Sometimes my partner sounds like someone else. I mean, I know it’s her. She uses the same words, has the same inflections, embodies that same southern sweetness that I adore, but she literally sounds like someone else. I will call her, and then take a few secs to realize that the person on the other end of the phone is exactly who I meant to call. It’s thrilling to watch this change occur, but it is also making us both a little leery, having witnessed the vocal shifts of so many others – and now embarking on our own new way of being in the world – and wondering what effect it will have on my attraction and our relationship.
It’s safe to say that any trans guy who starts taking testosterone will undergo some form of vocal change, whether it be a complete overhaul or just a little deepening. A quick glance over at YouTube reveals that it’s also the source of many FTM videos: I’m afraid my singing voice won’t be the same, I sound like a thirteen-year-old boy, I’ve turned into Barry white overnight (This last one isn’t accurate since he already had a deep voice!).
Biologically, it all makes sense. Cisgendered boys have vocal folds (vocal chords) that grow almost twice that of girls through 20-years-of age, and by the time puberty has happened – and we’re left with the structures that will carry our voices until old age, men have 6 mms more maximum length possibility than women.
Therefore, when a transguy begins taking testosterone, he is essentially playing catch up where the voice is concerned. The folds just can’t grow anymore. The nifty picture to the right might help clarify my poor handling of biology. Here’s how Josua explained the biology over at Transguys.com:
“The larynx, or voice box, is a hormone-dependent organ. In teenage boys, increased testosterone production causes the vocal folds (vocal chords) to thicken, lengthen and mature. The cartilage of the larynx grows, further influencing the tone of voice. It also tilts slightly, resulting in a bump on the throat—the Adam’s Apple. This is a process that happens over time as the teen matures.
Trans men conversely, are often started on the highest recommended dose of testosterone, bringing about changes that would normally occur over several years in a much shorter time. Testosterone therapy makes the vocal folds grow thicker but they are restricted in length by the size of the larynx (which is typically smaller in trans men than in bio-males.) Cartilage growth is said to only happen during puberty5, and early cartilage ossification caused by testosterone further limits the growth of the trans male larynx.”
All that above was to say, that it’s hit or miss with the voice. I’m afraid to even imagine what my already highish voice might sound like under the dominion of further hormonal change. It’s a fascinating change really, and I often wish I could sit inside my partner’s voice box and witness the changes. Some mornings, her voice is really, really low, but with a high quality that’s difficult to describe. Some afternoons, it’s deep and even. Other times, it sounds only slightly different than it did before. She has, however, never sounded like Barry White.
The Barry might’ve gotten his share of panties back in the day, but I think it would be a little jolting to wake up one morning and hear him asking me if I’d like some coffee. My lover + Barry white voice = puzzle face.
A study at Northumbria university in the UK shows that maybe Barry White is exactly what I should be rooting for. They found that good-looking dudes tended to have deeper voices. When it came to attractiveness, dominance, confidence and sexiness, men and women rated the men with deeper voices much higher than those whose voices were at a higher register.
From what I can surmise, it’s got to do with sustainability and all that evolutionary science we’re supposed to buy into. If my baby has a deeper voice, I can assume she’s more attractive, and will be able to hunt and kill and make healthy babies with me. Got it. Keeping the pride alive.
In the End…
I’ve always found my lover’s voice to be sexy, King of my Jungle that she is. She has this way of talking that just does something to me, and it has nothing to do with the register or pitch of her voice, though it’s helpful to understand biologically what is going on with that. And of course, attraction is only minimally about the voice. The rest is everything else that goes into physical attraction, but also sexual, mental, and emotional attraction. When I stop to think about it, I realize that the changing voice isn’t much different from the transition in general. I love and embrace her imperfections now (I know, baby, you don’t actually have any!), and therefore, even if her voice turned out to be anything less than perfection, it won’t detract from the other million things I have to love her for.
If she starts to sound like Barry White, though, things are going to get very, very interesting.