Campus Reform | New SF State facility helps trans students train their voices

New SF State facility helps trans students train their voices

San Francisco State University has recently implemented a program in hopes people will learn strategies to achieve a voice that matches their chosen gender. 

Assistant Professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Anusha Sundarrajan is spearheading the initiative, which teaches techniques used for voice modification including exercises such as humming through a straw, according to the university

Sundarrajan believes it’s important that trans and nonbinary people hoping to change their voice use formal techniques. Without it, she says some may end up harming their vocal cords, leading to even greater problems. Instead, Sundarrajan stresses the clinic teaches participants healthy practices to help in attaining their new voice.

"To reach their goals, participants use techniques common in the field of speech-language pathology. For example, clinicians employ Conversation Training Therapy, which helps participants comfortably speak with their target voice in a conversational setting," explains the university.

"One exercise of this type of therapy involves switching between their current and target voice, a practice that builds their confidence in speaking with their target voice in everyday settings," the school explained in its description of the program.

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“We want to say to our participants, ‘Hey, is this how you want to sound? Okay, we’ll give you the techniques to get you there,” Sundarrajan said.

“With our clinic, we provide a nonjudgmental space where our participants can find a voice that defines who they are,” said Sundarrajan. When asked to clarify this statement, Sundarrajan spoke to Campus Reform about the psychological and emotional toll observed in transgender and non-binary individuals who are misgendered. 

“In the speech-language pathologist's field, clinicians specialize in a variety of elective voice and communication services for transgender clients to help address the concerns of being misgendered,” said Sundarrajan. 

“Oftentimes, we have seen that transgender and non-binary individuals get misgendered due to which psychological and emotional stress is observed in these individuals,” Sundarrajan told Campus Reform

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"We also notice that many of our transgender and non-binary individuals are misjudged,” Sundarrajan added, explaining that the goal of gender-affirmation therapy is “to modify voice and communication to more closely align participants with their desired gender presentation,” which can be practically applied "through social interactions.”

Follow the author of this article: Olivia Adams