Should I laugh? Or should I cry at this latest bit of utterly egregious insensitivity?
OK. I admit it. I sound like a bloke. That is one of the last and hardest of things to change. Unfortunately for those of us making the MtF (Male to Female) trek, whilst hormones and surgery can and do achieve many things, voice isn’t one of them.
I say unfortunate, because for those crossing the other way, hormones DO have an effect, bringing about noticeable deepening of the voice within a reasonably short time frame. I, on the other hand, have just two options: a surgical tightening of the vocal chords; or speech therapy.
I’ll be opting for the latter, thank you, since the surgical technique is one of the least certain of the techniques going in this field. It could work: or I could end up sounding like Micky Mouse. Or maybe Minnie. Perhaps not.
This vocal blokishness is therefore something of a bane for a girl who does much of her work on the phone. Still, I get by and although I can hear the disbelief on the other side, most never do more than descend into raised eyebrow territory.
Maybe I’m not as bad as I think: maybe I am. Certainly, the times I seem to pass least well nowadays are when there are only voice cues for others to pick up on. Last week, f’rinstance, it happened when I was in the dark, in the back seat of a car – and then with people who had known me for years by my old name and only an hour or so by my new. I certainly don’t hold it against them: they were trying very hard; and with only voice to guide, they reacted instinctively.
For the most part, people manage to check me out subtly. There is the exchange that goes: “Jane”. “James?” “No, Jane.” “James??”. I find that seriously boring and unimaginative.
Most folks nowadays settle for “how are you spelling that?” which is clever: acknowledges there MAY be a problem without saying there is. Best of all are the ones who go “is there a y in that?”, allowing me to wonder if they are genuinely trying to decide whether I’m just plain Jane – or a slightly more upmarket “Jayne”.
Worst, to date, was a legal practice, where one secretary was clearly giggling as she spoke with me. Hmmm.
Worst til today, that is. “Hello, my name is Jane Fae”.
“Jane? But you sound like a man”.
Pardon! In what universe is that the best workaround to any possible doubt as to my gender? If I am a cis woman, how am I going to react? If I am a trans woman, isn’t that just a tad insensitive? And if I am some sort of joker….Nah!
Oh, how I’d love to be a fly on the wall if ever that person met Sacha Baron Cohen: “But you don’t LOOK black…”?
The strange thing is, this was another legal practice – Bevan Brittan – which offers amongst other things, advice on discrimination and diversity in the employment field.
The individual coming out with this bizarre comment claims to be a mediator with “a particular interest in analysing how disputes arise in order to solve them”. er, yes. Because I was phoning on behalf of a friend, I bit my lip and said nothing.
However, I think I can suggest at least one way in which disputes arise – and that is through just this sort of indelicacy.
I can’t be arsed to take this further, though actually…it was quite hurtful.
Still, somebody, somewhere in that practice needs to sort out their diversity training.