I think some aspects of my presentation are starting to slip! It happens. You get complacent. In particular, my voice is not what it was.
Never having heard it, most of you won't be able to comment usefully on my vocal abilities, but believe me, this was something that I had spent a lot of time and money and practice on, and I think it showed.
So my pitch was well within the female range. It had smoothness and warmth. My words were clear and properly articulated - no slurring, no mumbling; each consonant properly and crisply enunciated. And I'd slowed my rate of speech down, to give the vowels a full, rounded sound.
I'd stopped being over-emphatic, or too loud, or too definite in my delivery. I'd eliminated croak and monotony, and a tendency to drop the pitch at the end of sentences.
I'd studied how women speak in a group, and how they do it with just one other woman; and how it is different again in male company. How women give each other a generous space of time to say what they wish, the lack of interruption and overtalking when they speak. I'd tried hard to emulate how they lean forward when speaking, or angle their heads and bodies; and I'd noticed the differences in posture between sitting and standing; and little ways in which the entire body says as much as the words themselves. I'd watched the facial expressions women use; the way they employ hands and eyes to assist the flow of words, and to punctuate the speech with gestures and significant pauses.
Well, you get the picture: I hadn't fooled around, I'd set myself a high standard, and I believed that I was doing rather well, and had achieved something important. Because this wasn't merely a social accomplishment, like learning to dance, or cook for dinner parties. This was a vital personal skill that I had to succeed with if I wanted to blend in with all other women, and enjoy a full life as one.
But in the last few days I've become less sure of my progress.
I'll give you two very recent examples. On Monday I went up to London by train, and on the way there it got stuck at Gatwick Airport station. A problem with the brakes. We were all first advised that it was minor and that we should best stay seated, and not switch trains. At that point, I fell into conversation with a 25 year old Brazilian girl. I didn't start it; we just caught each other's eye, and spoke, as you often do when caught up in a travel problem. Ten minutes later, it was 'all out and cross to another platform', and so, still speaking, we did as we were told, hung around a bit, and eventually joined another train. It was pretty full. There was a seat for me, but not for her. Without much thinking about it, I stayed standing with her, and we chatted all the way to London Victoria. She was easy and pleasant to talk to, and seemed to find me much the same.
Now while talking to her, I definitely noticed one or two glances in my direction, and I wondered why. I eventually narrowed it down to the voice. The background train noise made it hard to speak in a normal way, and, standing up, you had to hang on, so that a distinctly female body posture wasn't easy to maintain. There was nothing but my general appearance to counteract the overloud way I was forced to speak. To put it another way, if I had simply been standing there, swaying with the train movement, but otherwise silent, I don't think I would have attracted attention. As it was, this was one occasion when I didn't pass too well. Not that my companion showed the slightest sign of clocking me. But then she was a polite and intelligent young women from an obviously good family background, and perhaps there was no way that she was going to behave badly to me, or embarrass me. And, despite Brazil being a black spot for anti-trans hate crime, the social mix there must be very diverse, and I'd be prepared to believe that she didn't find me an especially odd person to share a casual conversation with. We parted in a very friendly fashion. To the last, she was warm and polite.
But I made a mental note to sharpen up my voice!
Then yesterday evening, I was in a Brighton coffee shop with a friend, and she said that while my facial and body movements when speaking were very natural, I tended to let my vocal pitch drop in prolonged conversation. We made videos of each other. Yes, it was true. Oh dear, back to school!
This morning I felt resolved to get on top of this slippage, and try even harder. I'd been so proud of acquiring a convincing voice. But it has now clearly deteriorated and must be repaired.