The recent public conversations about gender identity and transgender people have tended to focus on bodies: biological sex versus gender identity, the clothes people wear, what bathrooms they use. But one issue that has gotten less attention is the intersection of gender and voice. Even as trans people work to look like the person they are inside, some find that they still sound like someone else.
For Schiff Adelson, the realization came one day as she was walking a friend to the door of her apartment, and said goodbye.
“There was this disconnect between what I heard coming out of my mouth and what I expected from who I understood myself to be,” said Schiff, who was transitioning genders at the time. She was born male but considers herself somewhere in between male and female.
So to help get her voice to reflect that, Schiff turned, like many in Seattle, to Sandy Hirsch. Hirsch (MS CCC/SLP) has been a speech-language pathologist for over 25 years. She specializes in the area of voice. She was formerly an actress and continues to sing.
For decades now, Hirsch has specialized in training transgender people to learn to adapt their voice to more closely match the gender they identify with. Lately her clientele has been changing; more and more of her clients are, like Schiff, aiming to speak in a more gender-neutral or non-binary way. Producer Warren Langford talked with Sandy about how she became the go-to specialist for people seeking this kind of help, and the role of voice in the ever-expanding spectrum of gender identities.