YOUR HEALTH: Voice therapy for transgender people

SeAnna grew up in rural west Virginia … a small town where she buried her true feelings about her gender for years.
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 4:47 AM CST|Updated: Mar. 7, 2023 at 6:32 AM CST
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Columbus, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - Transgender people often struggle with discrimination and harassment, which can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Now, new programs are helping people in transition communicate in a way that is comfortable, and gender-affirming.

SeAnna grew up in rural west Virginia … a small town where she buried her true feelings about her gender for years.

SeAnna says, “I’ve been a fish out of water my entire life.”

Five years ago, she lost a close friend, and was hospitalized for depression.

“That was when, that was the first time that I had admitted to anyone that I was trans. This is why I’ve never felt, you know, connected to the male experience. This is why like when someone calls me sir, I’ve always cringed inside:” SeAnna explains.

Two years ago, during COVID isolation, SeAnna started medically transitioning from male to female, starting with hormones. But she still wasn’t happy with how she sounded. That’s when she sought out gender-affirming voice coaching.

Anna Lichtenstein, Speech Therapist at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center says, “Most of the patients that we see here can achieve their goals or close to their goals with voice therapy alone, which is a significantly less invasive option.”

Lichtenstein works with patients on pitch, resonance, speech patterns and breathing. Men and women approach each differently.

Lichtenstein says, “We start at a sound level, playing around with weird sounds and coordinating them.”

Then they practice sentences and conversation.

“Looking at where I was and where I am now, it’s like, it’s crazy. It’s really like increased my quality of life.” Explains SeAnna

Lichtenstein says, “I want all my patients to be able to communicate with confidence out in the world.”

Giving trans people, their voice.

Lichtenstein says the majority of her patients are trans women … men who identify as women. She says the hormones taken during medical transition, like estrogen and progesterone have no effect on the vocal tract. She also works with non-binary and agender people who want a more androgynous sound when they communicate. Lichtenstein usually suggests patients see her for an hour every week, for a minimum of ten weeks, and patients are encouraged to do vocal exercises at home every day.

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