Thursday, March 1, 2007

The Crisis of Voice

Well I knew it would be coming, though I didn't expect it so soon. SecondLife is going to support voice chat, like did some time ago. I wasn't sure what I thought of the idea at first. SLFountain wonders what it means to transgenders in world. I asked one of my dearest friends last night how she felt about it, and her one word answer "Terrified" woke me up. Terror- a feeling I've understood well over the years.
The public typically find the situation amusing - Erbo Evans, an intelligent and progressive scripter who I admire off-handedly remarks "but all those guys playing as female avatars must be quaking in their boots (or stiletto heels, as appropriate :-) )" With all due respect, Erbo, it's a little worse than quaking.

In the CNet article about the voice feature, my friend Noche, editor of Pixel Pulse magazine, "is concerned that some people are not ready to divulge their real-life gender"- and that is very much the truth. The impacts to outing ourselves are massive, and the constant feeling of rejection from a non-understanding public eventually wears the most positive of us down.

For many of us - the TGs in Second Life - it really does mean an end to an era, where we can truly immerse ourselves in our chosen gender expression, and it feels natural and our entire avatar *is* our entire expression of ourselves in this new world. Now if we choose not to participate in voice, we are cutting ourselveLinks off from communication, and we'll be percieved as hiding something (again), and the shame can settle back in - and with it the depression, and with the depression...

Jan, a Transsexual resident replies to the Linden Blog that:
"This announcement is the beginning of the end for me and i’m scared…
For a fleeting moment i knew happiness. Now…..Goodbye SL and as i cant see a way out….possibly goodbye RL"
Here is another TG frightened by this move in the comments of the same post.

The internalization and shame of 1st Life transgender expression are literally killing us. Human Rights Office reports "the rate of attempted suicide among transgender youth is estimated at 50 per cent" . You find suicide all throughout our tg culture- it's especially visible with our youth. In the 8 years since I came out "In RL" I have seen 1st-hand the rate of depression and further suicide attempts in adults, should we survive our attempts in our youth. Because of my very "out" and public profile for my avatar I have been contacted privately by many many transgenders in SL and I can say with confidence that it saves lives. I know dozens of people for whom it has been a literal lifeline- myself included.

Being outed as a transgender person also raises fear and even hatred from a non-understanding public- we know this well, thank you very much, CoolKama. November 20th each year we remember those transgenders that have been violently murdered thanks to that hatred. This is also terrifying. Will you hate me so much that you'll track me down and kill me because I dare be public and out and proud? That I have embraced SL and within it I have found a Better Life?

So what can we do about this crisis- those of us who are transgendered, and all of the people around us who do love and support us? Many things. Encourage your friends to understand this as well.

We can support each other and continue a lot of the immersive Second Life experience we've known and loved on non-voice sims. Certainly on my roleplay sim- which is grandfathered at the old tier level - will not be paying extra to add a feature that separates our communication, and detracts from the immersion. Ask your island sim-owning friends to also keep their land voice-free. Renters and buyers in the islands, ask your simowners to keep your land voice-free as well. If they disagree, vote with your feet and move. I do predict that voice-free will be a *feature* that is valuable for a large contingent of residents. Ordinal, as always, has a wonderful and positive way to express her concerns about voice, and is positive about *not* using it.
We can reach out to and support each other. Join the Transgender Resource Center group and come to the open houses and support meetings. Yes, we do have many "friends and family of" members as well who help and support and love us who join. (SLURL to the TRC) Pay attention to each other- make sure your friends are okay, and if you're one of us who suffers from depression, make sure you're getting effective help.
Also, windows users can certainly use voice filter software that is *somewhat* effective. Several packages that I have looked into actually seem fairly promising, including AV Voice Changer and MorphVox Pro, but I do hear mixed reviews of the success of these products, and unfortunately cannot find anything for Mac. Any suggestions from readers welcome!

To be continued...


Amber said...

I figured this would eventually happen, but not so quickly. It is something that I will protest, for many reasons.
The thing that is sad, is that if this voice thing becomes mainstream in SL, it will discourage many TGs from joining. SL is a lifeline for some people, and I hope that isn't lost.

Erbo Evans said...

