Changing my singing voice

I’ve been thinking alot about testosterone lately. I’ve gone from thinking I didn’t want it at all to actively seeking out excuses about why I can’t take it. Today, that excuse is my voice. I’m a singer, and T would change my voice. It wouldn’t change my ear–I’d still be musical–but I would have to re-learn how to use my vocal chords to sing. I’ve been told that I have a unique voice, so the idea of that changing into something unknown is rather terrifying.

But let’s balance this fear out with a little reality, shall we? I was a professional musician for about 10 years. During that time, I was a cigarette smoker. I could easily smoke a whole pack at a gig. Never–not once–did I ever think about quitting smoking for the health of my voice. I smoked for 12 years, and in the end I didn’t quit for my voice, I quit because my GF didn’t like it.

Joni HejiraJoni Mitchell is one of my heroes, as well as an unapologetic smoker. Take a listen through her catalog and you can definitely hear the influence of tobacco on her voice. I wonder if Joni was ever concerned about this change in her voice at all? Concerned enough to quit?

I started looking for stories online of transmen musicians to see if I could find out a little more about why some musicians opted for T and other didn’t. One of the more visible transguys on the music scene these days is Lucas Silveira of The Cliks. In this NPR interview, he elaborates on why being a musician had to come before being male. I was particularly intrigued by the part about his transguy friend who opted out of taking T because he didn’t want to lose his trans identity (by fully transitioning).

I also exchanged some emails with Joe Stevens of Coyote Grace, and he provided some helpful information about exactly what happened with his changing voice, tips for how I might adjust to the changes, and the names of a couple of other transmen musicians, which I looked up online to hear samples of T-changed voices.

As for reference material, the VCH Transgender Health Program website has an excellent PDF about the science behind your voice.

OK, so I experience trepidation at the idea of my voice changing. On the flip side, I could also argue that T might make me feel more like me, and if that’s the case, then wouldn’t I be able to get behind my singing even more?

One thing’s for certain: if I do go on T, I’d better start doing some recording of myself singing so that I can have a record of my voice pre-T. (Actually, I have plenty of recordings of me performing live with a band, but I’m more interested in capturing me playing some of my favorite acoustic tunes solo.) Hopefully, that recording won’t end up being the last time I sing Joni’s “Jericho”!


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