Research documents Calgarian’s journey of gender voice transition

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Research documents Calgarian’s journey of gender voice transition
WATCH: It's a project where academics meets the arts -- a research project that has turned into a theatrical performance highlights gender voice transition. As Jill Croteau reports, the creators hope their journey amplifies change – Aug 28, 2019

Ari Agha was assigned female at birth and identifies as genderqueer, with preferred pronouns “they” and “them.” Agha said they exist outside of the binary.

“I’m not a man, I know that for sure. But I am not a woman. Finding there is something outside of those two felt like a homecoming… For me, transitioning with ‘T’ was more about moving away from being perceived as a woman than it was moving towards something else.”

At the age of 39, Agha started taking testosterone. They knew it would forever alter their voice. Agha is also a singer and there was a fear about losing that ability by taking the hormone.

“A lot of people were like, ‘How could you risk your voice?’ But that’s a reflection of how painful it was to be misgendered every day,” Agha said.

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Agha approached the vocal coach and assistant professor of voice at the University of Calgary’s Performing Arts Faculty. Laura Hynes was intrigued from the beginning.

“Ari told me they were exploring testosterone and I had lots of questions about what that might do to their singing voice,” Hynes said. “It was Ari’s idea to document the transition process as systematically as we could.”

“Key of T” rehearsals at U of C Matthews Theatre. Jill Croteau/Global News

The two have been collecting data of Agha’s journey. They’ve been recording the changes in pitch and quality of voice.

“The more data we could add with one person and add to the picture, the more information there is for other folks who contemplate the same transition in the future,” Hynes said.

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Hynes wanted to turn the research into a performance. “Key of T” was inspired by Agha’s journey.

“Performance is an opportunity to engage an audience in a topic and to not only to educate but to include people in a dialogue to get people thinking,” Hynes said.

“We all have a voice and I think its fascinating to explore the idea of how we choose to use our voices.”

Ashley Seward is a composer for the project. She hopes it will help validate other trans voices.

“The trans demographic is so poorly represented,” Seward said. “It’s been special to be a part of presenting Ari’s story to an audience.”

“Key of T” performances take place Sept. 27-28 at the University of Calgary’s theatre.

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