Recording Studios + Solos = Gender Issues


I sing with an a cappella group, which I love. It’s one of my favorite parts of my life at college. Today, we went to the recording studio to begin recording my senior solo. Recording is usually a lot of fun, but today it was really stressful.

To start with, I’m not a really confident singer, and my sense of rhythm is surprising lacking for a singer. So, I’m recording the scratch track (the track the others listen to as they record, so that we can all be together), and it fails. I’m continually off the proper rhythm. It doesn’t help that they keep using feminine pronouns for me, which only magnifies the discomfort I’m feeling regarding my voice and gets me feeling even more frustrated. It’s not really their fault; I haven’t been correcting them about my pronouns lately because I don’t want to distract them, since we’ve been short on time, between our concert two weeks ago and recording now. And I haven’t actually asked the guy we record with to use gender-neutral pronouns for me, so it’s really not his fault.

Anyway, being called “she” isn’t helping things, but the real issue is simply my voice. It’s not that I sound bad, which is what I’d been worried about. People have told me that I sound good on my solo, and even I think it sounds pretty. That’s the issue, I think — that I sound pretty. It’s not really even impressive — partly a mixture of the song itself and the range of the song, but my voice sounds really small and little. Very little-girl-y. My voice is high and light and practically femininity in vocal form. Ugh. And because I’m the soloist, and they follow my lead, I hear my voice — over and over and over again — as each person records her part.

I’ve just been feeling particularly self-conscious about, and uncomfortable with, my gender presentation, and my body, and sounding so much like a girl is really not helping things. Intellectually, I know that the body doesn’t say anything about gender: the distinction between sex and gender was central to my thesis. Nevertheless, it’s just making me feel pretty crappy, which is unfortunate because it’s my senior solo — the only solo I’ve had, in my four years with the group — and I want to feel proud. And yet I don’t. Part of me wants people to hear it because I’ve never had a solo before, but another part of me wishes that no one would hear it because it just doesn’t fit with my conception of myself, my gender, and how I should sound. Why do I have to be a soprano? Ironic, really. I really wish I were a low alto, though — part of what my group nicknamed “the man corner.” Would I actually sound like a guy? No. Do I want to sound male? I don’t know. Not yet, anyway. But something a little more neutral than what I currently sound like would be great.

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