Trans-speaking Voice-lessness: A Fictocritical Essay
How to emerge from a condition of not-being-able-to-speak-and-not-being-heard-with-what-one-has-to-say if the nature of one’s voice-lessness cannot be explored on the basis of the worldview in which one has been raised and with the methods of knowledge production in which one has been trained?
How to imagine ever coming to voice if one is unable to recognize oneself in the sex category to which one has been allocated at birth and if most listeners regard the vocal embodiment of an unambiguously female or male gender as a necessary precondition for paying attention to an utterance as (potentially intelligible, human) speech?
In this piece, I explore these and related questions via a hybrid mode of text production that I call trans-speaking. It draws on: memories entries in dictionaries and speech-language pathology textbooks; poststructuralist, posthumanist and transgender studies theories; and fictocritical writing practices. In a part imaginative, part theoretical account, a first person narrator revisits some of the scenes from their life; being addressed and spoken about; growing up in and becoming disenchanted with the medico-scientific worldview; working as a voice clinician; receiving and responding to reviewers’ comments on their work; applying for a change of name and gender entry; engaging with medical approaches to gender transitioning. These textual re-enactments that are interwoven with elaborations on key theoretical concepts are designed to invite readers to consider the following suggestion: What is taken for granted in some academic and everyday discourses as the mere givenness of human properties (e.g. a person’s status as a subject, their gender/sex, body, agency) are produced and transformed by an entanglement of discursive-material forces, which operate as constraints on the notion and practice of voice in its material and metaphorical senses?