The journey of transition is a unique process for each individual. Not every trans person will choose to incorporate hormone therapy, but for those who do, there is a common question that often comes up: do hormones change your voice? While the results of hormone therapy are different in each person, there are some general results that can be expected. Below, we will discuss hormone therapy in mtf & ftm trans people, as well as the non-medical voice training methods that are available to you, whether or not you choose to incorporate hormone therapy.
Before we launch into the discussion, it’s important to know that while many trans people experience positive effects from hormone therapy, there are possible unwanted side effects that can occur. So make sure to discuss side effects with your doctor before beginning therapy.
Hormone therapy for male-to-female people
Hormone therapy for mtf people usually consists of a combination of estrogen and anti-androgens. If begun in early puberty, this treatment can prevent the voice from deepening. However, for trans women who begin hormone therapy after puberty when the voice has already deepened, there will be no significant impact on the voice. For this reason, many trans women will turn to voice training to achieve their feminization goals. Though it may be hard to believe at first, voice training is a powerful tool that can help trans people to achieve a complete vocal transformation.
Voice training for ftm people
What makes a human voice sound feminine? In reality, it’s no single quality. A confident feminine voice is a combination of factors, all of which can be discovered and nurtured with successful voice training. For most mtf people, training will start with the theory of voice feminization. This theory centers on the length of the vocal tract, and states that an elongated vocal tract will produce a lower, more masculine timbre, and a shortened vocal tract will produce a higher, more feminine timbre.
So what is the vocal tract? It’s the area inside your body where the voice is produced. It starts at your larynx (voice box/Adam’s apple) and goes all the way to your lips. If you place your hand gently around your throat and swallow, you will feel something move. This is your larynx. The larynx is a cartilage box that holds your vocal folds, and it has the ability to move up and down as you speak and sing. When your larynx is in a low position, the vocal tract is elongated. When it moves higher in the neck, the vocal tract is shortened. Mtf people will work to increase voice feminization by training their larynx to remain in a high position.
At first, it may be hard to understand how the movement of this tiny body part can create vocal transformation. However, the vocal tract is an extremely sensitive apparatus, and changes of any kind can produce profound effect. Try this little exercise to feel your larynx in action: First, prepare yourself by taking a few slow and relaxed breaths. Then, take a silent breath, and hold the sound “AHHH” out for a few seconds on a low pitch. Any pitch will do, just choose something that feels low in your voice. Do it a couple times and notice how your voice feels, and sounds. You may find that the voice sounds low, rich and full. Right now, your vocal tract is elongated, and you are creating a more masculine pitch and timbre.
Next, take a sharp inhale, and hold out the sound “EEEE” on a high pitch. Do it a few times, and note how this sound feels and sounds different from your “AHHH.” You may find that the voice feels higher, lighter, and brighter. Right now, your vocal tract is in a shortened position, and you are creating a more feminine pitch and timbre.
Hormone therapy for female-to-male people
Hormone therapy for ftm people will usually consist of testosterone treatment. For most trans men, testosterone will cause a physical change to happen in the vocal folds, causing the voice to deepen. However not all ftm people will experience a full deepening of the voice. Depending on your treatment goals, there are different dosages of testosterone that can be selected, resulting in a wide range of results. This range is further expanded by the fact that each body will respond to hormone therapy differently. For this reason, ftm people may choose to incorporate voice training into their process. With correct training, an individual can learn to deepen their voice, as well as adopt the stylistic qualities of male speech. Some individuals may even forgo hormone therapy all together, and use voice training alone to discover and develop their new voice.
Voice training for ftm people
Similarly to the training for feminization, masculinization training will focus on the behavior of the vocal tract. Ftm people can cultivate masculine pitch and quality by training the vocal tract to sustain an elongated position. Scroll up and read the section entitled “voice training for mtf people” for a more complete explanation of the vocal tract, and how to train it.
Successful training of the vocal tract is foundational to masculinization, however there are additional layers of masculine quality that can be added to complete the transformation: vocal fry, and monotone speaking style are the heavy hitters. Vocal fry is a subtle roughness that is created at the bottom of the vocal range. You may have experienced fry in the early morning after just waking up. The voice will have a creaky quality, and maybe even sound lower than normal. The vocal fry will usually go away within an hour of when you start speaking, your voice “warms up” and returns to its normal timbre. However, it is possible to add vocal fry to your voice whenever you like. Subtle amounts of fry bring warmth, and richness to the voice, as well as adding a casual, relaxed quality to your delivery.
Monotone speaking style is another important part of a fully developed masculine voice. Monotone means that the voice remains consistent in pitch while speaking, rather than moving up and down. Vocal movement is one of the hallmarks of the feminine voice, so ftm people will work to curb their tendency to move, thereby creating a more masculine monotone.