Author Topic: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?  (Read 994 times)

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Offline HiVoice

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Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« on: January 02, 2018, 03:34:06 pm »

  Hello everyone. I've come here seeking advice and help. I'm a cis guy who loves to sing, but i'm not particularly satisfied with where my voice is. I was wondering if there are any women here who've undergone voice surgery who can help me. I know lessons are an option, but i'm looking for something more dramatic and transformative. I really just want to have a higher pitch, i'd like to have a brighter, lighter timbre when i sing. When i say high pitched, i mean like Michael Jackson. I want that same boyish quality. My voice, as it is now, is not necessarily really deep, but it's just not as high as i'd like it to be. I could be a high baritone or perhaps a low tenor, i'm really not sure. But, either way, i'm not satisfied. I am still young, i recently turned 18, so i know my voice may still have more developing to do and that it will probably only get deeper, so i really want to figure out a solution. I'm really only looking into surgical options to figure out what my possibilities are in terms of how much control i have over the way my voice sounds. So, for a guy who doesn't want to attain a "female" sounding voice, but just wants a much higher sound, (still obviously male) is surgery something that could work? I mean, it's not like the goal is to have a soprano voice, more like a high tenor. I've seen some trans women who've gone from a quite masculine sound to indistinguishable from female, so perhaps my goal isn't that unreachable? I was also wondering if voice surgery is something that is generally just too risky for someone who wants to sing. Also, i know that one of the techniques in voice surgery is shortening the chords, but what other options are there? Are there alternative options that would be better for someone with my goal? I greatly appreciate any feedback in advance. :)


Offline Dena

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2018, 03:48:39 pm »
Welcome to Susan's Place. I am moving this thread to the Voice Therapy and Surgery area of the site where much of this is discussed. Our normal advice is therapy however if your a singer, you should already be familiar with the head voice which is normally the solution. Voice surgery is possible and I have had it as with a bass voce, it wasn't possible for me to hit the feminine range. My experience is documented in my voice thread. Voice surgery comes with a warning. There is a risk of your voice being damaged so you will be worst off. My advice is that you become comfortable in the range that you can use and avoid the risk of a bad outcome. Even with a successful surgery, it's likely you will lose some of the power that your voice currently has. Voice surgery is a risk evaluation where you need to decide if the gain is worth the risk.

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Online zirconia

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2018, 09:30:04 pm »
Hello, and welcome...

I've not undergone voice surgery myself, but have worked with musicians who have had it for various reasons.

In Korea it is not that uncommon. It will raise the pitch, but is not a substitute for vocal training—and the high notes gained may come at the cost of losing some of the total range. As for voice quality, a male voice that is raised surgically will remain boyish/male if the way you use it remains unchanged.

Do you sing or plan to sing professionally? If so, I do feel starting with voice training would be a good thing even if you do want surgery. While not everyone can become a contra-tenor, learning how to reach your full natural range with the minimum effort should help you take care of your voice should you feel you still need to undergo surgery after training.

Offline HiVoice

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2018, 12:50:53 am »
" the high notes gained may come at the cost of losing some of the total range"

I wouldn't really mind losing the lower notes, so long as i gain higher notes and retain the middle and upper range.

On taking lessons; I'm definitely going to, i just want to see if i have options if i remain unsatisfied with my voice after taking lessons.

Thank you for your response by the way :)

Offline OU812

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2018, 10:29:41 am »
One of the most triggering things for me, early in my transition - and until this past year, when I had voice surgery with Dr. Haben - was that my voice wasn't even high by "guy" standards. I felt someone like me should at least be able to sing along with Dashboard Confessional songs without my voice cracking. That was incredibly hard for me.

I do know that Dr. Haben works on people who are not strictly trans-women, for instance intersex people and biological females, so I'd imagine you can find a doctor who will surgically raise the pitch.

Pre-surgery, my passagio really started to appear around a tenor's high D to F#. I had an excellent counter-tenor voice that really didn't sound "muffled" the way a lot of them do, but I wanted the natural sound. It felt weird that my singing voice was SO much higher than my speaking voice.

