What’s your trans voice telling you?

Who do you turn to when your voice doesn’t reflect your unique sense of self. Turn to the experts. What the Speech Pathologist (Speech Therapist/Speech and Language Therapist) can do to help you find your inner voice.

Changing your gender identity takes an enormous effort. There’s surgery, medication, clothing, social and economic. So what about your voice? It’s sometimes the last thing we think about on the road to find our true self.

As the world quickly changes, and as attitudes and understanding of what it means to be transgender continue to change, it looks like the research has been left behind and it needs more direction to give it diversity and focus. As the idea of gender identity develops there needs to be more research in the area of how the voice works and how we use it to help us identify with our gender and our over all identity.

A paper presented in 2015 by Davies et al, identifies a list of limitations in understanding gender markers in the voice of trans people. The main areas of research undergone so far covers male to female trans. Only a small amount of research has covered female to male trans voices.

A more problematic area the researchers have identified is that we look at voice and communication on a binary gender scale. How male or how female do we sound? According to Davies, many who identify as gender non-conforming seek to develop speech patterns that they can switch between depending on their audience or circumstances. The question should be how do we train our voice to be just as fluid as our identity? “Some people may have a sense of gender that is not at either pole of the cismale/cisfemale scale but is on the contiuum of masculine and feminine”

If we ask anyone on the street what the main speech marker we identify for a man or woman is they would probably say women have a higher pitch than men. That’s where a lot of the research and treatment plans have been directed including pitch surgery. But in reality what is more likely a better marker is the communcation style.

Speech Pathologists are experts in assisting to develop the voice to sound more male or female. They look at resonance (the sound of the voice), inflections (the rise and fall of pitch), Voice Quality (e.g breathiness), Articulation (precision), Speaking Intensity (volume) Speech Rate and Prosody (speed and rhythm) with a series of strategies and techniques to implement them within everyday life to allow people more control of their personal voice.

And now we have the greater responsibility to expand our knowledge and to understand the fluidity of gender and help those to express them selves even more.

The new age of trans voice is here.

Voice and Communication Change for Gender Nonconforming Individuals: Giving Voice to the Person Inside. Shelagh Davies. Viktoria G. Papp. Christella Antoni.

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