A conversation with Renée Yoxon
TRANS, NON-BINARY, GENDERQUEER, MAVERIQUE
45 min. Recorded on 29 November 2021.
Renée’s pronouns are they/them, and they are non-binary trans. They also identify as maverique and back in the day, genderqueer. Find out what that means to Renée in this episode.
We also talk about being who you are right now, bridging the trans and cis experience, how ‘passing’ is morally neutral, internal vs societal perception of gender, simultaneously upholding and tearing down gender binaries, and how the voice is more nurture than nature.
Terminology: BIPOC = Black, Indigenous & People of Colour
“I feel full of gender…I don’t think of myself as neutral, I don’t think of myself as agender…I have a strong sense of gender, but it’s just not related to the gender binary.”
TRANSCRIPT [expand to read]
Esther: Hello and welcome. What’s your name?
Renée: My name is Renée Yoxon.
Esther: Hello, Renée. And let’s talk about your gender experience. What labels do you use?
Renée: So primarily I use trans and nonbinary. I often say I’m a nonbinary person or I’m nonbinary, trans or trans, but just those usually when I’m talking to people, but for the purpose of this show, I also use the label of Maverique to describe my particular flavor of nonbinary.
Esther: Cool. I like the word flavor there, actually. Yeah. I’m intrigued by it. As I mentioned, like, there’s been one other person, Jay, who uses that label. But I did find it very… I tried to get my head around it at the time and I know I did struggle. I must admit, but let’s start at the beginning. Let’s start with trans and nonbinary. What do those mean to you?
Renée: Well, I don’t think I can talk about nonbinary without talking about Maverique, but I’ll talk about trans first. So to me being trans is just, not identifying with the gender I was assigned at birth and that’s it. So, but not everybody of course is going to agree with that. But for me personally, I’m trans because I had to transition socially. Although people don’t need to be don’t need to transition in order to be trans either. Just for me, that’s how I came to identify as trans, because for awhile, I didn’t identify as trans, I only identified as nonbinary and I didn’t see myself in the label of trans, and it took me like a little bit of time to start to see myself in that term. But now I do.
Esther: Yeah. Interesting. So you came to the well conclusion, it’s called a conclusion, the conclusion of nonbinary before you came to that? Not the same understanding as similar.
Renée: Yeah. They actually have to go back further in time. Let’s yeah, let’s go on the journey. So I always had some difficulties with gender, I would say, like, I remember being a teenager and just having feelings. I don’t really know what those feelings were, but just like, I didn’t fit in. I wasn’t like other girls, you know, I think that’s a very common nonbinary experience. And then I got to university and I was, there was like the first LGBT group that I was ever exposed to was at my university in Ottawa.
And. There I met a bunch of cool trans people and also my current, you know, one of my best friends in the world and gender queer was like the term du jour. We didn’t have nonbinary. Cause this was back in 2005 or six at the time, you know? So I started identifying at that time as a gender queer woman, you know, like a woman who had boy days. You know, and that was like normal. Yeah. It was normal within the group that I ran with. Like, I had a cool group of polyamorous lesbians that I would hang out with and, you know, gender fucking is like really normal in those circles. So that was where I started. And then in about 2012, I would say I got on Tumblr. This is also a very common nonbinary experience on Tumblr. And there, I learned like a little bit more detail about gender and I started to like use the anonymity of Tumblr as a place to like safely experiment with different labels. So then I started calling myself a demi girl, which maybe you, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that term.
Yeah. A demi girl for your audience is just like, Someone who’s mostly women, but some part not, I guess, girl adjacent. Yeah. So I was like, that was a safe way to like experiment with nonbinary-ness, and then it was they/she for a while, and then after a while it just was like, okay, I’m nonbinary. And I use they pronouns and it was like Tumblr that allowed me to sit with that long enough to, to feel good about that.
And it was also on Tumblr that I learned about the term maverique, because. Coined by Vesper, who was like an asexual nonbinary activist from Tumblr. And they were really active at that time. I think they’re still active, but they coined the term maverique. And I was like, ah, that is why none of these other terms fit me exactly. Because this is this uncoined term. This newly coined term is the thing that works. Hmm. Yeah. Wow. And then after all that, then I started calling myself trans.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. So how did the the evolution into trans.. How did you, how did you get there? I’m curious.