Post-surgery (and very much still healing), I can still "reach" a lot of the lower register, but several things have improved.
  • The voice has an overall softer quality. I "can" on occasion make it sound masculine to my ear (much to my dismay) but it is not what my voice naturally wants to do.
    2. The upper register is much, much easier to access! Like, I can extend all the way up to a tenor's high B with no passagio! And it sounds really good up there.
    3. I do get morning voice each day, where my voice is deeper and less good-sounding, but even on my bad voice days like when I've talked a lot, it's not the catastrophic "I don't want to talk to anyone," feeling that I had the way things were before.
    4. In common speech, I don't really go lower than a tenor's low D, or perhaps C if I'm speaking softly and it's early in the day. But even when I go that low (my pitch centres around 200hz at present) it sounds like a woman speaking low, not a teenage male.

That brings me to another important topic. Testosterone alters the voice significantly. We don't really have data on whether or not (if so, how) your voice would continue to change over the years. I'd assume it would, at least somewhat. It's generally accepted that opera singers don't have a fully matured voice until their mid-30's for instance. You'd want to take all this into consideration.

Hope this helps! Good topic.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 11:35:25 am by OU812 »

Offline HiVoice

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2018, 12:34:27 pm »
So have you had any negative effects? Would you say it's safe? If so, do you think it'd be a good idea for me to go through with it (assuming my voice doesn't stay light enough)?

Offline OU812

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2018, 08:48:44 pm »
I'm not yet at the 3 month mark, so I'm by no means a finished voice, but can speak (pun intended) to a few things at this point.

I definitely like my voice a lot more than before. I know it will continue to improve with time, so if it's not *exactly* how I'd hoped to sound at present I really can't evaluate that as it's not a finished product, but I certainly like everything that's different about it now. My full upper register and volume are gradually returning.

I can't tell you what to do or not to do, but I'm really glad I had this done. Even if it doesn't end up being 100% my ideal voice, I am much more able to live and work with my voice like this. I'm a lot happier and it's a lot easier to be myself.

See my previous post ITT to gauge safety and whether it's a good idea for you. Like I said, for a "non-transitioning cis-male" to have this done is really uncharted territory, so I can't really speak to anything along those lines. Certainly my experience was that Dr. Haben has a great deal of iteration at this by now and seems very active in performing this particular kind of surgery. I personally think you would be in good hands (if I did not feel similarly, I'd not have had him work on me, myself.) Also all of the staff at the medical facilities were top-notch. It was a very easy surgery to recover from overall.

Offline Doreen

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2018, 08:52:18 pm »
I had CTA (Cricothyroid approximation) about 20 years ago with Dr. Menard in Canada (now retired).  It raised my pitch, though my range for singing did suffer in the end.  I think as with anything 'practice...practice.......'  if you want to sing well, then you must sing often but not to the point you destroy your voice.

Oh, and I get mammed all the time by voice alone. Certainly by face.

Offline OU812

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2018, 03:41:55 am »
CTA is the procedure that Dr. Haben specifically recommends not having (he does perform them) if having a singing voice is important to you. It fixes the cricoid muscles in such a way that it's as if you're always partially engaging your 'falsetto' register. This is all speculation given your voice could continue to change as a non-transitioning male, but I'd imagine there would be more risk in a CTA than a glottoplasty alone, especially given that a huge part of your desire for this is a singing voice.

