This month we decided to offer most of our instructional videos for almost 33% off, and then today I received a YouTube message asking how I learned to “talk like a woman”. Putting aside all the socio-political implications of the question, if I had to give a simple answer it would be this: Andrea James taught me how. So I will tell the story of how I found my female voice under her tutelage, and how we ended up creating our instructional video, “Finding Your Female Voice“. I may gush a little, but at that time, Andrea was one of the first trans women I had ever met who had succeeded at so many incredible things. Who could have imagined all that was to come!
Back in 2001, I left Nashville and moved to Chicago to start over as my transition progressed… Your hometown people, whether friends, families or foes, never let you forget that they “knew you when” and thus many trans people reach a point where moving to a new town can be a welcome chance to begin fresh. (I still hear about people in Nashville who can’t wait to tell anyone who’ll listen that they knew “Calpernia Addams as a man”. Sigh.)
Once in Chicago, I reconnected with some Nashville girlfriends who had preceded me there and I began exploring life as a woman in a new city where basically no one knew anything but the new me. Every day was a new adventure, walking through crowds along huge city streets, getting a job at an enormous hospital downtown and socializing with new people.
But I still felt like I was being “read’ as a transsexual woman much of the time. By that, I mean people could “tell” that I was in the process of transitioning. At that time, I was young, smooth, curvaceous in all the right places and had a very female vibe. I couldn’t figure out why everyone was so quick to infer my status as a transsexual woman. About that time, my girlfriends introduced me to “that woman who’s famous for creating the best transsexual website in the world“, aka Andrea James.
Andrea was incredibly different from 99% of the trans women I had known back home, most of whom had come up through the gay club scene. When I first met her with my Nashville-transplant friends at a restaurant, I was awestruck with how amazingly beautiful and “real” she looked. At the time, I didn’t understand that terms like “real” carry heavy implications about trans identity and female identity… I just couldn’t believe that anyone could have transitioned so perfectly, seemingly untouched by markers of a male history. From Andrea, I would learn medical transition information like Dr. Douglas Ousterhout’s nearly magical facial feminization surgery, Dr. Toby Meltzer’s world famous vaginoplasty reputation and the importance of expert hair removal. I would learn that one could transition socially in the heterosexual world of big business, and continue to live in that world, completely outside the gay scene, if one desired. Really, I learned that a person could do anything, if they planned carefully and worked hard toward their transition goals.
But one of the most valuable things I ever learned from Andrea was how to find my female voice. The reason I had been getting “clocked” as trans so much was my non-passing voice.
Andrea’s speaking voice was strikingly beautiful, but what amazed me even more was that it sounded utterly, perfectly female. There was no trace of masculinity in her voice, whether she was conversing with us on the couch in her living room or yelling over the beating thump of a dance club’s sound system. It had none of the nasal “drag queen” style that I had assumed was the only way one could sound female after enduring a male puberty. It was not a ridiculous cartoon falsetto. And she confided that she was not one of the lucky few trans women who had simply been born with a soprano speaking voice… she achieved her voice by study and practice that I could also emulate. There was hope for me!
I decided that I wanted to learn, and we began working together on my voice. In the process, we decided to set up my little video camera and begin recording the concepts and techniques in the form of lessons that she distilled and wrote out into what would become the “Finding Your Female Voice” method. It was difficult, and at times I felt hopeless… sometimes I would come close to speaking in a beautiful female version of my own voice, but it was always with great effort and concentration. My voice got tired from all the exercises. But I’ll never forget that fateful night, about two months into our regular practice sessions, when I was riding a bike home from Andrea’s apartment and in the midst of doing my vocal exercises, I suddenly “got it”. The physical, psychological and practical aspects all came together for me and after that, it became easier and easier to use my female voice. Eventually, it was second nature.
All these years later, I have relaxed into a comfortable place with my speaking voice and feel like it is truly my own. At times, I am a bawdy, husky Mae West and at times a breathy, airy Marilyn Monroe. Most often, people tell me my voice reminds them of Drew Barrymore, which is funny to me. There are even some lazy moments of Bea Arthur, but I have all the techniques at my command and I can use them whenever I choose. Making the “Finding Your Female Voice” video with Andrea was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The sales of the video helped found Deep Stealth, and they continue to fund our work for the community and the eight free informational websites we maintain for over 4,000,000 visitors a year. Best of all, I know that many thousands and thousands of women all over the world have a tool at their fingertips that can help them move toward their transition goals. Get out there and enjoy the world, girls, it really can all be yours!