Changing Her Tune: How a Transsexual Woman Claims a New Identity through Voice

The human voice is an important indicator of a person’s gender. For male-to-female transgender individuals (or transsexuals) the voice is one of the most difficult parts of the gender transition. Males have larger and heavier vocal apparatuses (larynx and vocal folds), which generally produce a lower sound. Transgender women can have voice surgery, but it can sometimes cause a Minnie Mouse-like falsetto or the complete loss of the voice. As a result, many transgendered women turn to specially trained voice therapists to learn how to speak more convincingly like women. The voice’s pitch, although important, is not the only factor in creating a more female sound. Intonation, resonance, volume, speech patterns and formant frequencies also play significant roles in making a realistic feminine sound. There continue to be many unanswered questions about how listeners perceive the voices of transgender women and how best to blend the voices of transwomen into a comfortable range. Transgender women have many hurdles to face as they transition from male to female, and possessing an authentic voice is a way to smooth out the bumpy path they face.

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