I Get Misgendered Because of my Voice. I’m not changing it.

Riley Black
4 min readMar 22, 2020
Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash

“I think what he means is…”

I jump in. “Oh! She, her, please!” It’s more of a chirp than a bark. Like I’m somehow surprised that my coworker has misgendered me, again, while I am sitting right next to her. I reflexively slide a hand under the strap of my dress to pull my bra strap back over my shoulder, just to give the awkward twinge somewhere to go. And, I’ve told myself, maybe if I squirm a little my coworker won’t lay her hand on my arm in a gesture that means “I’m sorry” but is indistinguishable from “Bless your heart.” My voice gave me away again.

I’m not going to pretend that I flawlessly pass. I abandoned that concept before I dropped the first estrogen pill under my tongue. My shoulders are broad, and will always be. Ditto for my arms. If I want to punish myself, I can stand in front of the mirror and find every hard line and boxy angle. Practice has led me closer to perfect with eyeliner, I’ve got legs to die for, and my breasts are more than a handful, but I know that at a glance I’m betwixt and between. And yet even people who know better — friends, coworkers, and even my therapist — have reflexively called me “he” and then gone wide-eyed enough that I have to then offer them reassurance that everything’s fine. The slips always come after I say something. I know it’s my voice.

My initial doctor visits to start and track my transition included a menu portion. Would you like top surgery? Probably. Do you want bottom surgery? Get back to me on that one. Are you interested in vocal therapy? I… don’t know. Like most people, I traditionally hated the sound of my own voice. The fact that I read the audiobook for My Beloved Brontosaurus and the common thread among the reviews was “Interesting book but I hate the author’s voice” didn’t help. Now I had all the more reason to change my voice. I knew that it wouldn’t change with my body. Unlike my transmasc friends, the hormones I started wouldn’t do anything to my voice. If I wanted to sound different, I’d have to train. Now and then I’d daydream about sounding like Sigourney Weaver, her smooth and commanding tones my personal ideal.

I never called the number my doctor gave me. Having such a clear image of the voice I wanted didn’t help. Just like bodily transitioning, I worried about putting…

Riley Black

Distant cousin of T. rex. Author of Skeleton Keys, My Beloved Brontosaurus, and more. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Laelaps. http://rileyblack.net