Renée: I mean, like, you know, the way people define trans and, and. I don’t want to say gatekeeping, but like who we allow to be trans has evolved over the years. And there was a time when you were only trans, if you transitioned medically, as of course, that was never the case, but that was what was like the popular idea around transness. And so now, it’s a lot easier to identify as trans without feeling like you’re occupying space that doesn’t belong to you, I think. So back in the day when I was identifying as nonbinary and I was still like passing as a woman, I mean, I still do pass as a woman, I think for most people, except for those who have keen vision. I think at that time I just felt like I was occupying territory that didn’t belong to me. So after a while, I started to see myself in the experience of other trans people that I would meet. And then I was like, oh, I’m, I’m obviously trans. I’m having all these same experiences as these other trans people. So I’m trans too, even though I haven’t done any like medical transitioning of any sort.
Esther: Yeah, yeah. That’s fair enough. You know, your journey, your decisions. So yeah, I’d love to talk a bit more about the maverique actually. So what you said in your the things you sent me, you say you don’t really identify as maverique or that you are maverique. But it does, the word itself does describe your gender. So can you talk a bit more about that because yeah, I’m still, I’m still confused about it.
Renée: Sure problem. So I’m nothing, if not a pragmatic person, I would say. And. I, I really respect people who are like extremely radical and, and who are pushing boundaries and, and deliberately what’s the word I’m looking for? Shaking things up and de-stabilizing like cultural norms, but I don’t think that’s my place in the, in the cultural context. Like I think I’m, my job is more to be a bridge between trans experience and cis experience.
I don’t know, I have trouble talking about this because this is like really rooted in whiteness also. Like, and also the way that I express my gender is like very palatable to cis people. And I have, I struggle with that. I both like see that and I understand the privilege inherent with that, but I don’t want, I don’t love it.
Let’s say, you know, I think I’d rather be more radical, but this is who I am right now. And so I recognize that I can easily help cis people understand. Like what it is to be trans because they’ll listen to me. So that’s wrapped up in all my privilege. I forget how I got here. What was the original question?
Esther: We’re just wondering about the maverique label, but it’s yeah. That’s, that’s so interesting. Cause I feel like even though I consider myself like a queer person, I’m also quite cis passing and like, I’m not saying that I feel like I’m not cis. I’m not trans. But I’m not, am I cis though? Do you know what I mean? It’s like, it’s all these questions.
Renée: I mean, that’s a really trans thought, just so you know, not many cis people ask that question. Okay. I remember what I was saying. So I’m a very pragmatic person and like, I think nonbinary as a term is becoming more and more accepted. It’s far from fully accepted, but it’s much more common for like a cis person to have heard of the word nonbinary, to have met nonbinary people, to understand how to use they, them pronouns.
So I’m not running around calling myself maverique in cis circles because I understand that it will just lead to a conversation that I don’t really want to be having, nor do I think it’s necessary to be having, like, not every person needs to know the minutia of my gender. It’s just, it’s not relevant to, to our interaction, you know?
And that’s like a normal part of being trans and cis. Like we don’t tell every single person everything about ourselves. So, yeah, I identify as maverique. I have, since 2012, I would maybe use it adjective really like I’m a maverique person or my gender is described as maverique. I don’t know. But in like this situation in which someone is explicitly asking me about the minutia of my gender, I’m happy to say hello, proudly maverique.
Yeah. So I don’t know if you want to know what I, what I think of when I think of the word maverique or just me to go into more detail Vesper’s definition was a gender that is neither male, nor female, but not neutral and not empathetic of gender. Right? So like, I think people think of nonbinary gender as either being like combination of both or neutral or agender. Right. So this is like, I have a strong internal sense of gender. But it is something unrelated to the gender binary and the things that make up my gender are unrelated to masculinity or femininity. I don’t identify as trans masculine or trans feminine. I wouldn’t, but yeah, I just identify as me. And I think there are other words too, like aporagender, I think is another word that like it’s the same definition, but I like maveriquebetter.
Esther: Yeah. I’ll have to look it up on the LGBTA Wiki, which I turned to a lot of these days. Yeah. Yeah. So I could have just got a sense of like maverique being well, although all gender identities, I suppose, are unique to the individual. I just got a sense that maverique is like a really individual thing, so it’s not really easily defined. It just applies to who uses it. I’m not sure how that even makes sense, but I’m just processing it on the spot here. So I feel like I’ve just got a sense of something when I have to try and put it into words…
Renée: And nonbinary. I think some people think of me as like just a neutral person or they understand the concept of not relating to gender at all, but I feel full of gender, but I don’t feel like, like you’ve heard the term gender fuck, which is like multiple, you know, high levels of both masculinity and femininity. I don’t feel like that either. I don’t really possess like gender fuck presentation. I don’t think of myself as neutral. I don’t think of myself as agender, but I, I have a strong sense of gender, but it’s not related to the gender binary, which I know is very challenging for some people to, to understand which is why I don’t talk about it very much.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. That’s fair. Yeah. Yeah. Also I was just wondering about the term gender queer and what that means to you.
