Scarleteen interview: Finding Our Own VoicesJul 12, 2021
I was born in 1987, which means when Scarleteen first appeared in 1998, I was exactly the perfect age to benefit from their radically honest, queer, and feminist take on sex education. Let me tell you, for a little queer ten-year-old, Scarleteen was an absolute lifeline.
So when Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen, approached me on Twitter and asked if they could interview me about my trans voice education work, I was completely over the moon and jumped at the opportunity!
I sat down with Val J to discuss trans voice, trans joy, and queering the larynx. Here's an excerpt from that interview:
Val: What is gender-affirming vocal care?
Renée: "Some people call it Trans Voice Lessons. Other people call it Gender Affirming Vocal Therapy or Voice lessons. Voice Feminization or Voice Masculinization. In essence, it’s about teaching people how to modify their currently habituated voice to better reflect their inter-sense of gender and to give them gender euphoria. And also to help them be perceived the way they want to be perceived in this binary world. This work is about noticing what we already use in terms of our instrument [the voice] and how to use those tools to create a voice that makes us happy. "
However, vocal therapy doesn’t have to be about feminization or masculinization. What can vocal therapy look like for nonbinary people?
Renée: "People ask me all the time…‘how do I neutralize my voice? How do I make a nonbinary voice?’ No one person can tell you ‘do this to have a nonbinary voice’, if anyone tells you that’s fake. It depends on where you start (vocally) and what you want. What are you being perceived as currently and how do you move away from that but not so far in the direction of the other way that you get perceived as something in the middle. Not that there is a two-party [gender] system here but it’s about how you are being perceived.”
Just like gender, the voice is not a simple binary of high to low pitch. There are a lot of components that go into how our voice sounds and how one might go about changing that.
Renée: “You are not limited on this particular binary of high/low. People tend to approach it that way, but the voice is about the least binary thing there is. There’s so many qualities to the voice. Pitch is one of the qualities I tend to focus on. But resonance is way more important. Like how bright or how dark a voice is. [Additionally, I focus on] vocal fold mass.”
Yoxon talked with me about how the actual physiology of the voice resists societal conceptions of gender. People often insist there is such thing as a male or female voice but looking at the anatomy of the voice itself challenges that.
Renée: “A lot of people think the voice is extremely gendered as a physiological structure and its not. Queer the larynx. It is not gendered. I don’t use gendered terms because it doesn’t make sense. Voices are all equal and those that are exposed to testosterone go through certain changes…”
There is so much more from this lovely interview, I highly encourage you to go over to their blog and read the entire thing.
While you're there, please look around at their other posts! Scarleteen does an amazing job at covering topics that other publications don't even think to cover. I was really taken by their latest article, An Autistic's Guide to Being Ghosted by Douglas Laman.
After over twenty years in service to sex education for the real world, I feel confident that whoever you are, you will find yourself represented at Scarleteen.