Learned Behaviors

I drop my voice into a lower register when I want to be taken seriously.

Sometimes this is conscious decision, such as when I am in the company of males who are attempting to speak over me and I decide to assert myself, or with folks who I know will not take me as seriously if my voice is pitched higher, regardless of the words that come out of my mouth.
Sometimes it’s completely unconscious, which happens when I am the only woman in a group of men. This still happens unconsciously because it’s a learned behavior that is ingrained very, very deeply within myself as part of my experience with passing as male. When I am anxious, I have even less recognition of it happening, but I know it still happens. I realize it afterwards and feel angry for having this uncontrolled reaction.
These days, when I notice this behavior in the company of women I try to catch myself and speak in what is truly a more physically comfortable voice, more in my mid-range. I remind myself gently that I will not be misunderstood in this context, that my words will not carry less weight because of the pitch of my voice. It is still sometimes hard to hear this mid-range voice when I know that I am consciously affecting it, because if I am consciously thinking of my voice I think of it in the lower register, and this causes dissonance no matter how physically comfortable that mid-range voice is. More social conditioning, I suppose, left over from transition.
When this happens in the company of men, then I do not waver. In the company of men, my defenses stay up, and my defense mechanisms on hair triggers. Lowering my voice is one of my stronger tactics against males assuming I’m inferior, and trust me, it works. I am received much differently with men depending on what my voice sounds like. I know which tools I have in my personal arsenal for dealing with the patriarchy very well.

I think a lot about this. I still feel a lot of comfort in letting my voice rumble low in my chest, even though this rumble is a result of my stint on testosterone. It’s one of those permanent changes that helps me remain feeling at home in this body. I know that this comfort is deeply socially conditioned, because I now have what feels like a lifetime behind me of my words holding more weight when they’re spoken in a lower voice. Everywhere we turn, society conditions us to take deeper voices more seriously. There is no logical, biological, or functional reason for me to find comfort in a lowered voice outside of patriarchy. I gain social currency in the patriarchy when I utilize this privilege of a lower voice that I afforded to myself through exogenous hormones – by no virtue of anything innate to my person.
Dropping my voice is one of those performative masculinity traits that I have an incredibly hard time removing myself from. At this point, I think I can say that I have distanced myself from using this patriarchal tactic when I am in the company of other women, or at the very least when I am in the company of other Lesbians. I think it’s a learned behavior that should certainly be critiqued, and every day I’m looking for ways to move my life towards a place where I’ll never again have the social impetus to utilize this behavior. In the meantime, I have to get along in the patriarchy, like we all do. I utilize those tools I have, and between the constant internal battles about the way I utilize them I attempt to be gentle and remind myself that we all do things worthy of critique, but that help us get by. None of us are radical without flaw, but when I think about who I am and the way I carry myself when I am among Lesbians who do not judge, I know that that is both the most radical and most natural version of myself that I am personally capable of and I strive to move closer to that mode of expression of true self comfort full-time every single day.

1 thought on “Learned Behaviors

  1. I find myself playing into these patriarchal tendencies as well. I hate that I notice my voice change octaves depending on who I’m speaking to, that it drops automatically in the presence of men. That I’ve been conditioned to think that is a more serious tone. It’s shit.


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