Renée: Yeah. I don’t know. I don’t really think about gender queer anymore because I did identify that way back in the day in my early twenties, but I’m 34 now almost. And. Not a word I use all the time.
So for me, like nonbinary and gender queer were interchangeable. I think at the time I would identify as gender queer. It was just like a way of stating that I didn’t understand or jive with cis womanhood a hundred percent. But again, that term is used like in so many different ways to describe a variety of experiences. But for me, it was just, I feel a little different.
Esther: Yeah. I mean, what I’m thinking about now is just the, the flawedness in labels and it’s like, they could be useful for trying to describe your experience, but like they’re also very elusive. Like how do you find a word or a term that describes your experience? Like it’s like impossible really? Isn’t it?
Renée: Well, and I think the big problem with labels is that they are often generated from an experience that is dominant in culture like that is hegemonically the dominant experience, you know? So like a lot of people who are marginalized are not going to jive with our conceptions culturally of cis womanhood, for example.
So you don’t need to be trans, you could be Black, you could be disabled, you could be all these other ways of being marginalized and, and find yourself like not getting down with cis womanhood. And that was one of my experiences too. I’m white, however, but I am disabled. That’s why I use a rollater, and a cane. I’ve chronic pain essentially. So my experience of gender is a different one just by virtue of being disabled, because people interact with me in a way that is like, that is different from how they would interact with an able-bodied cis woman, you know? So I’m not experiencing all the things that all the trappings of cis womanhood that an able-bodied woman would experience, you know?
So I think that helped me in a way of coming to terms with my gender, because I was like, well, I’m already not, I’m not getting what people get when they are cis, so I might as well just really dig into what I actually am and identify that way. But yeah, I mean, we’re getting pretty philosophical now, but I think this is like the big problem with labels in general.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. It’s an interesting one. Like you, you, like you were saying about how being disabled is obviously part of your identity, it’s part of who you are. And I always find it interesting how all these facets of people combine to make the whole, but also how they, how they connected, how they’re linked, you know?
So, yeah. Can you say a bit more about how you feel your gender and your disability are linked?
Renée: Yeah. I mean, I don’t have a clear answer for you there it’s something that just sort of mull over from time to time. But you know, when you’re, when I’m walking through a place with my rollator, I don’t know if someone is giving me a particular look because they’re reading me as disabled or because they’re reading me as trans depending on what I’m wearing that day, you know? And I can either walk without my mobility aids or with them. So I get to decide like, what do I want to be most prominent the feature today, my gender or my disability. And it’s also something that I end up having to like, decide what I want to be accommodated for. So when I was in school, I frequently had to, at the beginning of a new class, be like, do I want to talk to this teacher about getting my accommodations met or getting my pronouns respected?
And I didn’t want to have to have both. You feel like too much, you know, it’s like, hi, I’m all these different things that you don’t know. And I have to teach you all these things and then hope that you will respect me enough to, to understand two things at once. Like, it feels like too much for people when really it’s just, it’s just another way of being, you know?
Esther: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. It’s interesting. I was just thinking of an example, which is obviously not at all related to gender, and it’s also coated in privilege, obviously, but when I was a kid, I had glasses, like I had really thick jam jar glasses. And, and then I needed braces cause I had an overbite, and I just remember thinking, okay, I’m not doing both.
I’m not doing both one of these needs to go. I’m just going to dedicate myself to one of them, but I’m not doing both. Cause it was it wasn’t just about me. Like I’m thinking about maybe not communicating it to other people, but like the way you then present to other people, you know, it, it does affect how people respond to you.
Doesn’t it? Like if someone had I don’t know, physical appearance in so many ways,
Renée: It just speaks to, people’s like, well, to your reticence, to deviate from the norm and more than one way, you know, it’s like, oh, if I’m deviating from the norm in one way, that’s one thing like I can maybe expect to be respected if I only have one thing that makes me weird. But if I have two things weird, then that’s unacceptable. And that kind of thought is just is, is just like a patriarchal. You know, it’s a thought that is implanted in our brains. It’s not one that any person would be born with, you know?
