from the greek for “beautiful voiced”
I dig my voice, but it took me awhile to get there. being a podcaster and a public speaker, I’m in sort of a unique spot in having years of documentation in that area. This week, a retrospective!
from the greek for “beatiful voiced”
Callie: [00:00:00] Shout out to Chris, Todd, Angry Mac Face, and Hypatia for becoming new patrons this week, and to Dan for pledge increase. Thank you, friends. Love you. Lots. My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining. I chose the name Calliope for a few reasons. In Greek myth. She’s the muse of epic poetry. She said to have been Homer’s muse for the Iliad and the Odyssey.
And it felt appropriate. I was about to embark on a difficult, sometimes dangerous journey. The outcome was uncertain and also the name just sounded cool. I could shorten it to Callie, which is a name I’ve always loved. Later on. I found out something even more interesting. Calliope the word itself in Greek means beautiful voiced.
This is interesting. When I think about having a beautiful voice music is the first thing that comes to mind for me. I think about my favorite singers like Dustin Kenzie from Thrice. Anthony Green from Circus Survive, Chino Moreno from the Deftones, Adele and so on. And I’ve never been a great singer.
But the reason I think about music first is I think that was just my first love as an art form. Right. Having a beautiful voice can mean a lot of things. I can think about my favorite podcast, voices like Caitlin Press from The Heart. Helen Salzman from the Allusionist, Michael Barbaro from The Daily Nate de Mayo from The Memory Palace and so on.
But what does it mean to have a beautiful voice? Do we mean it’s aesthetically pleasing to listen to? Are we talking more in terms of what they say or how they say it as opposed to the sound of their voice? As a trans person, as a musician, as a podcaster, a lot of time thinking about my voice and I feel like I’ve come full circle with it at this point.
I’m happy with where I am. I like my voice and this week, I’m going to talk a little bit about how I got there.
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Raise your hand. If you were horrified the first time you heard a recording of your voice, I’m raising my hand right now.
For me, it was when I insisted on recording the message on our family answering machine. This was amazing technology. I was very excited. I begged my mom to let me record the message. She agreed. The only condition was that it couldn’t be a silly message. Fair enough. So I recorded the message and played it back and I was confused! That did not sound like me. I had no idea why it was different and no one could explain it to me. I just kind of accepted it as a fact that I didn’t understand the reasoning for. By the way, if you’re curious, the reason for this, when you hear your voice on a recording, you’re only hearing the sound moving through the air and hitting the microphone.
When you hear your own voice, you’re hearing it resonate through your skull and the other tissue in your head. You sound different to everyone, but you, so yeah, that voice you hear on recording, you really do sound like that. Sorry. That was the first time I thought a lot about my voice. I went to a vocational school for broadcasting and a trade school for audio engineering.
So of course I encountered hearing my own voice a lot in both places, but it didn’t think too deeply about it again, until I started to figure out I was trans. I came out to the world with a note that I posted on Facebook. I did a whole paragraph about quote unquote, what all this means. And I said, part of what this means is that I’ll quote unquote start talking like a girl. I know that’s really terrible phrasing, cut me some slack. I was at the very beginning of all of this at that point, I knew doing estrogen based HRT didn’t do anything for your voice. So I’d have to do some kind of training if I wanted my voice to change, that was going to be a top priority for me. When I did come out and start transitioning though, it turned out not to be, I think it was because I was still working my old job where I had to be in the closet, eight to 10 hours a day. I had to keep pretending. That was most of my interaction with other people. The rest were friends and family and support groups and all of that who didn’t really care what my voice sounded like.
I guess there just, wasn’t a ton of external pressure at that point. I did some stuff here and there there’s a ton of voice training YouTube videos.
YouTube Video: [00:04:11] This is a video on how to find your female voice.
Callie: [00:04:14] I tried singing along with songs by women singers I liked.
Next thing we’re touching.
Someone told me if you do that, then try to keep your voice near that register. It can help train your voice to stay that way. Didn’t really work for me. But frankly, I wasn’t trying super hard. I didn’t think about this at the time, but I was wrestling with a pretty fundamental question. Is my transness a reaction to the gender roles I had forced on me as a kid. Is it something more inherent?
I felt dysphoria around my body before I knew a lot about human bodies. So that feels pretty inherent. I felt wrong about it before I knew it could be done. Other stuff feels more complicated. Was my voice something I was fundamentally uncomfortable with or was I uncomfortable with it because I knew it made me less safe.
How would I even begin to untangle that? The only way I could know for sure was to somehow teleport to a world where I could be confident, no one would give a shit about how it sounded. Oh. To live in such a world. The life I lead leaves me in a pretty unique spot. I’ve got years of podcasting and public speaking out there.
