Sandy has over 25 years of experience working with transgender and gender non-conforming people to help them develop voice and communication that match their gender identity and individuality. She has experience working with trans women, trans men, non-binary people, and a spectrum of gender non-conforming people. She is a longstanding strong ally and advocate for the transgender community.
Many people recognize us most immediately by our voice, and our communication style. Developing a healthy, sustainable voice that is true to our gender identity, and individuality, can provide greater confidence, sense of self and strength. Sandy does a thorough intake and vocal analysis using state-of-the-art instrumentation, as well as finally tuned ears to develop a voice and communication program based on each client’s personal needs and goals. She employs a wide variety of clinical as well as performance-based approaches, provides extensive exercises, materials, real-life practice suggestions, objective feedback, and an enormous set of tools to help clients reach their personal communication goals. Her work is a balance between art and science.
Voice and communication training comprises a comprehensive adjustment and fine-tuning of voice and communication.
Developing and maintaining a healthy, natural sustainable voice requires care. Sandy ensures that all clients have a solid understanding of vocal anatomy and physiology, as well as important factors in maintaining vocal health; e.g.,adequate hydration, deactivation of muscle tension and healthy use of the vocal instrument.
Pitch (How high or low is the voice?)
Pitch or frequency refers to how high or low a person speaks. This is determined by how fast the vocal folds are vibrating. The average woman speaks in an average range between approximately 165Hz-220Hz, while the average man speaks in an average range between approximately 90Hz-130Hz. A voice that might be identified as gender ambiguous is generally in the area of 155Hz. While pitch is the initial auditory identifier for gender, it is not the only one factor. Simply having a higher or lower voice does necessarily change the perception of a different gender.
Inflection/Intonation (the rise and fall of the voice)
The rise and the fall of voice in conversation also contributes the the listener’s perception gender. While there is wide range of variability within and across genders, largely speaking, the female voice has wider amplitude of change (shift) than the male voice, which tends to be flatter. It is not necessarily the case that women inflect more often than men, however, the style of inflection is different. The most obvious and extreme comparison might be heard in the feminine, “Hi, how are you?!” (bold is high) and the male, “Hi how are you?” (bold is an increase in volume or energy instead of amplitude).
Resonance (vocal tone)
“The physiological gesture gives rise to the acoustic output”. Fred Minifie, PhD, CCC/SLP
Resonance can be described as the tone quality and placement of the sound. It is the result of different harmonics blending together and being influenced by different textures, surfaces and sizes, breath support and levels of articulatory tension. Two different guitars might sound different as a result of being a slightly different size, being made of different wood, the sound hole being a different size, or the way a string is plucked or strummed. So too with the human voice – it is played within a vessel of different size, shape and textures. In general, the female voice tends to have a heady more forward focused tone while the male tone tends to “play” more in the chest or lower throat. Light and dark are other words that might be employed in the difference in tone. Resonance, along with voice quality, is one of the aspects of voice that help a listener recognize an individual’s personal sound. Sandy has developed a set of solutions to resonance challenges that allow a client to go through a self-assessment and sound by sound diagnosis in order to approach each variable with knowledge and confidence.
Semantics and Language
Women and men express themselves in different ways. Society is, however, slowly moving towards greater non-conformity, an a less binary perception of communication. Semantics need to be explored from an individual, gender and cultural standpoint.
We are evolving towards fewer gender stereotypes, but people continue to associate certain nonverbal communication with one or the other gender. Working on movement, posture, gesture, eye contact, personal space and touch can help a person to feel more aligned with their gender identity. It is important, as with all aspects of communication, to learn a nonverbal communication vernacular that fits not only gender identity, but culture and personality.
Techniques will be learned to cough, clear the throat, laugh and sneeze with a sound that matches gender identity.
Telepractice is available to clients in Washington State who are unable to come to Sandy’s office due to distance or access challenges. Sandy is able to provide telepractice in alternative select states where licensing laws do not restrict services across state lines.
Training for voice clinicians interested in working with transgender clients
Sandy, Leah Helou, PhD CCC/SLP and Christie Block, MA CCC/SLP have collaborated to develop a two-day comprehensive training for speech-language pathologist/voice clinicians interested in serving the transgender population. The training sessions are offered live, as well as via webinar in order to meet the needs of as many clinicians as possible globally. Interested clinicians should contact Sandy in order to be placed on a contact list for future workshops. Our next workshop will be help in 2018.