I saw a bit of Marci’s latest show on Discovery Health. I don’t watch Discovery Health much, and I will admit that when they pulled out the drawings of to transsexct and reshape a penis, well, enough for me.
But I was amused at the whole transsexual voice thing, so I pulled on my headset and made a voice mail for TBB, who is now somewhere in the Phillipine sea.
She said she laughed when she got it, me all high-pitched, mask resonance, sing-song, breathy, with just a touch of southern accent. But she admitted that when I wasn’t goofing around, it sounded pretty good.
“I remember,” she replied, “traveling with another transwoman and deciding we would spend the whole trip squeaking like Mickey Mouse. It was fun, but it didn’t do anything for my voice.
“As transsexuals,” she continued, “we change so much about ourselves. Why not change our voice, too?”
Why not, indeed?
It’s tough for me now, with two calls a day to parents who can barely hear me in the first place, between failing ears, failing focus, and lifelong challenges with nuance. I end up needing to punch through, and that isn’t quite doable with a new and sweet voice.
A few years ago, I got into a discussion of how transpeople born male use tells to flag their status. Lots of crossdressers were offended by those remarks; in their view, they were being authentic. But in the view of others, we can see the tells.
Part of that is maturity, of course. We become more polished, more finished, more together the more we actually are who we present ourselves as being. I know that my tells of years ago were there for a reason, and while I remember people explaining to me where they were, I now understand that they were part of what I held.
Today, I look together and polished. But I don’t work my voice to be high, breathy, and such.
For me, the challenge is always when someone first sees me as one thing and then comes inside my passing distance. It’s that shift, that change, that shock that gives them a start and causes them to reconsider. The moment when your sex changes in someone’s yes, well, that’s hard. It happened to TBB when she was chatting with a retired seaman at the bar, at least until
I suppose that one technique could be to reduce the passing distance, to become more femaled so people don’t see. That’s what changing my voice from the gender-neutral one I use (the man voice went away years ago) to a more feminine one would do.
The problem is, though, that no matter how I reduce my passing distance, there will always be one. My bones, my throat, my hair, all that can still get me clocked, can still create that shift.
In the old days I would avoid that slip by being clearly a man-in-a-dress with no pretense of passing. Over the years, though, as I have come to know myself as a woman, evidenced by people who know me as a woman thinking I look odd trying to pass as a man, that technique doesn’t work. I’m not a man-in-a-dress at all.
So what I do now is PAT; I Pass As Transsexual. I don’t work to pass as female, rather I get the messy bit over quickly and just get identified as a transsexual woman.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather PAF, Pass As Female. I’d like to feel comfortable and confident and not wait for the third gotcha, but in my mind, if people as beautiful as Candis Cayne and Calpurnia Addams can’t really pass, will get outed by the gay guy, just like Kaylynn in Brooklyn, well, then I don’t think I have much of a chance.
I just suspect that the more I try to PAF, the more trouble I cause when someone comes within passing distance. I remember Jeanette Talia talking about her tricks, and how they got angry at her when she didn’t pass, because they didn’t want the scrutiny.
I like my cute voice, and would really like to believe it can help me PAF. And it might, sure, it might.
It’s just that I will always have a passing distance, especially if I want to talk about my experience as a transperson in the world, and make no mistake, my experience is that of a transperson in this world, and not that of a man or a woman.
So I stand PAT.
Can’t really imagine any other way.