As part of your transition process, you might also desire to alter the sound of your voice for it to align more with your gender presentation.
Renée Yoxon: the voice teacher helping you discover a voice that aligns with your gender presentation
While one option is to seek out a speech-language pathologist, it is not the only way. We spoke to the incredible Renée Yoxon, a non-binary gender-affirming voice teacher. They describe their work as helping ‘transgender people discover a voice that aligns with their gender presentation’. They have a background in singing teaching and singing pedagogy, with degrees in physics, jazz and songwriting. Their work is non-invasive and not permanent.
Please note that you do not need voice lessons or voice therapy for your identity to be valid. Nevertheless, if you do wish to modify the way you sound, voice lessons can help you feel more euphoric.
What inspired you to become a voice teacher?
Renée: I have been a singing teacher for over 10 years. At some point, I decided I only wanted to teach singing to people who are either trans or disabled or both. That’s because I am trans and disabled. People who are trans and/or disabled have specific needs and fewer teachers can meet those needs. However, because those groups don’t have a lot of disposable income for singing lessons, I made a scholarship program called the ‘Right to Sing Award’. I raised money so I could give the singing lessons for free.
While promoting the scholarship program, Renée was contacted by Project 10, an organisation that supports trans youth in Montréal. They were seeking specifically a non-binary gender-affirming voice teacher. Renée gladly accepted the offer and over time, their studio shifted from singing lessons for all to only trans students. ‘It’s almost like the trans voice alteration career chose me more than I chose it’, Renée jokingly explained.
After the pandemic hit, the opportunities to teach online widened and Renée was able to connect with more people around the world. To address the needs of trans people who may not be able to afford Renée’s courses, every month, they give away free and subsidised places for their courses.
Renée: I find it so fulfilling. No one is more appreciative of my time than trans people, they are just so happy to be there. I get to hang out with trans people all day long. It’s the best job in the world.
What can you learn through gender-affirming voice lessons?
Renée: You will be able to learn to differentiate the characteristics that make up the gendered aspects of your voice. We tend to focus on four main characteristics that you will be able to modify:
Another skill you will develop is to listen to other voices more critically. It is about developing awareness. People tend to come in wanting a more feminine or masculine voice, believing women speak in one way and men in another. It is fine to start there but actually start listening to the people in your life and ask yourself how these people are really speaking. With this awareness, I have become the worst at differentiating voices by gender because all genders sound like everything.
By developing an awareness, you will learn to hone in on your goal. For example, you might think you want a super high voice but maybe you want to sound more like your mother who doesn’t have such a high voice.
What is one exercise to masculine or feminise your voice?
Renée: It’s called the ‘Key-Oh’ exercise. Essentially, out of the four characteristics I mentioned before, resonance is the one that has the most effect on the perceived gender of the voice. When you ask yourself, why is it that this woman’s voice is low, and this man’s voice is high but somehow you can still hear that they are a man or a woman? This is because the resonance is brighter or darker, higher or lower. Resonance is this characteristic that is distinguished from pitch, but it is perceived by the ear as high or low.
For example, if I take a stable pitch, I can make it brighter or darker, but the pitch has not changed. It is perceived as high or low, but we call it bright and dark. The ‘Key-Oh’ exercise is a way to hone in on brightness or darkness using vowels that you are already familiar with.
To understand how you can masculinise or feminise your voice using the ‘Key-Oh’ exercise, check out Renée’s video HERE.
Make sure to also watch their video explaining the power of ‘um’, a practice that builds on the ‘Key-Oh’ exercise.
When can someone expect to hear changes in their voice?
Renée: The timeline is interesting because people can create the voice usually quite quickly, within a month or two. You are already the expert at modifying your voice, you do that when you speak to different people in different situations. The hard part is the ‘re-habituation’ process, meaning getting used to using that voice again. Your habits have a major impact on your voice and that process can take years. What I do is help to create habits in your life that will make the voice sit in the background of your mind, so you don’t have to think about it constantly. That’s something we work towards together which can take a while.
How can you get in touch with Renée?
Renée: You can do that at reneeyoxon.com. All my online courses are there, I also have a blog where I am sharing my TikToks, and lots of free information if you want to see what things are about before jumping straight in. The best way to contact me is through my website but if you prefer TikTok or Instagram, I am also on there.
I have two main student courses. One is called ‘Mindful Voice Feminization’. This course is about feminising your voice, such as raising pitch, brightening resonance, and changing inflexion but I also talk a lot about the emotional hurdles that come up specifically with voice feminisation. The other course is called ‘Masculinising your voice without testosterone’. There are a lot of young trans people who don’t have access to testosterone or trans people who wish to start modifying their voice without taking testosterone.
Renée is also doing a live run of their ‘Mindful Voice Feminization’ course. Once a week, they will do a live call where you can talk through each week’s modules. If you are interested in this 6-week course make sure to sign up via THIS LINK by the 6th of October. For any additional information or to learn more about Renée Yoxon’s work, check out their TikTok, Instagram and website.