Thanks for the feedback, Cala; I'm sorry that your comment somehow got marked as spam (darn that filter!), so it wasn't posted until now.

You bring up a point that I hadn't considered but really should have known better about, and I will probably write a followup delving into this issue (and others that are voice-related) further.

Bailey Toland said...

I am not going to use any type of voice in SL either, this particular issue isn't my reason, although if you think of it more closely, it could be generalised and make an issue not only for the TGs. In SL, you are able to create any image of yourself you like, and the avatar you present is based solely on your inner perception of yourself. Adding a voice would limit many people, not only the ones who are not the same gender as their avatar, but maybe are simply not fond of their voice, or percieve their voice as something that limits them. I personaly have many reasons why I don't wish to support voice in SL at all. But than, maybe I'm just conservative. Noone knows what the future brngs till it actually comes. Anyway, interesting blog indeed.

HatHead said...

Hi Cala - lots to think about!

Adding voice to Second Life takes the concept of having a second life away, dragging it back towards real life.

As far as TG goes, SL certainly provides an escape from the ignorant masses of RL but then escape will not promote acceptance of TG in RL. Gays and lesbians have made great strides in my country by successfully confronting the issue head-on. This gives me great hope. It is important to not play the victim because then you will become one. (An easy thing to say of course).

Also, I have played with these voice filters and many people will be able to spot it. :(

Thanks for your insightful post!

Peace and love!

Anonymous said...

I tried the beta voice last night for a few minutes. It was interesting to note that I was unwilling to speak to the small group that was there with a Linden, although I would have been happy to text chat.

I've also blogged about how I'm not interested in using voice, and I agree that it will totally change many dynamics. On the other hand, I can also see how it will make some things far easier or more enjoyable, mostly having to do with SL as a business or classroom venue or in one-to-many communications settings.

Most of my concerns on behalf of others had centered around the hard-of-hearing, until I read your post Cala. Thank you for writing about it.

Torley said...

Hi Cala! I'm late here but I was doing googling of voice-morphing tech and where it's at today... I honestly found AV Voice Changer and MorphVox Pro to be crap! They made me sound like a freaky robot, and I'm saying that in a not-good way.

As you prolly know, I'm usually a female avatar in Second Life but a guy offline. In a past life, I did audio synthesis! As such, I haven't found any desktop PC products which work to my satisfaction for voice-changing; the more promising methods are dedicated boxes loaded with DSP chips, the same sorts of hardware used by top studio producers to make pop singers not suck live. ;) For example, the TC Helicon line.

I don't plan to use my voice in SL often (altho I openly have in places like my Video Tutorials), primarily because I have collapsed tolerance to noise and it gets very fatiguing for me to keep talking and listening.

Jan said...

Hi there,

I was so suprised to find my comment quoted here...i honestly thought not a soul had seen it or given a **** on that blog...didn't even really know why i'd posted it. I guess i kinda shut myself away and denied anything was happening but recently the depression has started again because i realised how close their trial dates are getting :(

I'm so scared :( Jan isn't even my SL name because my SL life girlfriend has no idea....she is my soul mate and i dont say that lightly...she lights up my world and makes me feel appreciated and loved and ACCEPTED in a way i've never felt before and i have SL to thank for that/ Everything we do together and every interest we share is perfect and i just feel that if she rejects me...*shrugs*..what is there for me? i've seldom in my life ever felt more lost but at least knowing you guys are here means i dont feel quite so alone...

Freya said...

I made an account just to reply to this.

I am TG and terrified too. First through mushes then second life I have developed a whole life as a woman, and yes a few white lies have people thinking I am a woman rl.

I have developed this over 8 years, though I do not feel I am lying to them about who I am I feel I am showing them the true me and my rl is a lie.

Second Life became a golden age. Could do all the things women do rl. Shop, socialise have girly chat and so much more and be trated as a full sexy women and enjoy compliments from men.

Now voice is here and I am really scared. Not only from the negative reaction from men if they found out but what if my friends I have known 8 years find out. One is a lesbian I fell in love with and we are partnered on SL now with very real feelings of love for one another. I want to tell her but have seen her react in a negative manner to other TG's in the past.