Offline kwala

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2018, 01:53:42 pm »
  Hello everyone. I've come here seeking advice and help. I'm a cis guy who loves to sing, but i'm not particularly satisfied with where my voice is. I was wondering if there are any women here who've undergone voice surgery who can help me. I know lessons are an option, but i'm looking for something more dramatic and transformative. I really just want to have a higher pitch, i'd like to have a brighter, lighter timbre when i sing. When i say high pitched, i mean like Michael Jackson. I want that same boyish quality. My voice, as it is now, is not necessarily really deep, but it's just not as high as i'd like it to be. I could be a high baritone or perhaps a low tenor, i'm really not sure. But, either way, i'm not satisfied. I am still young, i recently turned 18, so i know my voice may still have more developing to do and that it will probably only get deeper, so i really want to figure out a solution. I'm really only looking into surgical options to figure out what my possibilities are in terms of how much control i have over the way my voice sounds. So, for a guy who doesn't want to attain a "female" sounding voice, but just wants a much higher sound, (still obviously male) is surgery something that could work? I mean, it's not like the goal is to have a soprano voice, more like a high tenor. I've seen some trans women who've gone from a quite masculine sound to indistinguishable from female, so perhaps my goal isn't that unreachable? I was also wondering if voice surgery is something that is generally just too risky for someone who wants to sing. Also, i know that one of the techniques in voice surgery is shortening the chords, but what other options are there? Are there alternative options that would be better for someone with my goal? I greatly appreciate any feedback in advance. :)
I just want to give you a fair warning- despite the many successful stories you hear about, these surgeries are not foolproof. As someone who was able to sing high tenor and hoped to move more comfortably into the alto range, I just want to let you know that my surgery was botched and now I can't sing at all. Like, at all. I would absolutely exhaust every non surgical resource you can think of before deciding to go through with this.  I'm not a professional singer, but I am a professional classical instrumentalist, who absolutely loved singing.  Losing that ability has negatively impacted my life in ways I never imagined. I can't tell you how many times I was having a terrible morning but "my jam" came on the radio on the drive to work and singing along and rocking out alone in my car was more than enough to turn my whole day around. I used to go to open mic nights and piano bars all of the time singing showtunes. I had a high chest range (for a male) already and had learned to belt in a mixed voice, but like you, wanted it sound more chesty, more natural. Well now all I want is to be able to sing ANYTHING in ANY  range.  So, before you decide on a surgery like this please ask yourself, "Is this worth the chance, even if small, that I may never be able to sing again?"

The surgery I had was a laser assisted web glottoplasty by Dr. Haben in 2015, and now when I try to sing anything louder than a whisper my voice cracks in both directions resulting in 2-3 pitches at the same time.  Best of luck if you go this route, but please think about the worst case scenario and whether you're willing to risk it.

Offline Doreen

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2018, 12:55:51 am »
I just want to give you a fair warning- despite the many successful stories you hear about, these surgeries are not foolproof. As someone who was able to sing high tenor and hoped to move more comfortably into the alto range, I just want to let you know that my surgery was botched and now I can't sing at all. Like, at all. I would absolutely exhaust every non surgical resource you can think of before deciding to go through with this.  I'm not a professional singer, but I am a professional classical instrumentalist, who absolutely loved singing.  Losing that ability has negatively impacted my life in ways I never imagined. I can't tell you how many times I was having a terrible morning but "my jam" came on the radio on the drive to work and singing along and rocking out alone in my car was more than enough to turn my whole day around. I used to go to open mic nights and piano bars all of the time singing showtunes. I had a high chest range (for a male) already and had learned to belt in a mixed voice, but like you, wanted it sound more chesty, more natural. Well now all I want is to be able to sing ANYTHING in ANY  range.  So, before you decide on a surgery like this please ask yourself, "Is this worth the chance, even if small, that I may never be able to sing again?"

The surgery I had was a laser assisted web glottoplasty by Dr. Haben in 2015, and now when I try to sing anything louder than a whisper my voice cracks in both directions resulting in 2-3 pitches at the same time.  Best of luck if you go this route, but please think about the worst case scenario and whether you're willing to risk it.

You're not the only person that told me that... in fact EVERY single person I met tried to convince me NOT to have it, including several that had.. their voices were faint whispers (albeit feminine whispers).   I'm incredibly stubborn, plus I had literally forced my voice to go lower because I wasn't having 'normal' puberty.   It fixed it. 

I actually had my voice analyzed by one of the leading speech therapists at the VAMC when he wasn't retired.. he said my voice was perfectly female, and I don't think he was bs'ing either when he showed me the readout.   In the end, it did wonders for me.   It might be because my voice hadn't really been meant to be that low in the first place.. maybe it was lack of androgens? maybe I was just lucky? I don't know.   But it worked.   I'm one of the few success stories.  And yes, I sing... and am told by others I have a really on tune singing voice.   Then again I'm also classically trained to hear myself even slightly out of tune.. which I often think I am, so I use a bit of vibrato.   I really need to practice more, but YES... I can sing.  Alto :P

Offline OU812

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2018, 09:04:08 am »
You're not the only person that told me that... in fact EVERY single person I met tried to convince me NOT to have it, including several that had.. their voices were faint whispers (albeit feminine whispers).   I'm incredibly stubborn, plus I had literally forced my voice to go lower because I wasn't having 'normal' puberty.   It fixed it. 

