My Facebook transgender narrative

This morning, I had a strange impulse to look back into my past. I typically avoid this for the sake of staying present and aware of where I’m going, but I did it anyway in the simplest way possible: I used Facebook to flip through all of my profile pictures. And I’m going to share this experience, along with some of the profile pictures, with you in a visual, personal way that I hope will put my unique transgender narrative into a bit more perspective.
Continue reading

Just a girl doing the business

illust-okiba.tumblr.com

Original Art by Sovalou

Exiting the stall, two gabbing girls strolled out the bathroom, leaving the sink area open for my use. My girl friend stood quietly, drying her hands as she waited for me. After discovering that all but the closest of the sinks to my friend had faulty hand sensors, I  chuckled to myself as a peculiar realization hit me that I just had to share.

“Hey,” I whispered to my friend who had accompanied me inside the bathroom, not as moral support but as a fellow woman who also had business to attend to. I began washing my hands to further keep my next words between us in the event someone still inhabited one of the stalls.

“Remember when I was terrified to go to the bathroom alone and I always asked you to come with me?”

“Yeah,” she said, almost as if she knew to keep her response short and concise as I removed my hands from under the faucet, shutting off the running water.

I smirked at her typical matter-of-fact reply which, for anyone who knew her like I did, was standard fare. She cared a lot for me though and had been my biggest supporter, confidant, and donator of about half my wardrobe. I owed much of my early maturity & the foundation of my girlhood to her constant trust and love for me as her friend and fellow female.

I turned the dispenser wheel and tugged at the paper towel, still wearing a confident smirk of contentment on my face.

“I can’t believe how far I’ve come. Wow…I’ve really grown up, haven’t I?”

My friend nodded in agreement, a small smile on her face. Truly, I was in awe of myself. A little over three years had passed since I began self-exploring publicly. Slightly under three years since I came out to my mom & sister – the former of which still believes that God must decide whether to have her treat and perceive me as her daughter. I had suffered, endured, questioned, and doubted so much for so long. And now, after doing so countless times solo, I simply live my life. I go to the bathroom with only the rare instance of irrational paranoia creeping up on me.

Yes, even I, who had been blessed with a “cute face” (according to my sister), was, for a period of time, terrified to go to the bathroom of fear of being outed or stared at critically. And now, I don’t ever give it a second thought. Once in a while, I even occasionally smile or exchange a few words with another female whose goals are exactly the same as mine:

Do my business. Wash my hands. Touch up hair and makeup if need be. Compliment a girl on her boots. Keep on trucking through the day kicking myself for not saying more to that girl because I just so happen to be gay as fuck. (Fun fact: I’m demi-pansexual) 

Believe me, I know I’m fortunate, not just in looks but in the diverse area of the U.S. I live. Transgender persons who haven’t started HRT, or haven’t perfected their makeup tech, or have stronger features than I are still being policed & restricted, wanting nothing more than to do their business, small talk other ladies and, ultimately, be seen as another female who has no ulterior motive.

And yet, we are the danger. Why? To fear-monger a baseless, seemingly moral cis agenda that transgender persons are somehow looking to prey upon the gender group we want to be accepted by. A tad backwards, wouldn’t you say? Except, North Carolina seeks to pass bathroom bills that would do much more harm than good. Meanwhile, we are the ones cowering in fear of judgement, ostracism, and/or harassment. We are the ones who torture ourselves holding our waste if we don’t have a supportive friend with us just so we can feel safe and validated. Trans people are the ones committing suicide because they’d rather be dead than be repeatedly demeaned and forced to use the wrong bathroom…

…I remember these moments well. Such memories coursed through my mind that day not too long ago. And now look at me. Somehow, I had survived. I had become self-validated as a girl/woman in nearly every aspect.

Tossing the damp paper towel in the trash, I followed behind my friend as we exited the Ladies room together, confident and self-assured in my femininity and identity. I quietly hoped I’d find a way to share that realization in a way that would inspire others to find their self-assuredness & confidence. To not lose hope when the times are still very much against “girls like us” who, as the popular saying goes, “just need to pee”.

