COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – When a transgender person decides to transition, it’s about changing more than the way they dress or act.
Something as simple as the sound of their voice can feel like it’s holding them back from becoming the person they want to be.
It’s something every person can relate to: Hearing your voice in a video or voicemail and just not liking the way you sound, but for the transgender community, sometimes a voice can be a reminder of a person you aren’t and needs to be turned to who you really are.
It’s called gender dysphoria, a feeling of unease because your gender doesn’t match with the sex you were assigned at birth.
It can develop into other negative thoughts or actions, which, combined with bullying or violence, can lead to self-harm.
Doctors at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center provide gender-affirming care, including vocal therapists to help train voices.
“I’m able to give them prompting and feedback to make sure that how we’re manipulating the voice is really healthy and it’s something that they can maintain over their lifetime,” said OSU Wexner’s Anna Lichtenstein.
After working on skills like pitch, breathing, and tone, members of the trans community said when they speak now, their voice sounds more authentic to who they really are.
“I talk a lot,” said Ari Toumpas. “I like talking and I just didn’t like the way I sounded. There are safety aspects to it, too. I don’t know if I got pulled over at a traffic stop and I’m not sure how the police officer’s going to treat me if he knows that I’m trans, or even just getting my coffee in my everyday life.”
Doctors said it’s important for anyone seeking to make changes to their voice or other areas to see a medical professional, adding some internet videos or forums have information that’s more harmful than helpful.
After ten weeks of coaching, Toumpas said she’s happy with how she now sounds.
“One hundred percent more comfortable just moving through the world and sometimes my voice does drop out of the… my ideal feminine range,” she said. “Sometimes, I’m yelling in a bar and it drops down to something like here, but even this is still in an acceptable, feminine range.”