Phone call, today.
“Hi, this is Tanya.”
“Oh. I thought you were a woman.”
“I am a woman. I’m a trans girl.”
* * *
As time goes by, many of the trans girls I mentor gradually look better and better, as well as more and more feminized — but voice feminization tends to lag far behind. That’s the case with me too. I no longer look like Rambo …
… but nowadays I wish that I’d started retraining my voice years prior and with much more commitment. I used to be called “ma’am” until puberty came along. After that … well, here’s an example. When I was a teenager, post-puberty, I called a girl on whom I had a crush. Her dad answered, then handed her the phone and said: “it’s that guy with the deeeeep voice.” Ouch. So, yeah, it’s been an uphill battle for me.
One of my businesses sells used auto parts, including for the 1980s BMW 3-series. I like to make sure that what I sell is good, so before I sold a power antenna to a gentleman in Texas, I tested it personally. Yes, it works: apply power, and it extends. Remove it, and it retracts.
I tend to work late (as in REALLY late) so last night I got to bed around 5 a.m. and so mid-morning, I didn’t see the gentleman’s email or hear his text message or get his call, saying, essentially: “yes, the antenna works but not well enough. It doesn’t extend far enough.” He wasn’t happy.
So when I woke up around noon, I saw what had happened. Normally I prefer email since I dislike how my voice sounds but I figured I’d better call him pronto, and the conversation started as described above.
This is a genuinely nice gentleman, so the reflection is on me. I know that.
After he’d processed the “I’m a trans girl” information, he responded with “that’s cool, man.” He explained that he’s from New York, he’s open-minded and whatever people want to be is fine with him. All in all, I wish everyone on the planet were as nice. Even so, the problem with his premises are:
1. I’m a girl, not a guy
2. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to be a trans girl. I woke up one morning and realized I’ve been a trans girl all along.
Anyway … those are cultural problems for another day.
I’ve spent enough time in guy culture to know that from then on, he classified me as a guy, and the conversational style went along accordingly, from his half of the dialog anyway. I left it at that. If I wanna be treated like a girl, it seems to me that my best recourse is to sound like a girl.
This is no small change, for me. For the first 1,000 years of my life, or so it feels anyway, I always felt inadequate in the guy culture that I was told I should assimilate with. I think like a girl, and I never could think like a guy and fit in. I always wondered “what’s WRONG with me?” and I tried extra hard to behave as guy-like as I could. I was the bravest pretend-guy I could be. I behaved as if I were a cat with nine lives. I was more daring, more macho, and more gung-ho as to guy things than most guys around me. I tried to chase down a robber in LA. I faced down a violent guy in a road rage incident that he’d started on an LA freeway. More than once, I faced down a mean & dangerous guy who was harassing my girlfriend at the time. I could pull an engine block out of a car by hand. I could pick up and carry around automatic car transmissions. Bad neighborhoods didn’t phase me. I went everywhere I felt like going. In Africa, I went into black neighborhoods where white people were discouraged to go plus it was illegal. In LA, in the period before, during & after the race riots, the house I owned and lived in was in Sun Village, making mine the only white-owned house around. The day the LA riots broke out, I was the only white person around, as far as I could tell, in South Central LA because I was socializing with a girl who preferred to meet there, and so we met there, simple as that. When I had a dry socket after having my wisdom teeth pulled, I didn’t take painkillers. I just powered through it.
Girls tend to be at least as brave as guys are, but I was brave with a strictly pretend-as-hard-as-possible-to-be-a-guy style. In addition to that, I walked and talked as guy-like as I could. So, ironically, now that I realize I’m not a guy who thinks like a girl — I fundamentally AM a girl … I have to unlearn all my guy-style behavior, which means going from one extreme end of the spectrum to the exact opposite.
Voice control basically involves muscle memory, since the voice-related aspects are under muscle control. Problem is, there’s a mental block too, for me and many of the trans girls I mentor. It’s not viable to easily go from sounding like (in my case, Arnold in the Terminator, Germanic accent, wooden enunciation and all) to sounding like … silver bells tinkling. Sounding in-the-middle, like some blend of male and female, sounds so freakishly weird to me that regardless of how nice people are to me about it, to ME it sounds horrible. So, as to strangers, I prefer to just not talk over the phone.
I realize that delaying my voice transition just makes me remain in limbo-land longer, as in it prolongs the most-miserable place for me to be, and the prudent thing for me is to power through it. It’s just … difficult.