Some transgender users on TikTok said they experienced “gender euphoria” — a phrase used to describe the elation a person feels about their body or their identity — after using a new voice filter on the app that allows them to replace their voice with a more masculine or feminine voice.
Having the ability to watch back a video with a voice that more closely aligns with their gender identity has been emotional, trans TikTok users told NBC News.
“I remember filming a video and immediately sobbing after hearing myself speak with such a feminine tone and just feeling the gender euphoria flow through me,” said TikTok creator Kloe Rose, 27, who makes content about being a transgender woman. “It’s not something I ever imagined I’d get to experience.”
Some videos celebrating the voice feature have racked up millions of views. It’s unclear when the voice filter was added to the app. However, videos with users utilizing the feature popped up as early as last month. TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facial filters — such as facial hair, makeup and facial feminization — are other gender-affirming tools that have long been available on social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat.
The TikTok voice filter, which appears to be among the first built-in voice-changing filters that has also been gender-affirming to members of the transgender community, has made it easier for people to “disguise their natural voice and then they can build confidence knowing they have control over how they appear on social media,” Rose said.
Some in the trans community have said they feel dysphoria — a discordance between a person’s gender identity and the sex they were assigned at birth — hearing their voices in videos posted online.
Outside social media, there are different ways for transgender seeking to change their voices to align more closely with their gender identities. Some might chose to enroll in speech therapy. Locations like Emerson College, which offers speech therapy, are priced between $25 per group session and $30 for individual sessions. Surgery is also offered for some people who want to change their voice, although it is a far less common avenue for voice modification. It is also more expensive than therapy and therefore might be less accessible. Bastian Voice Institute, a medical center that offers gender-affirming vocal procedures, listed individual surgical procedures as ranging from $303 to $2,387.
Rose said she knows a lot of trans people “who want to be more vocal on social media and to gain a following and to be a role model to young trans youth.”
“But between the gender dysphoria of one’s voice, the backlash and cyberbullying of trans people, it’s not very motivating to want to do,” she said.
The benefit of having such a TikTok filter, Rose said, is that it can hopefully alleviate the gender dysphoria that some trans creators may feel.
Although TikTok has a range of nonhuman voice replacement features — users can replace their speech with the meows of a cat or a horn honking, for example — there are three filters that have been recently embraced by the transgender community. They include the feminine “Jessie” filter, which is the same voice as a text-to-speech feature on the app, a masculine-sounding voice called “deep” and another masculine-sounding voice called “baritone.”
“It’s a little weird because [‘Jessie’] isn’t a feminized version of your voice … but watching it back, it’s my voice and my face and it matched up perfectly,” said Ann Rios, 24, who uses her TikTok as a digital scrapbook.
When a person transitions and enrolls in speech therapy, she said, part of that training includes learning the social cues and speech patterns that more closely align with how masculine or feminine people sound. The voice feature inherently applies these socialized vocal mannerisms.
“It does add some socialization effects with how the inflection changes when you talk,” Rios said. “If you pick the masculine voice, even if you add some inflection to your voice, the filter will make it more monotone, and that’s a big part of voice training — not just getting your voice there but the resocialization of learning cues of how each gender speaks.”
She said she’d prefer her voice to sound a bit more like a tomboy — but she appreciates how gender-affirming the voice filters have been for trans masculine users, who select the deeper voices. She said she hopes that TikTok might allow users to customize things such as pitch, tone and timbre of the voice filters in the future.
For Kel, 19, a nonbinary TikToker, the filter also provided a “moment of gender euphoria.”
“Hearing it sound as if I were born a guy was very appealing to me,” said Kel, who asked to be identified by a nickname out of fear for personal safety. “My voice isn’t something I thought could be improved, but the filter proved me wrong.”