Transgender Voice Intervention

Voice and Communication Intervention for Transgender Clients

What is involved in transgender voice and communication intervention?  

Men and women generally communicate differently. For example, most men tend to speak with lower pitched voices, while women use higher pitched voices. Men may use shorter sentences that get more to the point. Women often use more gestures and longer sentences when they speak. Individuals who are transgender often elect to have voice and communication therapy to help them use their voice in a safe way and communicate more like the opposite gender in which they were born.

The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA) has established standards of care within the area of transsexual medicine for individuals wishing to have genital reconstructive surgery (GRS). GRS is a surgical procedure that transforms the body to the gender opposite of that in which the person was born. Prior to GRS surgery, the person must see a psychologist for two years and live full-time in the new gender role during those two years. Voice and communication therapy services are recommended during this time.

What does transgender voice and communication intervention involve?  

The speech-language pathologist (SLP) provides voice and communication training for male-to-female and female-to-male clients. The SLP will look at a variety of aspects of communication, including vocal pitch, intonation and resonance, and nonverbal communication.

Assessment will involve the collection of a case history and medical history, and assessment of voice and language. It is also important for the SLP to eliminate any vocal abusive behaviors resulting from changes in pitch and intensity. For example, a male-to-female client’s incorrect attempts to speak in a higher pitched voice can lead to vocal nodules or other voice problems. Areas of transgender voice and communication intervention include:

  • Pitch of the voice

  • Resonance

  • Intonation (the rhythm of speech)

  • Rate (how fast or slow the person speaks)

  • Intensity (loudness or softness)

  • Language

  • Speech sounds (articulation)

  • Pragmatics (social rules of communication)