Your voice is an important part of who you are. So it makes sense to want that voice to fit your identity–to help you express your true self to the world.
Gender affirming voice training aims to help you sound more like… well, you! Also referred to as transgender voice therapy or transgender voice and communication training, this form of speech therapy is a holistic, nonsurgical intervention to modify voice and communication. The goal is to align a person’s voice with their gender identity and expression.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to voice training, and no ideal “female” or “male” voice. Let’s take a look at how gender affirming voice training works, who it can help, and what to expect.
Why is gender affirming voice training important?
Transgender voice therapy consists of a series of individualized sessions to help a person explore their authentic voice and communication. When people begin gender affirming voice training, often the first area they want to target is pitch–how high or low their voice sounds. Finding the right pitch for you is important, and it’s a great place to start! However, there are many other aspects of voice and communication that can be explored in therapy.
Our voice has many facets, and finding your voice can have both literal and figurative meanings. The voice is a reflection of our whole self, and it’s a key to our identity. When we hear the sound of a person’s voice, we gain quite a bit of information about them. That’s why voice is such an important area for any individual exploring their authentic self.
We have an inner voice (the voice you hear inside your mind), a physical voice (the sound and quality of your voice), and an authentic voice (when the inner voice and physical voice are aligned). When the physical voice doesn’t match the person on the inside, this can cause feelings of distress or unease known as dysphoria, making it uncomfortable to speak.
A whole-person, holistic view of the voice is highly recommended when exploring your authentic voice. Transgender voice therapy should take place with an experienced speech therapist who specializes in this therapy, in an affirming environment, with great sensitivity and care.
What do gender affirming voice sessions look like?
What happens during transgender voice therapy? In terms of physical voice, the following areas are commonly targeted in speech sessions:
- Pitch: How high or low your voice sounds
- Intonation: The rise and fall of pitch in speech
- Resonance: The quality of the sound your voice makes
- Articulation: The way your teeth, tongue, and lips come together to create sounds
- Volume: The loudness of your voice
- Rate of speech: How rapidly or slowly you speak
- Nonverbal vocalizations: Sounds you produce that aren’t speech, such as coughing, laughing, throat clearing, or sighing
In the area of nonverbal communication, your therapist can help you with:
- Kinesics: Related to body movements and gestures
- Proxemics: How close you stand with your communication partner in a conversational exchange
- Facial expressions
- Social pragmatics: Refers to elements of social interaction such as greetings, eye contact, staying on topic, etc.
These are all areas that can be explored in transgender voice therapy, but the goals are driven by you, the client. You are the expert in your own authentic voice.
Getting in tune with your inner voice
Accessing your authentic voice means understanding who you are. It requires mindful listening to your inner voice.
Here are some activities to help you become more in tune with your inner voice:
- Try to describe your authentic self with three to five words. If your core words are “bubbly, compassionate, and energetic,” how would this voice sound?
- Take five deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. This is an activity you can repeat any time to calm and center yourself, tune into your intuition, and explore your authentic self.
- Try journaling about how you envision yourself and how you’d like your voice to feel and sound.
Remember, since your voice is a reflection of your whole self, gender affirming voice training aims to help you sound more like you! At Expressable, we’re here to help you on your courageous vocal journey.