The Voice tells who, and how, we are ...
At first I was nervous about approaching a voice therapist, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to make any significant progress on my voice. Maggi quickly put me at ease and gave me a new understanding of the massive potential my voice has as an instrument. With her help I’ve developed a voice that I don’t have to be embarrassed to use. Weekly exercise sheets mean you can continue to practise outside the sessions and are a particularly useful touch. On top of this, Maggi’s approach is incredibly fun! I would definitely recommend booking some sessions for those who want help finding a voice that they can feel comfortable with.
One of the biggest fears I had about transitioning was the fact that my voice was so masculine. I couldn’t believe a female voice coming from my lips would ever be taken seriously, especially in a very male-dominated environment such as engineering where my past was well known. I have always felt that my voice and the way I love to communicate with people was a big part of who I am and didn’t want to jeopardise that part of my character for something that just wasn’t me. However, I remember sitting back in my car after our first appointment was over and thinking that maybe there was hope for my vocal cords after all. There was such an array of 'tools' to use, how could I not craft a sound and style of speaking that I was happy with?
Our sessions were always busy and informative with sound and breathing exercises – fun, useful and easy to 'take home', and I always found the homework sheets useful. Indeed, I still have a couple of the later ones blu-tacked to the eye-level cupboard doors in the kitchen where I begin my day and I still practise your suggested vocal exercises whilst making coffee and packing up.
You too Maggi were totally not what I had in mind. I expected a person with fabulous and obvious knowledge of the subject matter but never anticipated this person to have such a compassionate, funny and animated character. You provided me with much-needed grounding. When I despaired at my self-perceived lack of progress you pointed out what I had achieved and boosted my confidence enough to keep me trying and practising. That’s what good teachers do.
I am getting called 'Darl' and 'love' over the phone now – not the most flattering of terms, but from an engineering background it is a nice indicator that I am heading in the right direction!
The journey to achieving a happy and fulfilling life as a woman is challenging to say the least. One of the most difficult things to get close, let alone right, is the voice. I met Maggi in one of those serendipitous moments that we dream of and have never looked back. Maggi led me through a gentle and thoroughly enjoyable series of lessons, achieving results I never thought possible. Sessions with Maggi are enormous fun, enlightening and you learn things beyond simply speaking words – it has been a most enjoyable journey for me. I simply cannot thank Maggi enough and I am delighted with where she has got me to, I even dare to sing out loud now! Notwithstanding the reasons for going to Maggi, ‘exploring’ the voice has been so much fun, it should be compulsory for everyone!
I was invited to a voice-training workshop at Leeds Gender Identity Clinic. I liked the idea of being around other trans people: being reminded I am not the 'only one' often makes me feel better.
In the early days of taking T I didn’t thoroughly consider the potential changes to my voice. I assumed and took it for granted that T would just make it a bit deeper, like when teenage boys grow up. Then I heard a few transmen speak on the phone and I was slightly worried – some of them sounded like they’d been sucking air out of balloons. I really didn’t want to sound like that.
After a couple weeks of T I sounded a bit 'throaty' ... then nothing much happened for a while. One morning it really did seem extremely deep and I was quite proud of my almost-Pavorotti. Unfortunately it never seemed to get back to that point. Sometimes it would go squeaky, then kind of empty, then a little lower, then squeaky again. It seemed to settle down after about eight months and I was quite happy with it.
Some of the transwomen I know had been to Maggi Stratford's voice workshops and the difference she helped them make to their voices was amazing. One friend rarely spoke before Maggi's magic, and now I have problems telling her to be quiet. If that could happen to an MtF, what might happen to my voice?
Once we got the hang of the breathing exercises, Maggi had us introduce soft sounds and this is harder than it seems! It was very relaxing and I started to yawn, I was a little embarrassed, I couldn't leave and go home to bed. Apparently the yawning meant my voice was 'warming up'. It was great being able to yawn in class, I did a lot of that at school and got told off for it and here was Maggi encouraging it. Fantastic. There was no room for nerves or embarrassment. We were put at ease very quickly.
We listened to a recording of a biological female singer whose range was quite unbelievable and this made us realise the possibilities of our own voices.
The day passed very quickly, it was enjoyable and different. I felt re-energised afterwards. Apparently working your voice can raise your spirits and I certainly felt this. The bonus to these exercises is that we relax our bodies when we do them; considering the stress we put our bodies through with hormone therapy and surgery, this is really important. Maggi was spot-on, she’s brilliant at what she does and I couldn’t give any criticism other than there weren’t any cakes. I’d definitely recommend it as a day of doing something completely different regardless of what might happen to your voice. BUT it did make a difference to my voice, a big difference. The next day I noticed how much stronger my voice felt and it’s still there. I’ve continued with Maggi’s exercises and my voice sounds deeper and feels stronger.
Voice coaching is just as relevant to us as it is to transwomen.
With more control over our voices we can feel more confident, and that’s always a good thing.
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