Tuesday, September 8, 2009

She's Using The Voice

Reverend Mother Mohiam and other Bene Gesserit, from David Lynch's Dune (1984)

No.......I'm not referring to a member of the Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit, for those of you unfamiliar with the Sci-Fi novel, Dune, were an ancient order of women, whose objectives and actions formed a critical element in the evolution of humanity and many of the major plot developments. They were masters (mistresses?) of The Voice. The term 'Voice' referred to an audio-neuro control mechanism that enables the manipulation of speech to achieve complete control over a receiver It is perfected by the Bene Gesserit through the combined training of several advanced techniques.

The other day, I put in an order on line, for some shoes from New Balance Express. I entered the order, not in my male name, but as Melissa Price. Shortly thereafter, I received an email from New Balance Express, stating that they did not have the shoe I ordered in stock, and were having it shipped directly from the manufacture instead. Later, I received another email, stating that since the order was coming directly from the manufacturer, I would have to contact them to get tracking information, and they provided me with an order number and a phone number to call. I didn't want to call them as a male. Why would I? I put the order in as Melissa, and with only a few exceptions, I have been living what has been essentially a female life, for the past year. I decided to call them as Melissa. This of course, would require me to use my equivalent of The Voice.

Nervously, I dialed the number. After a few rings, a woman on the other end answered. Manipulating my speech in a manner that would convince her that she was listening to another genetic female, I stated that I was Melissa Price, and that I was expecting a package from them, that I ordered through New Balance Express. I gave her the order number, and requested tracking information. After verifying my address, the woman on the other end said, "Thank you Ms. Price, your UPS tracking number is................."

I smiled. The Bene Gesserit would have been proud of me.


Lucy Melford said...

Phew! Well done, well done, and SO brave!

Have you ever had any voice training at all, Melissa, or is your speaking voice entirely your own creation?


Anonymous said...

The voice seems to be the hardest part of passing...at least for me. I've been forcing myself to carry on short conversations with other women in the stores. So far no one has jumped back in startled shock when they hear my "femme" voice...lol. On Labor Day I went out shopping as Suzi and I talked shortly with a woman about the Yankee Candles we were shopping for. She seemed comfortable with my voice and my confidence grew a little more that day.

These little episodes really are so much fun. Have you ever checked out New Balance Delaware? I've found their prices to be lower than others. I ordered a pair of work shoes that retail for about $149, for $114. I plan to order a pair of femme cross-trainers sometime.

Amy K. said...

Go, you! Good work there. :)

Incidentally, any problems I have with my voice are purely psychological in nature. I tend to be able to sound *much* more girly on the phone than in person. I think I do okay, just not as good as on the phone. Still working on that one.

alan said...

Glad you found your voice!

I remember someone ages ago using a video recorder to practice their voice with...


Stephanie said...

Hmmmm, I've been doing this so long that my voice automatically gets softer and a bit higher when I'm talking face to face with someone. Once I know them awhile, I tend to let it drop. Only people who know me call me so I don't use the higher tone when I'm on the phone. Guess I'll have to when I change my name legally.

Stephanie said...

Oh, I just wish I could change the way I hear it in my head. I still sound male in there. YUK! I would think if I used the higher voice all the time it would change there. I might just have work on that and see!

Samantha said...

I'm going to start this post with a disclaimer. Not to make folks envious, but to make certain there are no misunderstandings up front.

I had, in my old life, training in many, many different things, and used to do impersonations, and win Karaoke contests singing. I was also trained hypnotherapist, which in every sense of the word is so much like "The Voice" out of Dune Lore, that it doesn't matter that it sounds different. So having once had voice training, I had a great grasp of where to go and how to get there when the time came to move. I also have a gift of hearing myself exactly the same way I sound outside my head. In other words, I hear myself the same way everyone else does. It always helped with impersonations, and when it came time to move, it spared me the need of much time with a tape recorder. Oddly enough it didn't hurt that my own internal voice has always been female, so getting it to sync up was easier than it might be for other women. In short, YMMV! (Or Your Mileage may vary.)

Okay, that said, first and most important, way to go Melissa! Having folks not question your voice over the phone, well that means you're doing great! Good for you!

So if you're still within the sound of my voice (yes, old Glenn Campbell song I love) I should also point out something many people don't realize. For all the technical improvements made in availability and access telephone communications has NOT significantly upgraded on the back office side from what it was 50 years ago. By this I mean that there is a little known fact that from an engineering reality, it cuts out so dramatic a portion of the audio spectrum as to make it one of the hardest mediums to work with. Not only is it NOT high fidelity, it is in fact quite low, lower in fact (I know this may hard to wrap you minds around, but it is a fact nevertheless) lower fidelity than old AM radio. So much like HAM radio, it has a great deal of loss in anything outside the range of 200hz to 3000hz. Much of what makes a woman's voice clearly distinctive from a mans, are harmonics and over tones, much of these get lost in the phone network and kind of flatten ones voice. So for us, it makes it harder to "pass" over the phone and those infernal low tech drive through menu boards at you favorite fast food place. When you start getting consistently Ma'amed there, you know you're doing fine.

continued . . .

Samantha said...

continued . . .

Now, something else, for anyone still within the sound of my voice, the BEST tools to fixing your voice, in terms of a step by step course are the discs from http://www.exceptionalvoice.com/voicefeminization/audiocds.html are simply THE BEST you can get. The two others are of course Andre James' "Finding you feminine voice" from Deepstealth, and of course Melanie Ann Philips Disc or Tape.

