Transgender voice therapy is a type of gender-affirming care. It consists of vocal training that helps people with gender dysphoria align their voices with their gender identity.

Voice therapy for transgender people is different for each individual. As well as vocal training, it may also involve phonosurgery, which can change a person’s voice. The benefits of gender-affirming voice therapy can include higher confidence and an improved quality of life.

This article explains what transgender voice therapy is, how it works, the benefits, and potential risks. It also lists various institutions that offer this form of therapy in the United States.

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Transgender voice therapy consists of the following:

  • Vocal training: Vocal coaches offer their services online and in person for people who wish to change their voice to match their gender identity better. This service is available to both transgender and nonbinary people.
  • Glottoplasty: People may also refer to this form of phonosurgery as feminization laryngoplasty or voice feminization surgery. The procedure involves shortening the vocal cords to raise the pitch of the voice. According to research, only around 1% of transgender females opt for phonosurgery, compared with 14% who undergo voice therapy. This is likely due to the cost and potential complications of surgery.

According to a 2013 study, transgender females pursue transgender voice therapy more frequently than transgender males.

People may refer to voice therapy for transgender females as voice feminization therapy. Trans females may be more likely to seek voice therapy because of the irreversible changes that occur to the laryngeal structure during male puberty, causing a deepening of the voice.

Learn more about gender-affirming care.

People may seek transgender voice therapy to help them express their gender identity.

People may pursue it both as a means of self-expression and for listener perception. The speaker may wish to sound more like the standardized version of a “female” or “male” voice to themselves and others. This may help other people perceive them as their true gender.

However, there is no “right” or “wrong” way for someone to portray their gender. Opting for vocal coaching or surgery is a personal choice that is neither necessary nor right for every transgender person.

Learn more about gender identity and expression.

There are various proven benefits to transgender voice therapy:

  • Increased vocal pitch: Vocal training for transgender females is a noninvasive way of effectively increasing the pitch of the voice. Surgical intervention can enable people to increase their vocal pitch even further.
  • Improvements in confidence and other factors: Various studies suggest trans people who receive vocal coaching may experience:
  • Improved listener perception: Studies suggest people may be more likely to identify a transgender person as their true gender identity when that person has had voice therapy. This is particularly true for trans females.

There are some risks involved with transgender vocal therapy.

For example, trying to maintain a consistently higher or lower pitch carries a risk of hoarseness and vocal fatigue.

Trans females are more at risk of vocal trauma than trans males. Trauma to the vocal folds can result in a tense-sounding voice.

Research also suggests phonosurgery may carry the risk of various potential complications, including vocal fold scarring.

Transgender voice therapy will differ for trans females and males.

For transgender females

Trans females who choose to have vocal training can raise their formant frequencies, which are distinctive frequency components of speech. People can learn to alter their speech by positioning their tongues relatively more forward in the oral cavity.

Resonance and breathiness are vocal characteristics that contribute to the perception of gender. People generally consider female voices to be less resonant and more breathy. Training the vocal cords can help trans females adjust their voices to increase these qualities.

For transgender males

Often, testosterone replacement therapy lowers the voices of transgender males, with changes usually occurring after 3–9 months of treatment.

However, transgender males who choose not to undergo hormone therapy or are unhappy with the vocal changes that result from testosterone treatment, which can have highly variable outcomes, may use transgender voice therapy.

Voice coaches can help transgender males speak at a lower frequency and achieve a lower pharyngeal resonance through a combination of humming, chest tapping, “yawn talk,” and other methods.

To find vocal coaching institutions around the U.S. that provide or specialize in transgender voice therapy, people can consult the following websites:

LGBTQIA+ resources

To discover more evidence-based health information and resources for LGBTQIA+ individuals, visit our dedicated hub.

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Each transgender person is unique. Some people may wish to pursue voice therapy or phonosurgery during their transition, while others may not.

Transgender voice therapy can have various benefits and risks. It is important for people to evaluate these before determining what is right for them.