Esther: Totally. And for me, I was bullied as a kid quite a bit, and I felt like I did not want to attract any attention to myself. I just kind of wanted to be invisible. So I thought the more, the more of this there is the more different I am, the more I’m going to be noticed, you know, and it was something I did not want. And then when you grow up and you have to, you know, get out in the world and especially if you do your own thing with business and stuff, you have to unlearn all that crap and then thinking, oh yeah, visibility. That’s a real thing. That’s really sure I have it. I wonder what’s behind that. So that’s interesting, isn’t it?
Renée: Yeah. And you have to really respect someone who is already marginalized, who then decides to come out as trans, you know, because it’s a harder decision. If you’re already finding yourself in a marginalized position to then put yourself in a further marginalized position.
I know I’ve been doing a teacher training program for my work, which we will get into I’m sure at some point. And I realized that there was not enough representation of trans people of color in the program that I was doing. So I conducted six interviews with BIPOC trans people just to learn more for myself, but also to make sure the teachers, I was training don’t leave without like a good perspective of what it is to be both Black and trans or of color and trans are indigenous and trans. And yeah, that was like the big take home was like it’s, it’s, it’s a lot more work to be yourself when you were already marginalized.
Esther: Yeah. Well, since you referred to your work, it’s, it’s a good subject to talk about next because you, you work with voice, right? So yeah, I’m on your website right now. And what I can see is, hi, I’m Renee. I teach trans people to love their voice, and I think that’s just a really lovely that’s just a really lovely way to phrase it. I suppose. It’s so short and concise and it’s also very. I don’t know what the word is like affirming, accepting of yourself because a lot of the time, I guess, trans women are told they have to, you know, present a certain way and they have to “pass,” which is a horrible term. So do you work with people in a way that, I don’t know that you helped them discover their own voice, I suppose. Don’t you?
Renée: Yeah. Complicated. So let’s dig into this. So there’s lots of terms to describe the work that I do. I usually leave it up to the student to, to name the work because for each student it’s individual, I have been known to call it trans voice alteration, trans voice work, gender affirming voice lessons or training voice feminization, masculinization, neutralization, trans vocal exploration. There’s lots of ways to call this work. So when you’re talking about presentation of gender, there are like two facets that you kind of have to consider, right? There’s the facet that is within you.
So like what brings me gender euphoria? What is going to make me happy when I put it on my body or when I use it to express myself. And then the other facet is what will people see and perceive, right. So you’re working with. Both your internal perception of gender and then the societal perception of your gender and the problem with the societal perception of your gender is it could be as accepting as your perception of gender.
If you’re fortunate enough to be around a group of people who also see gender in the same way that you do and who understand you and the nuance of your gender, but more than likely, you’re going to be around people who think of. As a binary; man, woman, feminine, masculine, whatever. Right? So you have to understand that, however, you choose to present your gender.
It’s going to be filtered through the societal lens of femininity and masculinity. And so you kind of have to unfold. This is unfortunate, but you have to make the decision. Like, how do I want to be read if I’m going to have to be read through that lens and what will also make me happy? So there’s these two facets you have to consider when presenting gender. Which sucks. I’m not going to lie. It’s like not great, but it is just the reality we live in. Again, I’m very pragmatic as a person. So what I say my work is, is I want people to not focus on passing as a goal, even though obviously passing is like important for safety and it’s a fine thing to, to want.
Like I get wanting to have an easy life where you don’t have to describe your experience of transness. That’s fine. Okay. I find that he will put passing is their goal for their voice. It tends to it’s. So context-specific that it’s like almost just a moving goalpost that you can never figure out where it actually is.
So I, I rather people use gender euphoria as their guide. As their, as their guiding goal, like, do I feel good about this gender is my internal sense of gender lit up by the voice that I’m creating? So all this to say my job is to help people understand what abilities, their voice already possesses, how they use.
To express themselves currently and how to use those tools that they already have to make a gendered voice that gives them gender euphoria. And that maybe also allows them to be perceived within the lens of femininity and masculinity in which they wish to be perceived. Right? So we are frequently feminizing or masculinizing the voice along the lens of like gender, but the gender binary.
Right. But that’s because that’s the world we live in. So we kind of have to do that anyway, you know? So there you go. Yeah. A long way around, but we made it.
Esther: Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And part of me was thinking like, cause I’ve, I’ve obviously heard of the term passing. And it just, it, it doesn’t sit well with me.
Cause I feel like people shouldn’t have to pass. They shouldn’t have to worry about that. But like you say, society is what it is and it’s not that maybe people feel they should, but it’s how they feel most comfortable and safe. And there’s all these different facets to it. And that’s, that’s a really good thing to remember.
