Making Connections: Transgender Voice and the Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)


EMILY: So at first there was a
lot of exercises that felt silly
and I could only do behind
closed doors, like the trilling. [high-pitch trill] TRICIA: Did you feel
that go forward? Luckily, Tricia and Emily,
who I worked with, were just totally
present there with me. You’ve got a lot of different
voices. Everybody does. Do you feel like you’re able to
access the voices that you want for the different presentations
that you are apt to involve yourself in, in any
given day, from the guy on the bus and the grocery store
to your friends and the phone calls and your family and ham radio and
poetry reading?EMILY: Voice is not only an
important part of somebody’s
identity, but it’s something
that you learn at a very
young age that just becomes
totally automatic for you.
The voice that comes out when
I’m with my girlfriends–
I belong to two women’s groups–
and we’re just talking as women.
Sometimes even, I realize that what I was thinking
it was about….There’s that
voice that comes out.
Then there’s the time when
I’m onstage reading poetry.
I’m an instrument
for something deeper that’s trying to
come through me. When I came out to myself,
and then to the world, as a transgender woman, that voice was a part of the oldfear-based persona
that I developed to survive,
and it no longer
was serving me.
[squeaky voice] I could
talk in a higher pitch. I could do that. I could
go around like this and learn to make sure I’m
not hurting my vocal cords. But it didn’t feel real to me. But I didn’t know what
else it was supposed to be. So to find Tricia Thomas
and this clinic– Stretch out again.
And when you’re going down, for some reason it feels like you’re dropping
your breath support.EMILY: where they’re
actually teaching you how
to use your muscles differently, TRICIA: [high voice] Eeeee… with the vibration
up in the front.EMILY: to use your voice
box differently.
So it’s like unlearning the
old, automatic ways of talking.
And then seeing what could
emerge was a real gift to me. Whiskey Seven Lima Tango. Here is Alpha Foxtrot
Seven Zulu Papa. Over.

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