A year after voice surgery.
The recovery itself was not so bad. Physically, it is a very small area they operate on, and the incision healed up to invisible within… two or three months. They don’t even use stitches, just glue. It blends into a wrinkle on the neck. The pain is minimal, like a sore throat the first 24 hours. Really, the most challenging part is staying totally silent the first two weeks. The longer you can go silent the better.
At first the voice is super hoarse and weird. But that levels out gradually over the first couple months. at first when no sound came out at all, i was watchful: like, what if it had all gone wrong and i would never speak again? oddly enough, much like my thoughts about phalloplasty. i knew the surgery was right for me because… had i never been able speak again after surgery, as long as that wrong voice never came out of me again, i would accept it. to me, i would sooner have had no voice at all than that voice.
Before, I would be gendered correctly based on voice… oh, never. And when I was even physically passing as cis great [like at work], people would get a puzzled look when I started to speak. I do public speaking, so i would always see people look around to see where the lady was. i had so much trouble, crushing, to have my bank refuse for over an hour to speak with me because they were certain it was fraudulent because of my voice, no matter how many security things I did. i’ve had people argue with me. it wrecked me. another time a local figure called to speak with me, an important call, and she argued with me about whether i was impersonating myself. “no, this is not the person i am trying to reach. [name] is not a woman. YOU are a woman, i can tell,” she said. oof.
well, none of that anymore. and that… i could just close my eyes and savor that forever. so… it seems simple, but all of that now, that is totally a thing of the past. that is wonderful. day to day, it relieves what was once anguish and even a growing phobia of the telephone. it’s still amazing to me that what sounds were once my constant burden are now… only a story i tell of my past. i no longer get refused to speak with my bank, phone appointments, or disturb people with the dissonance during interviews. i am still small, as a tell, but i love to be small, and where i live, a lot of men are shorter. that never bothers me. with my own voice now, i can finally feel safe, when i need to, that i will be so much less likely to be identified as trans receive prejudice or assault. it means i am afforded the luxury of medical privacy, something many people take for granted. i don’t think i ever will take it for granted.
but… in some ways it is a bit like i had sold my soul to the devil, i laugh a little wryly, because i cannot sing anymore. i used to sing– and my voice just… won’t. it’s been a year now, so… if i talk about it too much i cry. I used to sing harmony with my spouse, do shows, sing all day long. nowadays, I whistle. it’s what i got.
is it worth it? absolutely. is that a high price on my heart, yes.
then, there is another drawback.
because it works by loosening the vocal folds, which makes them vibrate at a lower pitch, your voice will never be as loud. i was warned about this, that i would not be able to shout again. well, i thought, i never shout anyway. it’s a bit more extreme than that. if i need to project my voice to get someone’s attention, say if they’re about to get hurt or if I need help, my voice just… won’t. I have the day to day inside voice and it does not get louder. if you try, it hurts. first world problems, but i use google assistant by voice command– or i used to– and i don’t know what it is about my voice now, but AI seems to… not be able to detect my voice as a voice? Wtf! Haha. Oh me.
Siri on my phone does not register me at all. At all! I thought my speaker was broken for the longest. When I want to adjust the volume, I look at a family member and they have to do the voice command for me. It’s super odd. There’s gotta be some physics reason why– because when I try to *sing* the voice command, it can hear me. Maybe because the voiced pitches are prolonged? I don’t know. Sometimes it feels a bit like being a ghost which robots look right through– or the fantastical figure the mirror can’t reflect.
The thing that keeps me from being able to sing is a severely limited range. I might on a good day have a single octave. Yes, it’s 3 full octaves below where it was pre-T as a transgender person, but I paid for it. I do not mean with money.
And, one other thing… I had wondered if it would still sound like ‘me’. Yes, it sounds more like me than I have ever sounded before. That cringe you can get when you hear the sound of your voice and it is coming out wrong? It is like hearing your own true voice for the first time. Sometimes I just close my eyes and hum a single pitch, and the low rumble tickles the inside of my throat. The first time that happened I grinned so deeply my soul must have been the strings of the harp.
[Dr. Simon Best, Otolaryngologist, Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Baltimore, Maryland, in coordination with the Center for Transgender Health, Medical Director Dr. Devin O’Brien Coon]
[I do not use the term FTM or trans man to describe myself, but I am adding those tags since this information may benefit others who use those terms. i hope it helps kin find this.]