Renée: Yeah. I try to approach a lot of these topics with like a morally neutral stance, like passing is morally neutral. Like it doesn’t make you a better trans person to pass as the gender that you are, but it’s also not a bad thing to want that. Like why would people not want to just be respected as the gender they are? I get that. So I’m not here like to tell trans people. Stop wishing you could pass. Cause you’re just upholding patriarchal values. Like if you want to pass, that’s fine. I just want people to know that passing is not within your control sometimes, you know, is that’s what I mean by it’s context specific, like in some contexts you might pass as the gender that you are. And then in others, you don’t, and it really just depends. Like how much effort you put into your presentation that day. And that’s why passing is ridiculous because it’s so dependent on like all these factors.
Esther: Yeah, totally, totally. So, I mean, if someone approaches you saying they want to pass and you can tell from their voice that that might not be a possibility to the degree that they desire..,
Renée: That’s not something I can tell right away. That develops as you go.
Like, first of all, I don’t know what someone’s going to be wearing when they speak. Like I can, you can never tell someone, oh yeah, this voice you can pass in this one, you can’t like, well, the thing I say all the time in all my workshops is I am not the gender police.
Like, I’m not here to say, yep. You have a woman’s voice now. Congratulations. Like, yeah, exactly. Like I believe that if you’re a woman, you have a woman’s voice. If you would like a voice that is different from that for reasons, great. I can help you get that. If you’re a man, you have a man’s voice. And if you want to modify that voice to be different, I’m also happy to help you with that.
Like, I really do have to walk the line of like helping to uphold the gender binary and also tearing it down as a nonbinary person. It’s challenging every day is my challenge. Yeah. Yeah,
Esther: yeah. That is so interesting. Like being in those, like having these, both these really opposing situations, I suppose.
and letting them both be there cause neither of them are wrong or right. Is that correct? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That’s so interesting. Wow.
Renée: I just want people to have freedom with their voice and to not feel restricted by what they currently have. Like I want people to, I think people tend to think that the voice is this innate intrinsic part of ourselves. And if we change the voice, then we’re faking it or we’re fabricating things or we’re deceiving people and it’s all ridiculous. Like you have an accent and I have an accent, but if you were born here and I was born there, we would have the opposite accents, if nothing else were different, you know?
So your voice is just, it’s nurture. It’s not nature. You know, it’s how you are habituated in childhood. And as you grow. You model, you could maybe we’ll re habituate your voice. Like if you happen to go through a testosterone puberty, you have to relearn how to use your instrument and how to, how to talk again.
And if you decide as an adult, you want to re habituate it again, that’s not fake, that’s just a choice that you made consciously. And it doesn’t mean it’s any different from the voice you currently have. It’s just another facet of the voice that you’re able to do. You know? So
Esther: that’s such a good point actually like voice being nurture, not nature.
Yeah. Cause I mean, when it comes to voice and especially if you’re a marginalized or minority group, obviously you’re not encouraged to use your voice. You get the, you know, oppression as a thing. So yeah. Using, using your voice, I mean, as a, as a woman, ish, I’m still figuring that one out, but like, it is, it is my experience and it has been my experience for most, most of my life.
So it’s not that I completely detach myself from that term, but like, yeah, I’ve had certain experiences where. Or like a lot of experiences, I guess, that I’m only now seeing for what they are, which involves like, no, don’t speak up. Be silent, be quiet. Yeah. Don’t take up too much space, you know, in all sorts of ways.
So what is your best tip for embracing the power of your own voice? Whatever gender you are.
Renée: Well, this is like the metaphorical use of the word voice. And I haven’t really explored this too much. Like I think going into 2022, it might be something that I think of more in terms of how I don’t want to say market. I don’t really like that word, but you know how I like share what I have with the world. Like I haven’t leaned heavily on the, the, like raise your trans voice messaging. So I don’t have an answer for that. I think that
Renée: My goal is just for trans people to be happy. Like if I had one, one business goal, like the one thing in our, my business plan that is like that, that upholds my values is trans joy is that is the end game.
So I don’t want to pressure trans people to speak up or to like teach people or to, I just want them to be happy. If that means pouring a cup of tea and sitting alone and not talking to anybody like great, you know?
Esther: Totally. Yeah. It’s totally up to people whether they want to use their voice and how they want to use their voice.
