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Degendering The Voice #1: Stop calling it the Adam's Apple

teacher resources teacher training Aug 29, 2022
Degendering the voice #1: STOP calling it the Adam's Apple

I frequently get asked by voice teachers, like choral directors and singing teachers, how they can create welcoming environments for trans students. I go over all of this in my teacher training course, but I decided to take this opportunity to create a mini-series on the blog called Degendering The Voice, which will be a series of short tips, mostly around voice language, that will help voice teachers to be more inclusive in their teaching.

The series may be called Degendering The Voice on the blog, but in my soul, it is called BIOLOGICAL ESSENTIALISM MAKES FOOLS OF US ALL, so keep that in mind 🤣

For the first in the series, I want to talk about the structure commonly referred to as the Adam's Apple. This structure is the cartilaginous protrusion that we sometimes see in the necks of those who have experienced a testosterone puberty.

You can probably guess why I'm not a fan of this term but let's start with the most obvious reason.

First, it's needlessly gendered. Where the nickname comes from is of some debate (although Merriam Webster explains it here if you want to read about it) but the name "Adam" is usually considered a man's name. When you use the term "Adam's Apple" you are making the connection between the structure and maleness, even though people of all genders may have this visible structure.

Second, it is not an anatomically correct term! If you're a voice professional, it's my opinion that you should be using the real name for things. Just like we don't use colloquial terms like "voice box" or "windpipe" in professional settings, we also shouldn't use "Adam's Apple".

Lastly, everyone has this structure! We only refer to it as an "Adam's Apple" when it protrudes visibly, but the structure is not markedly different just because it's visible. The visibility of the "Adam's Apple" depends on how large the larynx is but also how much adipose tissue in the neck is covering it. Someone who is very thin may have the perception of a larger "Adam's Apple" but it would look less large if that same person gained weight in their neck.

So what should we call it instead?

The structure in question is part of the thyroid cartilage (it's the tip of the V) so my favourite term for this is the Thyroid Notch. The Thyroid Notch is very clear, it refers to the particular cartilage precisely, and it doesn't distinguish between a visible or an invisible thyroid notch. If you place your hand on your neck and press a little, I'm sure you'll be able to feel your own thyroid notch.

In some of my courses, I refer to this structure as the Laryngeal Prominence, which is also fine, but I have recently switched to calling it the Thyroid Notch because it's shorter and a little more accurate.

That's it for the first in this series! I hope you found this information helpful. If so, please consider sharing it with a voice professional in your network!

Hi, I'm Renée! (they/them)

I'm a queer, nonbinary, and disabled singer, songwriter and gender-affirming voice teacher. 

I've been a voice teacher for over twelve years, I have four full-length albums out, and I have degrees in physics, jazz, and songwriting.

I love creating, I love figuring things out, but most of all, I love helping people.

Learn more about me

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