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Recently there’s been a lot of wonderful writing by trans people on this site — if you’ve not seen the Trans* Scribe series, please check out everything my fellow contributors have done! As a kind of follow-up to my own piece on the trans voice in punk rock, Rebel Yell: This Voice Isn’t Gendered, It’s Punk, I want to give some attention to a survey Stefanie Hays from LSU is doing to explore assumptions about trans people’s experiences with our voices.
Stefanie is a queer cis woman currently working on her master’s thesis in speech-language pathology, and this survey is part of her work to study assumptions about trans voice. A longer description of the survey by her and its purpose is below. It’s open to anyone who identifies as trans*, is over 18, and uses voice to communicate.
I’ve taken the survey — it’s not too long and asks a lot of general questions about how you experience your voice, how you think others experience your voice, what you want from your voice, if you are interested in voice therapy and why or why not. Many of the questions ask you to rate things like “My voice makes me feel less like the gender I really am” or “I use a great deal of effort to speak” on a scale from 1 to 5, which can be a bit tough, but at the end you’ll have a chance to write in any additional comments or complexities about your experience with voice — I know I had a few!
I’m very happy to hear Stefanie is doing this kind of work to challenge assumptions about what trans people feel about voice. As I said in my previous piece, I haven’t personally chosen to do any sort of voice therapy, but I do feel the daily pressures of preconceived notions of voice. It feels important for those of us who aren’t totally sure that we want to sound like “what a person of x gender sounds like” to be able to communicate our experience, whether or not we choose voice therapy. It’s also important that those trans people who do choose to have voice therapy will have therapists who don’t bring in (perhaps false) assumptions about trans voices.
So take the survey and share! I wish Stefanie the best of luck in her work. Her statement about the survey is below.
I’m a queer cis woman who got into speech-language pathology because of my interest in voice, and I encountered some assumptions about trans voice when I started my studies. Some of those assumptions are that trans men don’t have any voice problems after onset of hormones (and that all trans men will take hormones), that most women experience difficulty, that most women change their voices behaviorally, and that a “passing” voice is important to everyone. And I’ve never seen anything in the field that even acknowledges that some people don’t identify as “male” or “female.” My friends and acquaintances in the community who were trans, however, had a range of feelings about their voices, some of which didn’t fit what I read at all. The overall goal of my study is to find out what is important to trans people about trans voice and treatment. It’s part of my master’s thesis and will hopefully be published elsewhere, as well. Hopefully this will hope speech-language pathologists improve the way we conduct research, evaluate and treat trans voices if they seek treatment, and evaluate our preconceived notions.
The survey is aimed at people who identify as trans*, are over 18, and use their voices to communicate. (Please don’t do this survey if you’re cis or you identify as genderqueer but not trans! While I would love to hear about your voice-related feelings, I’m focusing on trans* voices right now.) It takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous. It asks 33 questions about your voice, your feelings about your voice, and your feelings about a few treatment options. If you have a question about the survey, are uncomfortable with an aspect of it, or feel like there’s something important that the survey didn’t capture, please feel free to email me at shays2 [at] lsu [dot] edu.
About the author: Audrey Zee Whitesides is a poet, musician, and queer trans woman living in Brooklyn. She divides her days buried in books and writing about intimacy, or listening to pop punk and playing in the band Little Waist. She’s originally from Kentucky, and is a proud Southerner for life.