Right. I do feel like I have a sense in myself that. It’s probably a reaction to like conditioning and upbringing and stuff, but I’m like, damn right. I’m ready to use my fucking voice.
Renée: And that’s you! That’s your podcast. And you like, obviously you want to use your voice, you know, but I meet so many people who, you know, They don’t feel like they have a right to modify their voice. Because like I was saying earlier, they feel like it’s deceptive or they feel like they’re faking things. And it’s like, my goal is just to tell people, do whatever the fuck you want. If you want to change your makeup, change your makeup. If you want to change your clothes, change your clothes. If you want to change your voice, that is also something that you can modify. Just like you can modify other parts of your gender presentation. Yeah. But I’m not. Yeah. But I’m not here to tell people that they need to educate on trans rights. That they need to educate the people in their own family, you know, that they need to stand up for themselves. Like that to me is asking more of trans people than I actually want to ask of them.
Like I’m in service of trans people. I don’t want them to have to also be in service of themselves. You know what I mean? Like some of them will as they go and do their lives. But my only goal is to make trans people as happy as possible in their lives. That’s it. So hug a trans woman today.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah, just trying to think where to take it now was a
Renée: weird answer. Your question, sorry. It’s like,
Esther: yeah, yeah, no, it’s really, it’s really interesting. Cause like, yeah, I’m now starting to think about using the voice and how it’s not something we’re just born with and stuck with. Basically, it’s something that is fluid and adaptable. Yeah. Yeah.
Renée: Well, think about it in your own life. Like how many different ways do you currently use your voice? Like, do you have a pet? I don’t know. Oh, I’m serious. Yeah. Like how would you speak to your pet versus how do you speak on your podcast?
Esther: When I, when I talk to cats, I dunno, I guess it’s how some people speak to small children or babies. Sometimes I observe that and I’m like, really, but then I do it myself to a cat, you know, that’s, that’s how…
Renée: And that’s another way that you’re able to use your voice. So by the same token, if you wanted to speak like that all the time, you could ostensibly.
Esther: Yeah. It’s interesting. Cause I guess it’s like the, the object of who you’re speaking to affects how you use your voice. That’s, that’s an interesting realization
Renée: And how much energy you have and if you’re sick or if you’re excited or if you’re anxious or if you’re scared or you’re tired, you know, all these ways that your body can be affects your voice, the voice is like indicator like a litmus test for the rest of your body. You know, if you’re fatigued, you hear it in your voice, if you’re excited, you hear in your voice, you’re anxious, you hear it in the voice. So that’s like one aspect of it. And then there’s also the thing of being able to modify the voice to express different, different things, like unrelated to how your body is feeling. So when you talk to your boss or your pet, or your best friend, like those are all different modalities of speech. So it’s already a very flexible thing. People just don’t see it sometimes.
Esther: Yeah, it’s interesting when you start becoming aware of the subtleties of it. I find, cause I think I can, I can observe it in my language and I still do with a little bit, but especially in the earlier episodes of the podcast, I I’m always, like, I sounded apologetic almost like, you know, I, I, yeah, almost even, even using that, using that, that word and I ask questions, I’m like, who is sort of this and are you kind of that?
And you know, it’s all this like yeah, almost apologizing for taking up space. It’s really interesting that the subtleties and the nuances that, that shows up as?
Renée: I would call it deferential instead of apologetic, which I think is polite.
Esther: That’s fair. Yeah. Maybe it just needs reframing and myself as well. Cause I obviously judge it as something like, what am I doing here? Oh my goodness. All the oppression!
Renée: Well, you’re working hard to accommodate a variety of, of languages. So deference is necessary if you want people to trust you and to keep coming on your podcast.
Esther: Yeah. That’s a good point as well. And I feel like I am navigating this space in a way that, you know, I don’t know everything and I’m learning and I’m also very conscious because I don’t want to get it wrong. I don’t want to say the wrong thing. Although I am. Okay. And I have made peace with the fact that that might happen sometimes, and then I’ll have to deal with it.
Renée: I mean, it happens to me all the time too. I’ve worked with hundreds of trans people just by virtue of the fact that I do these public workshops and I have my online courses and I mis-gender people, sometimes it happens, you know, I think the main thing is just not put it on that person to like help you atone for your wrongdoing. Just be like, whoops, sorry. And, you know, fix it.
Esther: Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s an interesting one. Obviously, when you’re talking about someone they’re not, they might not be present. They might not be in the same space.
