I feel like a fundamental moment in the life of a carefree teen is the euphoria of singing in the car with the windows down, driving aimlessly, through a summer city on a young night with your best friends beside you. The bruised sky edges you on to new horizons as you sell your soul to Khalid in hopes that this year will somehow be different—more Netflix Original-esque. The person with arguably the ‘best’ taste gets handed the AUX cord, and you all sing at the top of your lungs. Hands slip out of the windows, grasping desperately for the breeze and eventually flowing with it. Laughter becomes silent under the melody of your favorite songs. Time seems to stand still, in this fundamental moment of perfection; that is, until your voice cracks.
The most common question I have recently been asked is “Does that hurt?” referring to my thickening vocal chords that now release the strangled sounds of a beast that’s been waiting years to sound heroic and manly. You see, this was my most awaited change starting HRT, or Hormone Replacement Therapy, a transitional method used by some Transgender-identifying people. Changes that occur on this hormone include thickening vocal chords which evolve into a deeper voice, facial hair growth and thickened body hair, bone reconstruction, and fat redistribution, just to name a few.
Since coming out, the one thing that has always made me feel the most dysphoric, or wrong about my body, is my voice. You see, I could dress as “manly” as I wanted to, bind the hell out of my chest (safely, of course), and wear backwards hats as often as I pleased, but it seemed that the second I opened my mouth, it was game over for me. My voice was the biggest giveaway that maybe my story wasn’t so cookie-cutter—so cisgender.
Needless to say, I get misgendered a lot. I try to casually throw in “actually, I’m a guy” during these situations—which, of course, I say while struggling to shove down my vocal pitch to get the point across that, yes, I may be tiny and sound like a pipsqueak, but I am still indeed a guy aiming for validation.
I once thought of starting a count-up on my Twitter to the day I would begin taking testosterone supplements on HRT; you know, similar to a countdown, except that I didn’t have a day set, so it would have just been a depressing inclination of numbers soul-crushing to witness. I can only imagine it:
One day closer to HRT! Shove that sweet needle in me, baby!
37 days closer to HRT! I can’t wait to finally look my age!
256 days closer to HRT! Damnit, can this Twitter feed please have some kind of influence?
I’m getting desperate!
486 days closer to HRT! That is, assuming that ever happens in my life.
Get my point? By the time I started taking hormones, approximately 38 months after coming out or 1,128 days since I made that count-up, I would have been rolling around in my own grave, rather than still hopeful and excited for my next chapter.
I still remember the first person who commented on my voice, approximately one week after starting hormones. She said, “Oh, my God, Ryan, your voice is already getting deeper. I can hear it.” This made me feel elated, and you wouldn’t have been able to smack the goofy smile off of my face for the rest of that day. A couple of months later, my friend admitted that she couldn’t actually hear a difference, she just wanted to make me happy. However, by the time this truth surfaced, you actually could hear a difference. I made those stereotypical videos: “My name’s ____ and this is my voice __ months on t.” I was shocked at my new depth. Gradually, I wasn’t able to scream or meow at my cat because my voice only succeeded in sounding deep and choppy— which, believe me, I was beyond thrilled about.
Suddenly, anyone who I hadn’t talked to in the span of a few weeks was surprised at the sound of it. The first thing they’d say to me would be “Wow, Ryan, your voice,” which I of course played off like no big deal—but inside I felt a mixture of excitement, relief, and pure happiness. Finally, the one thing that made me feel the worst about myself was disappearing, leaving in its trace a clearer idea of the man I was always meant to be.
So, it always makes me laugh when my mom, with concern in her eyes, asks “Does that hurt?” because, while sometimes my voice begs for air while I sing notes I can’t reach anymore in the car, none of this has hurt at all. In fact, it has felt quite the opposite. It’s as if all the years of pain are scurrying away, terrified of the deep, menacing voice that has emerged in their light; this, of course, is me laughing in the car with my friends, singing to Khalid on a summer night.
By Ryan Vortisch
Visual from Rookie Magazine