I actually had my voice analyzed by one of the leading speech therapists at the VAMC when he wasn't retired.. he said my voice was perfectly female, and I don't think he was bs'ing either when he showed me the readout.   In the end, it did wonders for me.   It might be because my voice hadn't really been meant to be that low in the first place.. maybe it was lack of androgens? maybe I was just lucky? I don't know.   But it worked.   I'm one of the few success stories.  And yes, I sing... and am told by others I have a really on tune singing voice.   Then again I'm also classically trained to hear myself even slightly out of tune.. which I often think I am, so I use a bit of vibrato.   I really need to practice more, but YES... I can sing.  Alto :P

I've heard so many stories like this. We've all heard the many positive results of Haben / Yeson's work.

I'm going to be a bit blunt here. I've seen kwala's rebuttal in practically every single thread that has anything to do with Dr. Haben, and while I have no doubt there's an exception in point here, the nature of how it came about (sutured over the 50% mark? on a high tenor voice? never saw any photos?) and the relative number of posts would have you believe that this is a much more common outcome than it is, or that his technique from ~2-3 years ago (when he was still laser-thinning the folds, for instance, or giving people 10-14 days of total voice rest rather than 1 month of absolute silence) is identical to how he performs the surgery now.

I've been to sketchy surgeons, some of whom are widely known as sketchy surgeons on this site, and I ignored kwala's warnings because somehow they just didn't hold water for me. Dr. Haben is not a sketchy surgeon. He did excellent work for me and for many others. Yes, there are anomalies in healing. Yes, someone at Yeson somehow had dental issues. These are rare exceptions taken from a sample size hundreds if not thousands deep by this point, and quite frankly we would not be able to continue to have advances in the surgery without understanding the full spectrum of outcomes as relates to surgical technique and post-op care.

Please consider that these kinds of surgery are constantly evolving. Continually amplifying one review from years ago to knock their work is not going to necessarily reflect what they're doing now, let alone help instill confidence in their work when the vast majority of patients end up quite satisfied with their voices. I, for one, actually much preferred the treatment I received from others while 'mute' compared to how people acted upon hearing my old speaking voice.

The fact is, these surgeons do incredible work for those not lucky enough to be spared the effects of pubertal testosterone, and the number of such voice specialists could currently be counted on the fingers of a single hand. We need these specialists. We need their craftsmanship, and we need people to not be scared away from them.

Offline kwala

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2018, 05:31:36 pm »
I've heard so many stories like this. We've all heard the many positive results of Haben / Yeson's work.

I'm going to be a bit blunt here. I've seen kwala's rebuttal in practically every single thread that has anything to do with Dr. Haben, and while I have no doubt there's an exception in point here, the nature of how it came about (sutured over the 50% mark? on a high tenor voice? never saw any photos?) and the relative number of posts would have you believe that this is a much more common outcome than it is, or that his technique from ~2-3 years ago (when he was still laser-thinning the folds, for instance, or giving people 10-14 days of total voice rest rather than 1 month of absolute silence) is identical to how he performs the surgery now.

I've been to sketchy surgeons, some of whom are widely known as sketchy surgeons on this site, and I ignored kwala's warnings because somehow they just didn't hold water for me. Dr. Haben is not a sketchy surgeon. He did excellent work for me and for many others. Yes, there are anomalies in healing. Yes, someone at Yeson somehow had dental issues. These are rare exceptions taken from a sample size hundreds if not thousands deep by this point, and quite frankly we would not be able to continue to have advances in the surgery without understanding the full spectrum of outcomes as relates to surgical technique and post-op care.

