What are Gender Affirming & Expansive Voice Services?
Each voice is as unique as the person using it and is an important part of how people express themselves. Individuals may experience a mismatch and distress between their voice and how they—or others—perceive their gender. Structural differences, including the size and length of the vocal folds (vocal cords) and the vocal tract (from the larynx to the oral cavity), determine an individual’s habitual pitch and resonance.
Gender-affirming and expansive voice therapy can help individuals modify attributes of their voice to use a voice in alignment with their authentic selves. Some people may also choose to have surgery and hormone treatment to support how their voice sounds. Voice training is appropriate at any point along your journey to support your vocal health and assist you with meeting your voice goals.
At Evergreen Speech & Hearing Clinic, speech-language pathologists specializing in gender-affirming and expansive voice therapy are sensitive to and passionate about the diverse needs of supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming people in finding and developing a voice consistent with their gender identity and communication goals.
A full assessment of the vocal mechanism with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) is required, as it is not uncommon for people to present with voice-related abnormalities that must be addressed before moving forward with training. At the assessment, specific qualities of the patient’s voice are measured using computer-based analysis, which is non-invasive. The assessment also includes an extensive interview of the patient’s vocal health history, any symptoms related to voice concerns and specifics of how the voice impacts the patient’s quality of life. The SLP may recommend the patient pursue further assessment with an otolaryngologist (ENT) before initiating voice therapy should they present with concerns regarding their vocal mechanism’s structure or function.
Gender-affirming and expansive voice therapy consists of holistic treatment sessions combining evidence-based programs with personalized practice techniques designed to fit the patient’s lifestyle and vocal demands. Voice therapy is highly collaborative and depends on the teamwork of the clinician, patient and other providers on your team. Treatment is highly individualized based on the needs and goals of the patient. It varies from a few sessions to several sessions and may be delivered at one time or spread across several cycles. Home practice is an integral part of the voice therapy trajectory and is key to supporting progress toward goals.
The following are areas of your voice you may choose to work on with a speech-language pathologist:
- Pitch—how high or low your voice sounds
- Resonance—the quality of the tone you hear when you speak or sing
- Intonation and Stress—the melody of your voice when speaking
- Rate—how quickly or slowly you speak
- Volume—how loud or soft your voice sounds
- Speech Sound Production—the sounds you use to communicate
- Language—the words you use to communicate
- Nonverbal Communication—including your body language and facial expressions
- Pragmatics—the rules of communication
Links for More Information
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: www.asha.org