Jefferson Moss-Magee Rehabilitation, in collaboration with the Einstein Pride Program, offers specialized vocal training to help transgender (persons whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned to them at birth) and gender expansive (those who expand notions of gender expression and identity beyond perceived or expected societal gender norms) people find the voice that makes them feel comfortable and true to themselves. Working with a speech-language therapist specialized in gender-affirming (support in the gender transition) voice therapy, individuals can learn to adapt their vocals to match their gender identity or, in some cases, find a gender-neutral voice.
Voice therapy is different from speech therapy as it is a behavioral intervention that focuses on vocal nuances including pitch, resonance (how the voice vibrates), volume, and intonation (rise and fall of voice). It also relates the physical and social aspects of speaking to gender. For example, conversations ending with upward intonation and using filler words such as “like” and “um” are perceived as more feminine.
As everyone’s gender-affirmation journey is different, speech-language pathologists work with patients on an individualized basis, determining goals and what sounds natural to them. A transgender woman (female person assigned male at birth), might work on the pitch, the resonance of speaking with a forward voice rather than one deep in the throat, rising and falling intonation (when the voice goes up and down), and different aspects of language such as word choice. A transgender man (male person assigned female at birth) would work on resonance, especially if voice pitch changes a lot due to hormone therapy. Someone who wanted a more neutral voice would avoid perceptions of their voice as either feminine or masculine.
Once finding their ideal voice, individuals often become more confident and comfortable in themselves in different social settings and public places like work. To get started with voice therapy at Jefferson, individuals should contact the Einstein Pride Program. A pride patient navigator can help coordinate a variety of healthcare services for patients in different stages of the gender-affirmation process.