Dispatch From Thailand — Linguistic Challenges

| Mar 19, 2018
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For most Transgender people, one of the biggest challenges is getting their voice just right for their affirmed gender.

Whether you are male to female or female to male, it’s no good getting your presentation almost perfect and looking the part physically. . . only to be let down by an inappropriate voice!

From what I can see, it appears to be easier for most female to male T people to correct their voice as regular shots of testosterone seems to deepen the voice quite quickly; whereas for MtF T people who transition after their voice has broken, it’s a long haul to train the voice and constantly remember to keep the pitch and tone as feminine as possible; not to mention appropriate word selection and use of phrases or expressions.

My own experiences have been rewarding and I seem to be able to comfortably switch voices depending upon the persona I am in and the circumstance I am presented with. Yet it has taken quite a long time to get to this point and there are still times when I am in female mode when reflexively (especially when the conversation is moving quickly or a quick response is called for, such as in a situation when there is some hilarity present) I know that, at such times, my carefulness with the spoken word disappears and I feel my tones and pitch or vocabulary are not as good as they should be!

On the other hand, I have had some amusing (not so at the time) instances where, after spending a prolonged periods en femme (as I do annually when on my 2 or 3 regular, lengthy vacations), people have called me and I have found it very difficult to revert to a male type voice, at least for the first few minutes of the conversation. Perhaps not surprisingly when I have been talking in a set (feminine) way for a few days or a week, something seems to lock in my throat and I am quite unable to get away from the relatively high pitched voice I use when I am being me!

You can say that this selection and switching of voices is the first major challenge I face when I am trying to make sure that my overall presentation is perfect. . . however, for me personally there is another challenge which I need to overcome when speaking in public. . . let me tell you more.

I’ve resided in Asia for a very long time and, some 4-5 years ago, relocated to Thailand to live. Now, although I’ve never been the best learner of foreign languages (there just seems to be some sort of mental block in my brain which prevents the newly learned words from staying in my mind longer than a few days), I did put some extra effort in and learn to speak Thai — partly as there is much more necessity to speak the local language than there is in, say, Hong Kong or Singapore where English levels are much better. And so, through many trials and tribulations, I learned to speak passable Thai. Slowly but surely and, by and large, good enough to get me by.

As I admitted above, sometimes when trying to speak in my best feminine voice I do have lapses — and even when speaking my native tongue. Imagine then, if you will, what it’s like trying to speak demurely, softly and in a female manner in Thai when most of the time I am thinking in English and translating into Thai sub-consciously before I speak. Sure there are a few phrases I can rattle off without thinking but most of the time it’s necessary to deliberately, carefully and prudently pick my words and adapt my voice pitch.

Not only is this part difficult when the conversation is moving quickly, but throw in another complication where, for example, the words/endings for thank you are different for male and females as is the word for I. Indeed, there has been many a time when I’ve almost slipped up and just stopped myself from saying the masculine I when I really mean to be saying the feminine version.

Fortunately most people are very forgiving here and sincerity in approach and actions whether it’s a matter of business or pleasure seems to win every time — irrespective of how you look or what you wear!

Still, one day I will get it sorted and the minor mistakes I still make in the pitch and tone in my everyday speech become less frequent — I hope!

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Category: Transgender Body & Soul

Christine B

About the Author ()

Christine has written numerous (at least 150) articles, columns, op-eds, features & stories for well known T magazines, websites & e-zines; she also works as a part time fiction editor for Club Lighthouse Publishing, and is a co-editor of an award winning T-girl Magazine. In addition, she has written 8 adult books mainly in the T sub-genre which have been published by Club Lighthouse Publishing, for whom she has been the best selling author for the last 5 years.

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