Renée: So in my case, they’re always present because I’m working with a workshop with like 20 people. I’ll give you an example. The other day I was doing my teacher training and somebody logged in and I have really bad facial. I swear, I’m almost face blind, which is good and bad for interacting with trans people. But I really rely on the names and pronouns people put in their zoom description, you know, and somebody logged in with their dead name and like hadn’t had a chance to change it yet to their, to their current name because they use their dead name at work.
And I was like, oh, hi dead name, just, but I thought it was a different person than last week. I was like, you must not have been here last week. We’ll just, we’ll give you a chance to introduce yourself. And then he changed his name to his current name. And I was like, oh my God! I’m sorry!
And it was fine but embarrassing for me, you know, slightly.
Esther: Yeah, it does happen. No, that makes total sense. I feel like that the times when I don’t speak to groups of people necessarily, so for me, it’s more a matter of. If, if I mis-gender someone which happens not very often, but I’m talking usually to other people and the person in question isn’t there, but I notice even then it makes me feel like, oh my God, I got this wrong. How can I get this wrong? I shouldn’t get this wrong. Do you know what I mean?
Renée: It’s a transgression. So it makes sense.
Esther: Yeah, totally. And I feel so conscious of it as well, but I’m also aware, like if this happens, when a person is there, I might feel even worse, but then the trickiest, like don’t get stuck on it.
Move on, move the fuck on. Don’t make it about me. Do you know what I mean? So. Yeah.
Renée: I’ve been working with my family a lot on this because my, my dad just turned 70 and my mom’s in her sixties. And, you know, I came out like, oh my God, I dunno, eight years ago or something now. And I’ve been to them a little less though, maybe only like five years.
And so I’ve been working on the pronouns thing with them and my brother is autistic and he is so good with the rules and with like remembering how things are supposed to be. So he lives with them and whenever they mess up, he’s like it’s they? Hello. And so my trick recently to, I like to be kind like, I tell them like, look, it’s like, and when you move your cutlery from one drawer to another drawer. And then for like three years after you go into the wrong drawer for your spoons, like I get it. You called me one thing.
Esther: That is such a good analogy! That makes so much sense!
Renée: You know, your brain has pathways and I get that you went down the wrong pathway for my pronoun and you pulled out the wrong pronoun and it’s okay. I know you want to do right. I mean, not everybody needs to be this compassionate. Like if you want to be pissed at your family, like, go ahead. I, I tried, my family has made it very clear to me that they’re trying. So when they make these mistakes, I try to let them go. But I started going I started charging a $5 mis-gendering fee. It was, I mean, I didn’t really charge them money, but every time they would use the. Pronoun instead of being like, oh, that’s the wrong pronoun. I would just go $5. And there would go ahhhh haha, you got me.
Esther: It’s such a good idea. I bet that it would be, you know, that would be such a good way to rewire those neurons on a, you know, at a faster pace.
You could just make a little noise, go kaCHING!
Renée: I had one tweet go viral a long time ago. That was like, I’m going to pay someone to come to my funeral and just blow an air horn every time one of the mourners mis-genders me. Yeah, I think that would be really funny, but yeah, so like, you know, making a joke out of it was really good, a good way to, to help my family rewire their brains.
The last time I visited, they did really well. I have to say like, they’re really coming along and I didn’t think it would be possible, but it just took persistence. And my family’s really doing well now with that.
Esther: That’s good. Yeah. Yeah. That’s lovely. One thing I was just wondering about is how did you get into voice work? What was behind that?
Renée: Sure. So I have been a singer, a songwriter for many years. I I have four albums out. I have a jazz degree and a songwriting degree. And so, yeah, so I was like really musician for a long time. And I stopped doing that primarily because of chronic pain. Like it just made the, the cost benefit analysis didn’t add up, you know, and I found that I liked teaching more.
Like it just lit me up in a way that performing never did, or it didn’t have the cost that performing had. So I have been teaching singing since my God, over a dozen years now, at least. And I’m good at it. Like, I I’m really good at hearing particular uses of the voice and like structural issues and diagnosing is like a big strength of mine.
So even on the phone, like, I, I’ve definitely like taught lessons over the phone with no video and I can hear like, are you clenching your abdomen? Like that was just like a little bit of a superpower of mine to hear that stuff. So I was poised to be, to be right for this other work, this trans voice work. And what happened was in 2018, I decided I really only wanted to teach singing lessons to trans and disabled people. And that’s because other people have other teachers, but trans and disabled people only have a few people who are going to really get them. And I was one of those people. And then I thought to myself, they don’t really have a lot of money historically as a group.
