‘It is never too late to be what you might have been’ – George Eliot
56 may be a somewhat late age to start transitioning, but my life has been such that that was when I started. And as I started, I quickly came to realise that I’d have to arrange treatments and services myself, if I was to do this in a timely and effective way. A referral to SLT at the local major hospital, arranged through my GP, led to five monthly one hour voice coaching sessions. But these, sadly, delivered nothing, there being, seemingly, little understanding of my needs and even less content and structure. I was expected to spend a month practicing lip trills. Magazines were dragged in from the waiting room for something to read while we had pleasant but fruitless chats.
I needed something better and a friend in the trans community pointed me to Celia. ‘It’s not simply about pitch. It’s about how you express yourself; how you communicate’, she said when I called her. Ah – someone who knew her stuff and where I was coming from.
‘Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself’ – Bernard Shaw
I was pushy at first. I knew what I wanted, knew what I was capable of and I didn’t want to be wasting time. Celia took it in her stride and challenged me back. Not an hour every month for five months, but 1 1/2 hours, weekly initially, for as long as was needed. And exercises for practice between sessions; pages of interesting, carefully structured exercises, accompanied by recordings for me to imitate. Forward resonance, gentle onset, phrasing and intonation, arching of vowels, and of course pitch, all of which were monitored and analysed, both in session and at home, by appropriate affordable software. And, during the sessions, my body language and responses were monitored. How was I sitting? How was I expressing myself? Was I responding in a masculine or feminine manner? I loved it and devoured it.
‘Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions’ – Dalai Lama
But it wasn’t easy. Hours of practice, in the car and while out running, at home, anywhere produced results slowly. And the hardest challenge was not a physical one but a mental one. My brain, accustomed to my male voice for the past 40 years, kept telling me I sounded wrong and stupid, that dreams didn’t come true. This resulted in my lacking confidence when trying to use a female voice in public, while I often lost the voice amongst the voices of my friends, especially girlfriends, when I was out.
A raft of emotions resulted that often surfaced during the sessions. I cried regularly, in frustration, in joy when small successes suggested I might just be able to do it. But I laughed too, regularly corpsing at some brilliantly funny line I’d deliberately been given as part of an exercise and which rendered me unable to continue for the next few minutes. Or we’d laugh together at some little silliness.
Celia’s understanding and delicacy throughout this was superb, lifting me up and encouraging me when needed, correcting me when needed. I am now on the way to finding and embedding my female voice, and with this comes an ability to express myself in a more natural feminine way and be accepted as who I am, which is truly wonderful.
‘It is the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting’ – Paulo Coelho
As a youngster I used to pray that a fairy godmother would come and turn me into a girl. But I concluded that this couldn’t happen and that fairy godmothers didn’t exist. I have since changed my view. It can happen and fairy godmothers do exist… It’s just they are not quite how Disney depicted them. And Celia is without doubt one of the most brilliant fairy godmothers I or anyone like me could have.
And the quotes? Ah just a small sample from the exercises, all chosen not just to lift your voice but your spirit. Phenomenal!
– HM, Oxfordshire