Ariel

Katie is 6 foot, 1 inches tall. Her height was the first thing I noticed about her when we met. How could I not? She towers a whole 6 inches above me. The second thing I noticed? Her voice. She has this deep voice that took me by surprise. It’s soothing, smooth, and in control. I strongly associate stability with it, the even pitch and low tone rarely raised in anger or frustration. The melodic rhythm of it, the anticipation of watching her think through her thoughts in hopes of hearing her speak, have wrapped me in comfort since Katie and I met, making me laugh as I observe the juxtaposition of this deep, manly tone alongside her often nerdier, child-like interests. You’d probably have to meet her to understand, but if I had to list the top 5 things I love about my wife, 1 of them would be the notes that sew together the melody of her voice. I love everything about it.

Katie’s dysphoria has been in full swing, with very little respite. Everything from her hairline, to her chin are up for grabs, subtle reminders of things that may have been different had she been born in a different body. It’s so difficult for me to watch the ease with which the person I love and respect is nit-picked and denigrated, beaten into the dark solitude of loneliness and discontent by their own brain chemistry. I don’t see the things she sees, which makes trying to comfort her complicated.

Last week, Katie was severely dysphoric about her own voice, my second observation, my security blanket. I felt so defeated as she told me about it, detailing the tones she doesn’t like and how it doesn’t match who she is. How do you fix your voice? Your voice is your voice, isn’t it? Estrogen doesn’t transform the male voice to be more feminine the way testosterone will alter a female voice to become more masculine. The only option to address the issue with hope of any change is voice lessons, something Katie is now exploring. But, in the meantime, do we talk less? Do I lose one of my constants? I can help fix so many things. I can provide makeup and clothes. I can validate with name and gender preference. I can find doctors. I can listen to the troubling days. I can be there. But her voice? I can’t fix that.

The idea of losing her voice broke me and I found myself talking for 10 minutes straight, watching Katie retreat into the turtle shell of her body for protection. My diatribe started with so many good intentions, but even as it was happening I could see my old habit of lecture versus listening unfolding as Katie’s gaze stopped meeting mine. I couldn’t stop myself, a car rolling down an icy hill with no traction, pin-balling from one bad suggestion to another. I apologized profusely the next day and we’ve talked about it in therapy since.

I’ve had to consider why it was so hard for me to hear about Katie’s dysphoria about her voice, why it was that I couldn’t shut down the part of me that is devastated by the idea of its absence in my life and just be there for my wife. In therapy, we talked about the magnitude to which Katie has been discussing her dysphoria with me. Lately it is constant, a welcomed change in one way, as I actually know what she’s thinking. She’s communicating in a way we haven’t experienced before, an egg cracked open. At the same time, this new space being absorbed by dysphoria is difficult for me. Trust that I know that my version of Katie’s dysphoria pales in comparison to her actually experiencing it. That said, I love the parts of Katie’s body she hates with so much detail. I love the voice that tells me about it. They are all part of this wonderful human I get to debate religion with at the dinner table, watch bad tv with during the snow days. They are the parts of the human that makes me feel at home wherever I am. I asked Katie to consider finding another outlet for this new energy, maybe another person who has a similar experience, who won’t feel a need to fix it. Right now, I can’t be the only other place, aside from therapy, where her dysphoria is discussed. I’m not strong enough to listen to the person I love disparage the parts of herself I love so much. This is a difficult request for me to make as I don’t want to eliminate the conversation all-together. I still want to be there for her. I guess we just have to see what happens, how we dance through this next space. Will we walk or fall down this hill?

8 thoughts on “Ariel

  1. Meggan

    My spouse feels the same way about her voice, that it’s too masculine. I am a musician, though not a singer, and I know many voice teachers. I was actually speaking to one of the voice faculty at the university where I work about this very topic yesterday! She said there used to be no resources for teachers working with transgender voices, but now there is plenty of literature out there. I’m sure Katie can find a vocal coach or speech pathologist (that doesn’t sound like the right person to see for this issue, but sometimes they can help) if she would like to work on speaking in a higher pitch.

    You’re right that her voice will not raise the same way a FTM voice will drop, but there are ways to make it sound less deep. If you know the difference between head voice and chest voice, using the head voice is one way; speaking a little softer can also sometimes help, though this isn’t always possible.
    I hope Katie can find something to help her feel better about her voice…and I hope it doesn’t make you love her voice less! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Tell Katie that I am always here for her, to tall about her dysphoria. While I can’t say I know how she feels, I am deeply empathetic given my own dysphoria surrounding my desire to be more masculine while being born in a Male body.

    If only we could flip a slider in our character creator screens.

    I love you both, and I’m always here, for anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kim

    As usual I can so relate to what you are saying. When I first met my wife her deep voice was one of the things I loved. She is from the North and I am from the South. I loved her smooth, deep voice with no accent that you sometimes get from the Midwest. I would save her voicemails and listen to them when we would have to be apart. So…when she started transitioning and hated her voice….I was super sad that it might be changing. She found a class that she could take at a local college. They offered a speech class where student clinicians majoring in speech pathology, work with transgender students. It’s a great program and it helped her do exercises that changed her tone and also helped her with the intonations found in a female voice. They helped her with non verbal communication. As a cis female I had no idea that there were so many things different in the way men and women speak and communicate. For example, men are a lot more monotone and women speak with a lot of inflection.

    Even though I was sad to lose her original voice, I realized the need for it when we would be out in public. Her deep voice would sometimes cause her to be clocked and frankly made me worry for her safety. We have adjusted and I am good with her voice now, but it took a while for me to be okay with losing her male voice. Sometimes if I hear her voice on a video from the past….it will make me a little sad. I may always be a little sad, but I know it was an important step in her transition.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Heather Kubinsky

    I am there with you. We have been married for 23 years and our journey to this point is way more complex than I could express in a comment section. But it helps me to know that there are other spouses experiencing these things. I am only in the beginning stages of accepting the transition. She asked me to name her, which I did and she loves. I have a hard time with proper pronoun usage around our kids. We have 6 and a granddaughter. I don’t want to freak the kids out so we have been trying to be gradual about it. Asking them to use a different name than “Dad.”
    That was awkward in public! They are calling her Poppy (like the flower) that is working for us. But now the kids keep renaming themselves. My 3 year old has been Bartleby, True, Doc McStuffins, Poopa, and probably more I can’t remember. Our 5 yr old keeps calling Poppy “Pop-Vader” instead.
    I know this is the right thing to do, but there are so many things! I totally understand you when you say this takes up so much space in the relationship. I don’t want to lose myself in the process and I think every parent fears screwing up their kids. We have to handle this well for them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing! I know Ive seen some families keep “dad” as their pronoun with permission from the parent, but I can imagine that’s complicated and difficult to decide. I appreciate your perspective and sharing with me.

      Like

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