Music

Testosterone therapy may bring you closer to your gender identity, but how will it affect your singing voice?

A new short film, Voice Trans*formed, follows two classical singers taking testosterone as they find answers for themselves.

A new short film, Voice Trans*formed, follows two classical singers as they find answers for themselves

Voice Trans*formed | A journey through voice post-transition

10 months ago
Duration 8:10
Voice Trans*formed follows Canadian performers Asher Maclaren and Dr. Ari Agha as they rediscover and reclaim their singing voices after transitioning. This short documentary by Leah Borts-Kuperman and Maria Sarrouh looks at the underlining dilemma facing gender non-binary and trans singers working in a field whose roles are rigidly defined along gender lines. Come along on their journey and find out how Asher and Ari found their voices. In partnership with CBC's Creator Network. https://www.cbc.ca/independentproducers/genres/creator_network

"To think that women sing high and men sing low is just such a mischaracterization," says Ari Agha during the opening minute of Voice Trans*formed, a new short film by Leah Borts-Kuperman and Maria Sarrouh, streaming above.

Agha is a sociologist, activist and advocate for transgender singers. They're also the creator and researcher behind the Key of T Project, which studies transgender singing-voice transition through testosterone therapy, using their own experience as a case study.

"The lack of systematic information on transgender voice transitions makes the decision to start testosterone especially difficult for transgender singers," explains the Key of T's mission statement. "They can either take testosterone to transition, but risk losing functional use of their voice, or continue living with a body that does not align with their gender."

It's a dilemma that Asher MacLaren also faced. The research published by the Key of T Project helped MacLaren make an informed decision about taking testosterone. "Most of my fears did come true, at least temporarily," admits the Vancouver singer in Voice Trans*formed.

"I lost my voice for quite a while, but I've gained a new one," he continues. "I have what I wanted, which is a tenor range, and one that works, albeit not as well as my old range worked, but I trained that [range] for years and I've probably trained this voice for six months."

The video also includes clips from voice lessons and an explanation of the physiological changes that occur to the larynx and vocal chords during testosterone therapy.

"With transmasculine people, I find they're trying to adapt to the newfound chest resonance," explains Stephanie Weiss, assistant professor of voice at Arizona State University. "Their voice sits a little bit lower, and if they were singers before [transitioning], they probably trained using a higher instrument."

MacLaren likens the process to breaking in a new car. "It's exciting, and it fits your style way better than the old one did, anyway."

Voice Trans*formed was produced in association with CBC's Creator Network. Watch the full video above.

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