I was assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB) and began hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with testosterone when I was 39 years old, about 15 months ago. Every other week I’d draw the viscous liquid into a 3 cc syringe, wipe my thigh with an alcohol swab, insert the needle, and slowly push the plunger down. I started with only half of what is considered a “normal” dose and took about ten months to work my way up to a dose that brought the levels of testosterone (T) in my blood to within the typical range for cisgender men. This gradual approach was intentional, to allow the changes in my body to happen slowly, especially the changes in my vocal folds. I love singing, and while I don’t do it to pay the bills, preserving my ability to sing is very important to me. (For more on my decision to take T, see this post.) I started noticing some shifts in my singing voice about five months after I began taking T. Since then my voice has continued to evolve, often in unexpected ways. Before I get into details, please note that the effects of testosterone and the timing of changes can vary a lot from person to person. What follow are my experiences singing through the first 15 months of testosterone therapy. While I don’t think my voice is done changing, this is what’s happened so far.
Singing in the Cracks*
I was invited to give a PechaKucha presentation (20 slides x 20 seconds per slide) on the theme of “Fate”. I focused on the interaction between biology and fate in describing how my voice has changed in the first sixteen months of testosterone therapy. There are even a few clips of me singing to demonstrate how my voice has changed. Watch the video below!
PechaKucha Night Calgary (March 12, 2018 – Martha Cohen Theater)
My Gender Journey
How do you know if you’re a woman or a man? No, really, how do you know? This may seem like a ridiculous question. I mean, its one of those things you just know, right? You know it so well you’ve never stopped to think about how you know. Do you look down at your genitals or breasts? Do you check how long your hair is or whether there are any neck ties in your closet? Do you have some blood drawn to learn about your genetic make-up? Of course not! You. Just. Know. Well, that is not the case for everyone.
I came out as a lesbian when I was twenty-one years old, but this story is not about that time I came out, it’s about a different time. You see, I learned very quickly that you don’t just “come out of the closet” once. Living in a world where being heterosexual and cisgender are assumed, if you don’t fit this mold and you want people to know, you have to tell them. Sometimes people figure it out for themselves, sometimes they don’t make assumptions, but a lot of the time, it’s up to you to let them know. Over the years I’ve developed lots of ways of doing this, for instance: talking about my partner by name and with feminine pronouns, asking future employers whether their benefits cover same-sex domestic partners, or just flat out telling a doctor she was incorrect when she said “I assume you’re heterosexual.”
When you type “FTM transition” into an online search engine you will find pages upon pages of links, including information on testosterone therapy. One particular genre of online resource is the “transition video,” a mostly DIY undertaking in which people assigned female at birth (AFAB) talk about and document their varied experiences taking testosterone. Transition videos really are quite remarkable; in the time it takes to microwave a bag of popcorn, you are able to witness the physical changes that occur in a person taking testosterone over the course of days, weeks, months, and years.