My last post in this wee thread considers broader conceptions of “voice” – one personal, one social. The personal element I want to look at is how it has felt to change my voice, and how developments in voice allow me to begin to express aspects of my true self that I never could before, because I used to see it as dangerous to talk about things/in ways that were not seen as “conventionally male” when I was living as male. That overlaps to some degree with the second strand, which is about equality – the freedom of trans people to live fully as themselves in society.
Just a rider that I don’t limit this to “conventional” gender identities, even though personally I identify as female and am gradually, slowly, growing in confidence about owning the truth of that identity. Other identities are emerging depending on where on the spectrum people identify – and that should be celebrated as a liberation from social rules in order to be true to ourselves. We should treasure that. And I do see myself as part of that movement. I identify as female but I am also, proudly, genderqueer, a term which, like transgender, has a variety of interpretations (let’s discuss that sometime). My statements that I am female and that I am genderqueer are not, in my opinion, in conflict and do not cancel each other out.
To begin with the personal dimension. Again I’m not sure what I’m going to write here, although I have a sense of what I want to say. Let’s stumble through a bit of this thinking together.
You will hopefully have got a sense from my earlier writing on this that work on voice, as with other parts of my transition, has involved learning and trying out techniques, becoming more confident about them, moving from conscious effort to using my voice differently more automatically and routinely and finally to trying to “own” my emerging voice.
The “resting” state of my voice as it is now has moved on, it is not where it was. But I also know that I can develop my voice further, and that increasingly this development is as much about my sense of self as about the technique.
Occasionally (very occasionally at present) my voice has started to move into a new state entirely, a state which to me feels very free and authentic, and which is also way different from where my voice was when I started this work. It is a true female voice, and it is my voice. When it happens, it feels amazing, and oddly it also makes me feel a little more vulnerable. Although my day to day voice is increasingly read as female, there is still often an anxiety that people might form a different view about me during the course of conversation. So strangely it feels risky somehow to move into that mode of authenticity.
Given my history people may be uncertain about my apparent gender, and perhaps shouldn’t be a cause of anxiety given how far I have travelled. but asserting my true identity so visibly is still such a new experience for me that some of that anxiety (and often feeling like I am in “audition mode”) is inevitable. So I suppose when my voice occasionally moves into the “new zone” which feels so different and liberated to me, that’s an even stronger assertion of who I am, so I guess it’s inevitable that some part of me is anxious that if I say “I’m this person”, someone will slap me down and say “oh no you’re not”. After all for many years I did the slapping down myself. Gradually I’m sure, that anxiety will recede as what seems so fresh and challenging now will become the way I live day to day.
The personal elements of transitioning – in terms of changing behaviour and “being changed”, partly through medical help and partly through the amazing experience of living as female after all the years of having to live in male mode – are many and complex. The social aspect of transition is complex too but I suppose easier to test out, as the way people respond to me has changed as I move down the transition road.
One aspect of that is the acceptance of me as female appears to be increasingly the default when meeting people for the first time. A related, and cherishable aspect is relationships with some friends who knew me before transition but clearly accept me as female at a pretty fundamental level – one or two even say they struggle to remember what the apparent male they used to know was like.
But a more fundamental change is in what I might label as my “mode of social being”. There are lots of strands to this. One is that I just feel able to talk about a wider range of subjects as a female – things I was always interested in but afraid to say anything about in the past as they might have “given me away”. Related to that is the freedom to think about particular things and topics that I used to internally forbid myself from thinking about because they “weren’t male”. I sometimes think in terms of having lived a “shadow life”. There was this person – my “male protector” – who went about in my body, doing necessary stuff while I was living this hidden, secret female life within, with no real chance of expressing it. But nonetheless Tasha, hidden by her male protector, was looking out into the world, observing things, noting things about female life while unable to participate. I’ll maybe write more about this another time.
A more visible manifestation of the change is feeling freer to talk about certain topics, to express opinions in different ways and to be socially female. We could talk a lot about what that means, and maybe another time I will. But one dimension is feeling free to assert my female identity and talk to other women as a woman. I remember being very apprehensive earlier in transition about doing so, and I remain anxious given that I don’t have the same shared history with other women so might be “caught out” – but conversations with other women get freer and easier all the time.
But the other, incredible benefit of being able to express my true gender is how much freedom it has given me. I feel able to be more open emotionally – which makes me realize how emotionally closed up I was for all those years I tried to keep a lid on my true feelings. I get more confident all the times about experimenting with what I wear and being more “visible” in the world – and it’s a bit mind-blowing being able to be visible that way.
Finally and most significantly I am simply a more confident person all round. I take more chances. I speak up more. I reach out emotionally more. I have made some wonderful new friends. And I have understood a little bit about what individual freedom is, how little of it I used to have, how much more I have now. But also, given the position of women in western society and also the position of trans people, how much more there is to fight for. And that it is a common fight with others who are discriminated against for other reasons – sexuality, ethnicity, religious belief, disability.
My initial hope about transition was to become “female enough to blend in”. I have a much more complex view about that now. It is powerful for me to share elements of my past experience, so that more people understand what being trans is like, and that trans people are real people, worthy of the same respect as anyone else. I don’t need to talk about my history if I don’t want to, but I don’t need to be afraid of it either. It’s what made me who I am.
And among many other things, I am a real woman, as real as any other woman. I know that deep within myself, and have finally come to accept it as my core identity. Paradoxically, it is the freedom to be a real woman in society, to be confident about who I am, that allows me to reflect on my history and life experience without having fear that it will “undo me” or reveal me as “fake”. I draw strength from standing shoulder to shoulder with all women, regardless off their history. I have finally arrived where I belong. And if you don’t believe me, that is your problem and not my problem.
This is an amazing, powerful place to be. Tomorrow it will be 17 months since I transitioned. It has been, and still is, an exhilarating and exhausting ride. But I never dared hope when I embarked on this journey that life could become this good. At this time of year, whatever your religious convictions, I send you the warmest of Season’s Greetings!