All three will help you get closer to where you want to go, and because I wanted to make a point of giving myself every possible advantage, I own all three. Thought truth to tell I got the Exceptional Voice series AFTER my voice was completely passable to the point that people have wanted to know where I had Voice surgery. Alas, no such thing really works. Despite having found them after the fact, I recommend Exceptional Voice because their process most closely matches my own training and experience, and because Lynne and Kathe are professional voice coaches and Lynne is a singer.

Despite many of the so called claimes by so called experts on many of the "Voice Support Groups" for Transsexuals, SINGING IS important and useful. So many women talk it down because they can't or haven't tried. If you have and can, then open up those pipes and let it flow. IT WILL do wonders.

For those who cannot hear how they outside world hears them, get a good mic for your computer and Audacity, a free multitrack recording program for you computer, or a good quality digital recorder, it will be your friend, I promise. Despite being able to hear myself, even I make use of it, especially since transition I've finished my education and am now a Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist. Which means in short, people PAY me to use "The Voice" with them.

Most important bit of information I can share is take it easy, take your time, and don't expect it to happen over night. You are working to overcome years, even decades of muscle memory. With all my training and background, and tireless practise, it still took me close to a year. It was however one of the best investments in myself, my life, and my future I've ever made.

I'm also pleased to report that I went from winning Karaoke singing VERY male stuff, to now singing very female stuff. As to doing impersonations, well now many years ;ater, having overcome years of bad habits and muscle memory, I cannot even impersonate who I used to sound like. You'll know you've arrived when you too can no longer sound like you once did.

One last thought, you will eventually be forced to go fulltime with your new voice if you are ever truely going to find it. Switching back and forth simply cannot work, In for a penny, in for a pound the saying goes. You'll get there, and if you need help, there's a link on my blog to send me email, feel free. Should there be any interest I can put up before and after samples of my voice.

Hang in there Melissa, you are doing great!

Melissa said...

@ Samantha

The problem is as you said, finding it first, then keeping it. Switching back and forth is difficult. Exercising the voice helps a great deal, but I live alone, and rarely have the opportunity to practice it on a live subject. The voice inside my head has never been particularly masculine, but decades of male socialization has given my public voice a deep pitch. I'm not nutz, but I do audibly voice my thoughts a lot, probably because I spend so much time by myself. The problem is, when I do this, I will automatically revert to using my male voice. Halfway into a thought I am expressing, I will realize it and try to switch to the female voice, but then I have to find it. Once I have found it, sustaining it is not a problem, as long as I continue to speak, but conversations with oneself, tend to be very brief, and interspersed with long periods of silence. When the next spontaneous conversation begins, the male voice automatically kicks in, and the female voice has to be found again. It gets very frustrating. I really should get a tape recorder and devote some time to voice exercises.

I used to love it, when I went to the salons in my youth. Because I was presenting myself as a female, the women there expected me to act and sound like one, and I loved living up to their expectations. It would start out with me feeling a little bit awkward at first, but if I did it right, I would get positive feedback from the women, and that helped tremendously to boost my confidence. I could then comfortably sustain my female voice, for hours of conversation. I was hoping I could practice my voice at my TG support group meetings, but with the exception of a few members, most of the girls there don't seem to be concerned with speaking in a female voice, and it's hard to maintain my own, when the girl I'm talking to isn't even making an attempt at it herself. What those meetings could use, are some genetic women to act as coaches, and encourage sustained feminine speech and demeanor.

Melissa XX

Samantha said...

Ah yes, and this is where singing comes in terribly handy. Assuming you like to sing along with stuff you're listening to is to find someone with a good voice, and "work out" you voice with them. Then move on to other artists you like and add to your range. Something else that can help, is read a book (or something printed) out loud. It gives you the opportunity to work on you voice. Plus if you record it, you get the chance to find things you want to change when you listen to it later.

While the phone does involve some significant limitations terms of fidelity, getting on the phone with a friend you are comfortable chatting with can also help with your voice practice. Their trick is not to focus on their expectations but your own. It can make a big difference. Don't have anyone to practice on the phone with, then drop me a note and I will.

You can get there, just lavish yourself with love, patience, support and time to get there and you will.

When I started my journey, my voice was a big issue, in fact it was one of the big reasons I'd put it off for so many years. I didn't want to sound funny or wierd, and I needed to be able to continue singing. Plus having made such and investment in my voice, in The Voice over the years I was terrified I'd not be able to sing, speak professionally, do radio or use "The Voice" any longer. It was a major issue.

Ironically when all was said and done, my voice now is better than it ever was, and all the things I use it for a much improved over what they were.

As to meetings needing GGs as coaches, nah, what you need my friend are girlfriends. Women you can hang out with, relax and talk about anything. Join a book club or something, find some things your interested in and get out of the Trans world and into the real world. Do a weekly girls night out, or in, and just sit around and chat. Plus the big problem with many TG groups is it is overwhelmingly biased by people who are doing it as a very part time thing. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is not nearly the same as living it as we do. So there is, regrettably a huge disconnect between them and us.

Something that I found incredibly helpful over the years is to sit or walk in the mall and listen to conversations other women are having. How they use words and speech. It can make a difference.

I hope this all helps some. You can get there!