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Feminine expression, not “feminization”

The author singing "La Isla Bonita"

Last year I wrote about my ongoing project to develop and explore my ability to express femininity with my voice. I discussed how important it is for me to create an auditory impression that matches the visual impression I create with clothing, makeup and hairstyle. I was a bit taken aback when I saw the word “feminization” in the name of a file prepared for me.

I want to be clear: I’m completely satisfied with the professional who used the word. I explained why I didn’t feel the word “feminization” worked for me, and they apologized and changed it immediately. I understand why they used it: “voice feminization” seems to be emerging as an industry standard word. I’m writing this to share my explanation of why that’s a bad idea, and why we should use a term like “feminine expression” instead.

First of all, having followed transgender discourse for over thirty years, my first mental association with “feminization” is “forced feminization.” I’m not out to yuck anybody’s yum, but forced feminization is not something I’m interested in, and I don’t think anyone wants to associate a service like voice training so closely with a relatively niche sexual fetish.

Beyond that, “feminization” implies a permanent transformation, that my voice would be changed from masculine to feminine. That may be an accurate depiction of what some trans people want. But as I discussed previously, I’m not transitioning from living as a man to living as a woman.

I’m genderfluid, which means that my gender expression may be feminine one day and masculine the next. I love the masculine parts of myself as much as I love the feminine parts, and I don’t want to give any of it up. I had as much fun singing “Sixteen Tons” today as I did singing “Manic Monday” a few days ago.

So please, don’t talk about helping anyone “feminize” their voice. Just say you’re helping them develop their feminine vocal expression. That’s inclusive: it applies just as well to people like me with fluid gender expression as it does to people who want to permanently abandon masculine vocal expression. What’s not to like?

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1 Comment

  1. I’m glad I found your blog. Better late than never…

    I’ve read bits and pieces, here and there. I find your frank matter of fact approach refreshing and thought-provoking. I’ve been transitioning since 2015, and it hasn’t been euphoria all the way. Some insight into the process has been timely for me.

    I can’t bring myself to call myself a woman. My term for myself is ‘womanly male’.

    I can’t see how I can regard myself as other than non-binary, no matter how I yearn to belong… I’m not spoiling for a fight with anyone., TRAs or TERFs…

    This seems to me not in like a compulsion or addiction.?And having ceded control of my life, I’m not happy! I think I should do more in male guise.? I simply haven’t made time for that, and I am less than happy about it…

    You have provided context, and I am grateful.

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