Caitlyn Jenner blogs about 'voice issues' after hearing ESPY speech: 'I hope people listen to my message, not my voice'

Jenner is sharing experiences as a transgender woman

Heather Saul
Thursday 23 July 2015 08:01
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Caitlyn Jenner has brought attention to an issue that many transgender men and women worry about after completing their transition: the sound and pitch of their voice.

The former Olympic athlete called on people to focus their attention on her message, not her voice, in a blog post explaining why she felt unhappy with the way she sounds after listening to her acceptance speech at ESPN's annual ESPYs ceremony.

Jenner vowed to engender greater acceptance for the transgender community by sharing her experiences as a transgender woman in her powerful address.

But Jenner said she found it difficult to watch the footage back, writing: “While I felt like I looked great and that the gown looked fabulous, I still have a voice issue. It’s not quite right compared to my feminine appearance. That bothers me a little bit.

“I hope that people don’t listen to the pitch of my voice, but listen to what I have to say. That’s important to me.”

Bernard Reed OBE, a trustee of the Gender Identity, Research and Education Society [GIRES], told The Independent voice pitch is a major concern for a number of trans women and men early on in their journey.

“Trans people who undergo the transition from living as a man to living as woman quite often need help with their voices because women generally speak in a higher register and their speech patterns, as well as the whole way in which they communicate, are different to men.”

Mr Reed said speaking on the telephone can cause particular difficulties because voices quite often register ‘low’, causing the person on the other end to accidentally misgender with comments such as, "how can I help you sir?," which is demoralising for trans women.

“You cannot raise the pitch of the voice with hormones," he said. "However, a huge amount can be done through speech therapy. Also, it is possible to alter the pitch through surgery but typically that is only provided after an extended period of voice coaching, and even after you’ve had it you may still need further voice coaching.

“For those who are transitioning to live as men, testosterone has the very helpful effect of deepening the voice, but some may still need a certain amount of voice coaching as well.

“At GIRES, we publish guidance for organisations that receive telephone calls from the public. People in call centres, including those operated by the emergency services, do need this help, especially if the person calling is distressed and is then misgendered.”

You can find more information about trans issues and the support available in cities across England by visiting the GIRES Tranzwiki page here.

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