Please consider that these kinds of surgery are constantly evolving. Continually amplifying one review from years ago to knock their work is not going to necessarily reflect what they're doing now, let alone help instill confidence in their work when the vast majority of patients end up quite satisfied with their voices. I, for one, actually much preferred the treatment I received from others while 'mute' compared to how people acted upon hearing my old speaking voice.

The fact is, these surgeons do incredible work for those not lucky enough to be spared the effects of pubertal testosterone, and the number of such voice specialists could currently be counted on the fingers of a single hand. We need these specialists. We need their craftsmanship, and we need people to not be scared away from them.
I don't really understand why you are attacking me, or the credibility of my story. I posted several images throughout the healing process and several audio examples to showcase the problems that followed. I still have a record of everything and I'd be happy to post everything again since the links are likely expired. I never said that anyone should flat out not have the surgery, I am simply presenting another side of vocal surgery so that people like us can make the most informed decision possible. If you don't think Dr. Haben is sketchy, good for you. I had a different experience in which I was promised that the worst outcome was "little or no gain in pitch" and no mention of a lifelong vocal disability.  If I had read more posts like the ones I'm putting out these days, perhaps I would have reconsidered surgery altogether. I don't want anyone else to have to go through this ordeal. Nothing I have read from the website indicates that his technique has changed in any way since 2015. The only change is that he now notes the possibility of granulation tissue, most likely because I took issue with the fact that he never mentioned it pre-surgery.  I certainly didn't have any "laser thinning." I support everyone who decides to take this leap, but I will not refrain from presenting the unfortunate downsides.  I'm not going to stay silent about the horror story that happened to me just so there are more guinea pigs to advance the technique.

You said "...we need people to not be scared away from them." and that sounds to me like that is what YOU need. What we actually need is for people to have all available information, including personal experiences, before they make a decision to undergo vocal surgery.

Offline OU812

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2018, 08:54:51 am »
Attack? Oh my, I had no idea questioning the reality of what happened when there’s no supporting evidence available for perusal is tantamount to an attack. We may as well just have a discussion based entirely on feelings rather than objective reality and broad proportions of anecdotal comparisons.

I personally don’t need (as my surgery is complete and I'm happy) - but rather, I want -
 people to not be scared away from surgeons like Dr Haben. I was able to read every single thing you posted and not feel I was reading anything but an outlier account. I think what you, personally, want, is for Haben’s name to be forever shamed for what you’re convinced he did “to” you. Let’s be honest, you would rather everyone respond, as some have, with the same “Oh no! Thank you kwala, I will never go to him and I will recommend everyone else avoid him too!”

I'm not denying you had a rough experience. I'm disagreeing with the extent to which you're amplifying it. Because in your world, the one experience you had with his technique from years ago outweighs hundreds of positive outcomes others have experienced. You go out of your way to describe his technique as sloppy (you don’t know this), his ethics as callous, and you’d probably prefer he go out of practice and never operate on anyone again (from what I observed last year, trust me, he won't). What if the lady who lost her teeth to Yeson had made it a point to post in every Yeson thread, hm?

Or what about those who did not have a high tenor voice to start with? I didn’t even have a bass voice, and after 10 years of effortful, trained usage, I was not far from just stopping all talking altogether because I just couldn't take it anymore. Maybe YOU would be happier with any voice at all, but many of us would not.

I actually quoted ways in which his procedure and instructions have changed, here, and in other threads. As I said, your words were ineffective at deterring me from having Dr Haben assist me, and thank goodness, because I am much happier now.

I gave plenty of feedback to the male who was looking for information and I don’t really feel the need to generously offer more reason to this madness, so please feel free to get in the last word or whatever you’d like to do.

Offline KayXo

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Re: Trans women who've had voice surgery; can you help me?
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2018, 10:24:20 am »
I am grateful to both the reporting of bad and good outcomes with doctors as this is most helpful in our decision making process to undergo a surgery with someone.

Thank you to both of you for your perspectives and inputs. Everyone's feedback is appreciated and important. :)
I am not a medical doctor, nor a scientist - opinions expressed by me on the subject of HRT are merely based on my own review of some of the scientific literature over the last decade or so, on anecdotal evidence from women in various discussion forums that I have come across, and my personal experience

On HRT since early 2004
Post-op since late 2005

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