There’s stuff from almost the very beginning.
Past Callie: [00:05:27] Good evening, everyone.
Callie: [00:05:29] This was November 20th, 2014. I gave the keynote at the transgender day of remembrance in Cincinnati.
Past Callie: [00:05:35] My name is Callie Wright. I’m an out and proud queer trans woman.
Callie: [00:05:39] And I was ready to hate that. And I just didn’t, I mean, my public speaking skills are five years better than they were, but the sound of my voice, I just plain don’t hate that this is kind of weird, honestly.
It’s just. Me. I started the podcast about a year later. I was bummed to find it. I don’t think I actually have the first episode I ever made saved anywhere, but I was able to find stuff from the first few months.
Past Callie: [00:06:04] Coming you on Secular Media Network. This is the Gaytheist Manifesto, your source for news commentary.
Callie: [00:06:09] God, I don’t hate that. And I thought I would, That’s interesting that doesn’t actually sound a lot different than I do now. I think maybe I was just a lot less practiced and I think I was trying a lot harder to be more like the radio show type personality. Welcome to the Gaytheist Manifesto, your source for blah, blah blah.
Which that’s fine. I mean, that’s where I was at the time. but yeah, gosh, I thought I was going to hate that and I don’t. Actually.
But then I got a job at a call center. That kind of brought things into focus. If I didn’t do something with my voice, I was going to spend every minute of every Workday being mis-gendered and I knew that wasn’t going to be fun. So I decided to get a bit more serious about it. I downloaded this voice training app called Eva was made by a voice teacher that has a niche, especially in helping trans women train their voices.
I got to the point where I was gendered correctly on the phone most of the time, not all the time, but most it was interesting by the way, to see the differing levels of respect I got from people based on how they were gendering me different episode, you could hear it in my podcasting, too.
Commentary and discussion. Yeah. So this is officially where we have reached, this is the, so this is officially where we have reached. where I think I was trying to do some, some voice training exercises and change my voice a little bit. and that is uncomfortable because I am not a huge fan of the way that I sound there.
Past Callie: [00:07:58] Hello and welcome to the Gaytheist Manifesto.
Callie: [00:08:02] This was also around the time I decided to try that second podcast showed up.
Past Callie: [00:08:06] Mostly for the stories that focus on someone being queer or being trans as the story.
Callie: [00:08:11] As much as I hate that now I really started to feel good about it back then. I remember talking about it on the show a bit.
I remember making a Patreon audio journal about it. I also remember getting wonderfully supportive messages about it. It felt nice. I’m not sure when exactly I stopped worrying as much about it. It was probably close to the time I got promoted at work. The first time I was going to be on the phone a lot less.
I was getting misgendered in public a lot less. I think that helped me get more comfortable. I could put on my customer service voice when I had to talk to customers and put on some version of that voice at restaurants or whatever, I just sort of stopped caring. And I think my bottom surgery was what did it and for good.
I stopped wanting to be hyper femme after that. And that definitely included my voice. I’m like my voice. When I listened back to my old podcast episodes and convention talks, it’s not my voice that I hate. I just wasn’t the best public speaker back then. On the podcast, I was trying too hard to be a radio host, whatever the hell that means I didn’t have great pacing.
I wasn’t very good at reading from scripts. My voice was and is just fine. Metaphorically speaking, I’ve put in a lot of work on my voice, learning how to write for the ear learning. Sound design and scoring. Writing, rewriting writing again. Listening to episodes dozens of times before they go out to make sure they’re just right.
I listened to hours and hours of the stuff I’ve made over the years to make this episode. I expected to hate most of that experience. And I really didn’t. I expected it to be a journey of listening to how I use the sound versus how I sound now. Turns out it was more a journey of me figuring out the right way to express myself.
My voice is part of that, but it’s not entirely the same thing. And I’ve come to the conclusion that yeah, I do. In fact, live up to the etymology of my name Calliope. I do have a beautiful voice metaphorically and literally, and I’m proud of it.
Thanks for listening friend. If you want to help keep these stories coming, please consider heading to patreon.com/queersplaining and making a per episode donation to support the show any little bit helps in these uncertain times. A shout out on your social media platform of choice is a big help too.
Before I go, I want you to know that if you’re lost, you’re hurting, you’re scared. If you feel like no one cares and no one understands, you need to know there’s a community out here that loves you cares for you knows that you’re capable of amazing things and that you are worthy of love. If you’re struggling, please, don’t be afraid to reach out until next time, friend.
My name is Callie Wright and this is Queersplaining.