Raise Your Voice: Facilitating Transgender Voice Adaptation

Francis and JudithClaire swears she can tell a person’s nationality by her choice of clothing. Don says he can guess a person’s age by counting the wrinkles around his eyes. Ann insists she’s able to spot a friend’s mood by how they walk into a room. Andrew is confident that, even if he only hears a voice on the telephone, he’ll be able to identify whether the caller is a man or a woman.

Judith Koza, MA, CCC-SLP, clinical educator at the Speech-Language Institute (SLI) of Salus University, would contend that without hearing a person speak, appearance and history are only two-thirds of the total package. 

As a certified speech-language pathologist, Koza has extensive experience in treating voice disorders and is the facilitator of Raise Your Voice, SLI’s support group that addresses transgender voice and communication skills.

The group, which launched in March, meets monthly at SLI’s facility in Elkins Park, Pa. Its purpose is to offer members of the transgender community the opportunity to practice techniques that assist in the development of a gender non-conforming voice.

“A voice that doesn’t sound as if it belongs to the speaker creates dissonance,” Koza explained. “If a listener feels that something is off, this question can impact whether the speaker is comfortably perceived and accepted as male or female. Without the right tone or cadence, any individual - but particularly a transgender person - risks the possibility of a negative societal reaction.”

FrancisRaise Your Voice addresses voice issues within the format of a support group, which allows participants to feel less alone, isolated or judged. As the client progresses through a series of exercises and enactments, he or she gains a sense of empowerment and control—personal strengths that, in turn, improve coping skills and solidify adjustment.

“As another in a series of challenges on the way to becoming your true self, achieving the authentic voice helps to complete the total gender transition,” continued Koza.

Participants are also encouraged to share their personal experiences with others in the group as they work towards accomplishing their communication goals.

“I encourage relationship building within a group format. Every one of the group’s participants is working toward the same goal,” said Koza. “And, because of this shared dynamic, trust in one’s own ability develops, as do friendships, and there is nothing like the support of a friend to encourage a Raise Your Voice participant to view vocal identity as attainable.”

For more information about Raise Your Voice or any of SLI’s support groups, contact 215.780.3150.