her.

Even when She was critiquing what I was doing.

This is the one reason I found her help so invaluable. The constructive feedback I received about what I was doing helped massively. Especially so from someone trained to listen to a voice. That and she adjusted what she was teaching me during the course to get me moving further along, She didn't get too advanced but as she discovered how quickly I was picking some things up she challenged me with new things, usually taught in her secondary course.

Taking the information and exercises she gave me at the end of those six session I renewed my practice routine, hardly missing a day, for several months on my own.

When I got in touch with Kathe again after all that work even she was surprised by how I sounded and how much progress I had made. Still I scheduled two session with her in the middle of summer to discuss some issues I was having and to introduce me to some very advanced exercises to help my voice.

I am not kidding when I say she had me doing some vocal gymnastics to improve on what I had already learned and help make my voice more natural.

So here I am ten months later. How have things turned out. Well I will say I am pleased with the amount of change I have heard in my voice. I have several of my friends compliment me on my voice and how natural it sounds. Even my therapist has told me I sound far and away better than I ever did before.

Though I am aware that more practice is needed along with just using it. Plus I still fret over if someone will read me when I open my mouth. Yet when I think back to the cookout and the bonfire and how my voice never got me question. Especially at the latter when MK viewed me as competition even after I had been speaking to her throughout the night. There was even my recent call booking my HRT appointment with the doctors office. When she ma'amed me through the conversation and assumed I was calling on his behalf. Not actually him calling to book it for himself.

I even learned at SCC this year that the more I used it the easier it is for me to just use. I actually had a hard time finding my old voice on the return trip back home that Sunday. It was also great to actually talk to Kathe in person, because she had a lot of good things to say about how I sounded.

Obviously I am doing something right or at least much better then I ever did before. Along with the fact that having someone to work with me rather than trying to guess at it myself made a tremendous difference.

Even if you cannot work with Kathe herself, I do highly recommend working with a speech therapist especially one who is trans friendly and aware.

I know there is room for improvement and that I can't stop practicing it. That was something I learned after SCC this year when illness and other things gave me no time for almost a week to work on anything and I struggled with it once I start working with it again.

It just feels good to know that all the hard work payed off and I am more comfortable speaking to the world.

Maybe now I won't seem as shy. ;)


Jessica Lyn said...

Thanks for posting this, I haven't been having such great luck with the online sources I've found so far.. so I may have to give her a try.

If you're feeling up to it, how about posting a sample of your lovely voice for us all to hear?

Kelli Bennett said...

I just might do that. When I get a chance to sit down and make some new recordings of it, I will see how they come out.

Calie said...

congratulations, Kelli! I totally believe that you have made a major change in your voice. I remember Rebecca's voice when I first met her and it in no way resembles how perfect she sounds now. The voice is so important to a successful transition.

Calie xx