Also I run a modern iMac and these people know this. And they also know they have mic's.

There will be great pressure for me to talk. So far I have put them off saying I don't want to use voice because I like to imagine peoples voices and this ruins it. partly true as I often do not like the voice I hear rl over the voice I imagine but still. I may have to resort to saying my mic is broke. But they are so cheap to buy. I can just feel pressure building and building and thus SL is going from a place that was a liberation for TG's who have not come out to a place of oppression.

I wish could find some good voice software too for the mac but I fear there us now.

Before reading this I made a post at a well known transgender fiction site called Fictionmania. If curious my post is at

Freya said...

Just wanted to respond to Jan

I know how you feel. A few years ago I was with my soulmate, i still believe her to be my soulmate even now and still love her more deeply than I have ever loved anyone.

I eventually confessed to her I was TG and she went so cold. She promised she would not leave me but after staying around for 10 months but remaining pretty cold from then on she said she had computer problems and disappeared.

I was devastated, nearly committed suicide perhaps the only thing that stopped me was the hope she would return as she left me hanging. I could not understand why. when I met her she was exploring bisexuality but as things went along and because of me she became full lesbian.

Now I have made the mistake again of falling in love with another lesbian, someone I have known 8 years and who has held a torch for me for all these years and I am so scared of how she will react if she finds out. She may not be my soulmate like my previous love but we are still deeply deeply in love. If she found out and rejected me I think it would push me over the edge. I could not take it twice.

Tanoujin Milestone said...

I have worn my first dress at the age of 8. When my voice broke, it was no fun to sing any more. A voice can be trained. Torleys voice is fine. My voice is fine, when i feel good. On a bad day - help me goddess... Voice is upon us. I will talk, i will loose some friends - so what? I could have told them from begin on. It is my own fault. I am forced to come out. I will not hide any longer. This crappy voice modeling boxes! I tried a male AV - no way... Let us be proud and come out. I am no freak, i am no pervert, there is nothing wrong with me. I should have told them from begin on. My name is Tanoujin Milestone. See you in world.

JP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JP said...

I found a way to transforming voice with Garage Band and Soundflower. If you are using a Mac, it's a great solution that works perfectly. Check this information about it:


Anonymous said...

The symptoms of depressions vary from person to person. Some may get rid of it easily while some are not able to get over it for a long time. The first symptom is change in behavior. When somebody behaves in a strange way than normally he does. He is supposed to be under depression.

Bianca said...

I'm a IRL transgender, woman (female), born hermafrodite.
since I'm a woman, I not care about my voice tonalities, I think the bigger problem is we have not a spot to do meetings (with respect, coz neither all is sex adicted)
Think the transgender comunity needs to join and, ya know, some of us are silly shy ppl :) (coz the IRL was a lot of bad on our pass, atleast to me)

Bianca said...

ops, in do time
you can find me in world sending an IM to Elizabeth Blaukempt

PS: if you thinking in sex, plz, get away from me

Tracy said...

I have only started using SL in the last few weeks - Its amazing - you can look gorgeous, all the clothes fit and meeting guys is no problem...

Till they start asking me for voice - so far I have just lied about no mic. but then its.. 'its simple, there very cheap - you should get one' :(

I can already tell 2nd life is not going to be the way out (for me anyway). My tg real life situation cannot seem to be escaped from in this 'virtual world' - which is such a shame for so many people.
I did really want a "second life" but it seems my first is my only one :)

I feel really sorry for those of you who have built up a relationship, only to have the issues from RL intrude on it.
I could see this happening to me very easily - who can resist the chance to live out their dreams? , but I feel I may have to 'ban' myself from these virtual lifes unless I am completely truthful?

Thanks for reading my 2 cents :)
I wish you all the best of luck and do hope you find happiness


Bronwyn Pendraig said...

I don't know if most would consider me transgender or not.

While I am not happy with my male body, I do accept it.

My mind, soul, and spirit are female, though my body is male.

However, I have no particular interest in cross-dressing or getting surgery done.

My soul mate is just the opposite, a male mind, soul, and spirit in a female body.

That works just fine for me.

However, I would like to find a sound program that allows me to sound like my SL avatar would.

Jaedreth / Bronwyn

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