The Psychosocial Impact of Voice For Transgender Men and Women
In a world connected by social media, cellphones, and computers, the significance of voice can be paramount. Intense distress and dysphoria can be a result of one's voice not matching their identity. Furthermore, when an individual is uncomfortable with how their voice sounds, they may avoid speaking on the phone or in public. This could lead to isolation, social anxiety and potentially depression.
For trans men, testosterone lowers the tone of their voice, making them sound more masculine. However, for trans women, the use of estrogen has no impact on their voice, so they continue sounding male. Voice therapy is an option and can provide relief for some people. Others choose not to modify their voices and feel like they don't have to conform to society's cisgender norms.
A person's voice can “out” them to strangers, as it is a gender signifier. When one is gendered incorrectly by being called "miss" , "man" or "sir", it can be a real setback for someone emotionally. At times, it can be crucial for transgender women to find the feminine voice that matches their gender identity, as it provides them with confidence and may prevent harassment and potentially violence. A recent report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that homicides rose 11 percent, with hate crimes disproportionately targeting transgender people, particularly women and people of color.
While many of us take our voices for granted, for many trans men and women it is distressful and poses barriers to communication in their everyday life. As a clinician with expertise in gender identity, I understand the importance of exploring the personal meaning that voice has for each individual client and to provide resources accordingly.