So how am I going to teach these people? And so I created a scholarship program called the Right to Sing Award and I raised a bunch of money and I was able to give free singing lessons to a number of people who identified as either trans or disabled, but actually everyone identifies as both. Like there’s a lot of overlap in those communities, mostly because lots of people are disabled.
But so I did that. And through advertising this scholarship program there was an organization in Montreal called Project 10, who’s a trans youth organization. So they service under 25 year olds and they contacted me and said, Hey, we, we saw. That you teach trans people. Would you be interested in doing a voice workshop for us?
Because I guess they had had like speech language pathologists come in. And the problem that they had with them was that they were cis and two pathologizing. So they would say things that didn’t align with the values of the organization. Not that they were wrong, it just wasn’t in line with how this organization wanted to be teaching their constituents.
So I had never taught trans voice work, like. Alteration, you know, speech. I was like, yes, I want to do that. That sounds so cool. Yeah. And so I designed my first little workshop and it was totally different than what I have now, but it was just like an entry point. And they had me back a bunch of times I taught it in English and in French, which is another language that I speak.
And from there, yeah, just, I just kept learning more and doing more and they would refer students to me, so I kept gaining students. And then this last year, so just in 2021, I got like a contract with another organization to do that workshop like 20 times. And so I had, I taught it so many times in like a very short period of time.
And then what happened was I had a, I made my first TikTok in May of 2021 and it went viral very quickly. Totally random, it was just like an observation that I’d had about teaching voice alteration. I I’ve had a number of cis people approach me that wanting to like alter their voice to be more in line with their assigned gender, like having a more feminine voice or a more masculine voice, like cis men and cis women.
And I thought, yeah, so I made a little TikTok about that instant virality. And then I had so many requests for private lessons. I couldn’t keep up, which was a beautiful problem to have, it was very, very useful. So I stopped teaching entirely like the logical thing to do, of course, was to shut down my practice. So I shut it down and I took like three months off and I created my first e-course Trans Vocal Exploration, which is like a 60 lesson, 10 module e-course where people can learn all about the things we’ve been talking about today. That is what I do now. I continue to make e-courses and I’m training other singing teachers who want to pivot into teaching trans voice alteration. So I just, I’ve done four to five of my lessons for these, like this first cohort of teachers.
So it’s really exciting. Like I’m, I’m happy. You’re not teaching privately because now I’m able to help like a much larger group of people in a way that I wasn’t able to as a private one-on-one teacher. So it’s, it’s really cool. I feel really grateful to be honest.
Esther: Yeah. Even being cis ish, I’m a bit like, oh, I want to do the course.
Renée: Yeah. Do the course. I mean, lots of there’s lots of people who are not identifying a hundred percent is trans and also you don’t have to identify as cis or trans. That’s another binary, just so you know that you can, you can just be questioning.
Esther: Yeah. That’s so interesting.
Renée: I also don’t believe in the binary, nonbinary, binary.
I don’t believe in any…
Esther: Fuck duality
Renée: yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Esther: Amazing. Wow. Is there anything else that you’d like to add that we haven’t talked…
Renée: Well, I just want people to know that if they want to get into the course that is always available at my website, https://www.reneeyoxon.com/. But if they cannot afford the course at this time, I do have a scholarship program.
So if you go to my website and scroll down to the footer you’ll see my scholarship page and you can sign up and I give about four of those away a month just based on what donations are coming in for that program. But there’s lots of free resources on my TikTok as well. I also have a free trans guide to vocal anatomy and a vocal anatomy coloring book that they can grab and lots of free things that come out of my newsletter all the time.
So please get connected with me. And I, my, my goal is to make trans people happy. So please be one of those people.
Esther: Love it. Thank you so much for sharing.
Renée: Thank you so much for having me. This has been wonderful.
Renée Yoxon is a queer, nonbinary, and disabled singer, songwriter, and gender-affirming voice teacher.
Renée has over twelve years of vocal coaching experience, has released four full-length albums, and has received multiple awards and recognitions.
They are the founder of the Right to Sing Award, a scholarship program designed to provide free voice lessons to trans and disabled singers, as well as the creator of Trans Vocal Exploration, an online course that provides concise and easy-to-follow trans voice education to trans and nonbinary people all over the world.
You can find Renée on their website reneeyoxon.com and on Tiktok @reneeyoxon, Twitter @reneeyoxon and Instagram @reneeyoxon.
What we discussed & useful links
Project 10 (P10) in Montreal
- Renée’s course Trans Vocal Exploration and its scholarship programme