By Alex Masse
Music came to me a bit later than most kids I know. I wasn’t a theater kid, I didn’t do piano or anything in elementary school, and I didn’t grow up in a particularly musical household. Sure, there was the constant backdrop of my parents’ favorite rock albums and my father’s on-and-off relationship with the guitar, but for the most part, music was something I enjoyed, not participated in—except singing.
My sister and I both sang a lot, and we had fun! For me, it was a mode of self-expression, and nothing compared to the rush of singing along to your favorite songs. As a child, I knew the 2000s classics of Cascada and Avril Lavigne by heart.
At some point though, I fell off—even as my sister continued with lessons and developed her voice. It started around puberty. I can’t put my finger on exactly when, but somewhere in my teens, my voice stopped sounding like my own voice. It was too high. It was too shaky. It was…uncertain. Uncanny.
I hated it.
So I picked up the flute instead. It gave me a chance to explore music without having to use my voice, and I realized how much more comfortable that was.
The distance between myself and my singing voice grew; even though I played in concert band through all of high school, and out of curiosity picked up composing and then music production; even though I loved performing. Music and I were tight as ever—it just so happened my voice wasn’t a part of that. I still tried singing every once in a while but it always sounded wrong. I didn’t hear my voice, but somebody else’s.
I didn’t have the word for it back then, but in hindsight, I can say with confidence that I was dealing with textbook dysphoria.
The whole story is probably something that’d surprise most of my peers today—after all, one of my freelance gigs is as a performing musician where I do a lot of singing. But it’s the truth, and overcoming my own dysphoria to be able to sing again was one hell of a journey.
Unsurprisingly, most of my journey took place in the queer community surrounded by people who understood my struggle. I found other trans artists and learned from them how to experiment with my voice and presentation. My first girlfriend also helped. She loved my voice, especially when I tried out the lower range, and there were others around me who affirmed that even if my voice was on the high end it didn’t necessarily sound feminine or womanly.
I’d needed to hear that for a long, long time—that I didn’t have a woman’s voice. I had to reframe it as my voice, simple as that. It didn’t have to fit into the arbitrary boxes of the gender binary. That’s a realization I owe to the queer and trans community. They helped me reclaim myself. One of my earliest memories of liking my voice again was at an open mic at my city’s youth space which was made up of about seventy-five percent queer and trans kids who understood and accepted my identity.
The LGBTQ community was only part of the solution. Another group that was totally invaluable—though admittedly also probably a good percent queer—was the local art scene. It’s one thing to reclaim your voice, and another entirely to relearn how to use it. I found mentors that gave me the space to experiment and play, and that allowed me to escape a lot of internalized ideas about what I “had to” sound like.
I also left behind people who were unsupportive like creative peers who told me to stick to poetry and condescending exes who didn’t understand how I struggled with the “easy” stuff. At the end of the day, this was my journey, and it wasn’t about fitting anyone else’s ideals. It was about finding myself and taking back my voice.
I played with my range. I sang “wrong” and “badly.” I did what felt good, and that was invaluable to my growth. As I came out to myself and the world, I found new ways to sing that didn’t hurt how I perceived myself.
Soon, I was comfortable enough with my voice to pursue singing seriously again. I took lessons, I stuck to my boundaries, and I was able to find a balance. And it worked because I knew who I was.
Today, I’m proud to be a member of my local arts scene and quite active in it. I made my debut as a singer at Vancouver Pride! I have two EPs under my belt, a new single out, and even collaborated with indie darling Penelope Scott last year. I’ve also joined a band.
Mine is not the most conventional journey for a musician to have, but I’m glad I took it because I’m more comfortable with not just my voice, but myself. Everyone deserves to feel that way—especially trans and gender-diverse folks who are so often told by others (and sometimes ourselves) that we don’t sound how we “should.”
To hell with that. Our voices are beautiful, unique, and necessary. They make the world a better place, and our stories are truly invaluable.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Masse.
Alex Masse, AKA Fairything, is a 21-year-old writer, musician, and student residing in what is colonially known as Vancouver, BC. The arts are a longtime love of theirs, and their work has been seen everywhere from the Scholastic Writing Awards to Vancouver Pride, as well as in collaboration with Penelope Scott, artsUNITE, She Does The City, and more. They’re also a neurodivergent nonbinary lesbian, which greatly affects their process.
When not writing, they’re making music, and when not making music, they’re writing. Occasionally though, they can be seen working on their Communication degree or cozied up with a good book. Find them on Instagram and TikTok.