For a bit of contrast, I too was nearly made to use the wrong bathroom. I published an entry about that experience here that occurred during the beginning of my three years as an infant in my transition.

How I embraced my sound as a transgender voice actress

renai_1733I’ve certainly debated internally about sharing about this topic for a long time. Honestly, I believed no one would really care to hear about a portion of my life that has played a huge part in my passions. However, I am gradually finding myself without a sense of care; equipped with a more prevalent sense of reckless abandonment to the opinions of others…

…which is exactly how I approached blogging so many years ago, funny enough.

However the contrast lies in a more lived approach, not just simply with how and what I write. Anyway, I digress.

I want to share a bit about myself as a voice talent (or voice-over artist, for those who may be more familiar with that term). Transitioning from being strictly cast for male roles to having the confidence to audition for female roles while still taking advantage of my masculine range was very tricky. Even more so, transitioning professionally from being known as my dead name to Nina was a strategic exercise wrapped in hope and faith.

For this post, I’ll just be talking about the former.

Given that I had been casually creating characters for much of my youth, then started doing amateur/unpaid work for about 4-5 years, then moved to indie/paid work in the following 2-3 years was already an advantage. I was also privately practicing creating feminine characters pre-transition and began daily training of feminizing my voice two years before I came out publicly. Despite there being all this experience, the difficult part was two-fold.

  • Figuring out a comfortable, natural, sustainable range of vocalization and
  • Believing myself.

With formal theatre acting training under my belt & coming from a once active singing history, I absolutely needed to believe that a female was speaking in my ears. And to do so without discomfort for at least a couple of hours. Without thinking about it. I had been listening to all different kinds of women, mostly my mother, for as long as I can remember. So I highly recommend to really listen to the nuances of how different women speak and approach different situations.

If this sounds simple to you, please google “voice feminization” to see all the offers & resources that have appeared to help trans women who are not in touch with their vocal range. This is one of the most prominent struggles of many trans women, yet I was fortunate enough to be able to self-train in a matter of a year through daily practice in any situation possible. Whether you have a voice coach, a recording, or attempt to find your own way, always remember these two things: 1) Avoid falsetto until you know how you talk naturally and 2) Never feel ashamed if your pitch is lower than the kind of females you’ve admired. What matters most when finding your tone & pitch (which adds up to your unique voice) is breath support, nuance, and cadence.

Once I reached that point of only thinking about my breathing the majority of the time, believing myself simply came from putting it into practice in real situations (not just the safe ones) and, in my case, character auditions. Personally, once I embraced and fully acknowledged my whole self as female, believing myself and standing up for my identity supported my vocal confidence. I’m now at a point where taking on a masculine manner of speaking takes effort!

With regards to my voice acting auditions, I had to figure out what character types worked for my female range. This is still under scrutiny and experimentation, but that has not stopped me from auditioning for a wide range of female (and male) characters. Being lucky enough to expand from animation and video games into audiobooks has given me the freedom to experiment with all different types of female tones, dialects, and accents. Thankfully, my work has been praised by the authors I’ve been paired with and my unique, believable sound offers a special kind of listening experience. There’s still difficulty with competing with so many other talented cis female voice actors in my speciality, some of which are my friends, but that’s how it goes in acting. Honestly, I feel very blessed to have had people think of me to audition & just as grateful to those whom have given me a chance.

Knowing who you are inside will undoubtedly reflect outwardly no matter whether you’re taking a business call, meeting a new person, or cursing someone out for cutting you off. I can’t tell you how many times strangers have complimented my voice in person, which is still a shock to me. Just like with living authentically as a transgender person and learning how to avoid giving off awkward vibes, believing your voice is the gateway to finding a bit more peace and assurance amidst threats and prejudices that could befall us.

If you are interested in hearing samples of my voice-over work, please visit my official website: ninasumter.com