Today’s session, number three I believe is about our ‘telephone voice‘, taking place on Thursday 1st October 2015.
Did you know whenever we speak on our phones, we’re automatically gendering people and their emotions according to the way they sound and tone they use and all this happens in the first few seconds? And that our communication language is generally more formal? No, I never really thought about it either…
However, apparently when you are a transgender looking to pass in every conceivable way; learning to speak and sound convincingly all whilst interacting with others is important; particularly where someone is unable to see your physical being. Takes practice. Lots of practice. Especially on the telephone.
I’m discovering there are many traits people listen to, in order to decide whether a caller is male or female. Getting those right is the key. It will help to avoid mis-gendering. So what are they?
Well.. Most people unconsciously decide our gender by the first utterance of answering the telephone. The moment you pick up that receiver and utter “Hi”, “Hiya” or “Hello?”. The other party has already made up their minds are you male or female. All without you ever disclosing any preferences.
In today’s session we are taught the importance of this and demonstrations given in class, we’re given the knowledge to fool people into believing we’re actually female. An illustrations on a white board, explains the finer details. and we’re given examples of how different both males and females speak.
Each member of the group give their best performance with the help of a fake unscripted telephone call. We took it in turns to answer the telephone, held a short conversation… Then we’re given feedback on how we performed, then tips are given as to how we can improve. Again this all takes practice. The whole process is a very interesting, kinda fun and I found it rather educational.
Myself personally I do not have many issue passing on the phone, even before I started transitioning, I had issues making people believe I was a ‘he’.. Now, I can just go with the flow, apply my new found skills and make everyone believe they are indeed speaking with a lady. I often wonder, could it because I have I’m blessed with a squeeky, high pitch voice? or the fact I’ve learnt to adjust the pitch according to how I feel, emotionally? I know, I’m pretty good with managing my vocal tones. Where I’m able to achieve the higher pitches with ease. My weakness is to stay in ‘character’, so to speak.
Back to the topic…
As the session draws to an end, we’re reminded people generally gendering the caller on the first instance we answer the phone, whether you say “Hello—”, “Hi—ya”, “Hi”, “Who— is it?” or whatever way you choose as a greet another. is enough for someone else to gender use you. And it’s extremely important we get tight spot on — This explains there are so many transgenders who are weary to use the phone.
Time for me to go home and call everyone to practice… lol
I’m still not entirely sure why so many transgenders avoid the gym however. I’ve not met one in my gym.
I know if you dislike the shape of your body, the only way to improve it naturally is to workout!! Similarly, it’s the same with our telephony voice…
About Matthew Mills
Lead Specialist Speech and Language Therapist at the Gender Identity Clinic, London
Matthew Mills BA (Hons) MSc AGSM LTCL Mus Ed cert. MRCSLT Reg.HCPC
Matthew is Lead Specialist Speech and Language Therapist (Transgender Voice and Communication) at the Gender Identity Clinic, London where he has worked since 2009. He is also a voice coach and musician and teaches actors at voice coaches at Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, London. He teaches speech and language therapy students at the University of Greenwich. He originally trained as an actor and singer at Guildhall School of Music & Drama and worked in theatre film and television for 15 years.