On the same day Sarah started hormone replacement therapy, the World Health Organisation declared the COVID was a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

“I came out at the end of 2019 and started getting medical treatment. But when I got my first medical prescription the world went into lockdown. I’ve basically been transitioning this entire pandemic,” said Sarah.

According to the 46 year old IT worker, there have been many benefits to transitioning while working from home. “I was able to get used to the changes with my body without having to worry about going to the office everyday.”

Struggling With Voice

However, one problem Sarah has regularly endured is people misgendering her because of the sound of her voice.

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“The biggest negative was my voice. One time I got interrupted during a work call with a customer and they said ‘sorry, it says Sarah is speaking but you sound like a man’,” said Sarah.

“My workplace has been really supportive of my transition and knows how I sound, but it is when I am talking with clients or people I don’t know is where I have problems.”

Sarah has also had issues with her voice outside of work, as she recently had to spend two hours on the phone trying to activate her new debit card.

“Turns out the staff thought I was someone else trying to steal my identity. I understand the importance of security around these financial institutions, but I think what has happened to me is a really good example of why our voice is so important, especially in those circumstances where in a phone call your voice is your only cue to identify your gender identity.” 

At the start of the year Sarah began attending speech pathology sessions and said it has helped a lot with her confidence in talking to people. 

“As a trans person there are a million things that trigger dysphoria, and for me the voice is one of them, but the speech pathology sessions are really helping me overcome that.”

Having A Voice That Matches Gender Identity

Transgender Victoria media representative Sally Goldner said it is especially important for trans people to have a voice that matches their gender identity during the pandemic.

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“When people are more on electronic communication, in particular phone and to a lesser extent zoom it is really important (our voice matches our gender identity) to minimise problems it would save any outing, confusion, misgendering and distress,” Goldner told Star Observer.

Speech Pathologist Vanessa Murray said that it is important for trans people to have a voice that reflects their identity to help them avoid dangerous or uncomfortable situations.

“Some trans and gender diverse people work in industries that are perhaps not as supportive, so for safety reasons it is important their voice and presentation aligns with their physical presentation as well. Especially during the pandemic with a lot of work being done over the phone where you don’t have those visual cues to support your gender presentation, there is a real risk of people being misgendered,” said Murray.

Working at the Northside clinic in Fitzroy North, Murray has noticed that there are more trans and gender diverse people booking speech pathology appointments.

“In a given week I see around 12 trans and gender diverse clients. Northside is well known for providing respectful and inclusive healthcare to the LGBTIQA+ community for the past 12 years,” said Murray. 

To help her clients find their voice, Murray does a lot of vocal strength and flexibility exercises and also works on their pitch tone and speech rate. “All of this is very important because without a voice or communication we are powerless,” added Murray. 

 

 

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