This Gender-Affirming Online Support Group Is Helping Trans People Find Their Voices

Oakland County speech pathologist on the challenging, sometimes stressful process of changing voices

By |2021-11-11T08:57:52-05:00November 10th, 2021|Michigan, News|

A new online support community is helping transgender individuals find their (literal) voices. Pride Source reached out to the group’s founder, Dr. Ramya Konnai, a speech pathologist in Oakland County with almost two decades of experience and an expertise in voice therapy.  

Ramya Konnai, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Konnai said she noticed that there was “very limited social support” for her clients to practice their new voices outside the therapy setting. Using a new speaking voice created anxiety for some clients, especially in new environments. That’s why she created the Trans-Voice Virtual Support Group. “I really felt that we needed to develop a community to help build confidence, help transition and connect people better to practice their new voices,” she said.  

While the group is not one-on-one voice therapy, Dr. Konnai believes it will help people help each other. So far, almost 30 participants have signed up for the weekly online meetings from all over the country. “I am really hoping folks find friendships for their mental, social, and emotional wellbeing,” she said. “After all, voice is very important to identity.”

Konnai’s focus on voice — how it’s produced and how people experience it holistically — is a critical part of gender-affirming care for trans individuals. It’s hard work on both sides of the sessions, but she said many voice therapy clients are surprised to learn how much their voices can change. 

Konnai advises people who want to work on their voice to seek professional care from a speech or voice professional. She said that often, people who try to train their voices on their own find that they can only get so far or that their voices crack and their throats hurt. Professional voice therapists can help people change their voices without developing throat issues or faulty voice production, she said. 

Changing one’s voice takes time and is different for every individual. Dr. Konnai shared that it’s best to start working on one’s voice early in their transition. “The sooner you start, the more you learn about your voice, and that will improve your motivation,” she said. Still, she added about the group, “No matter where you are in your transition, you are welcome.”

The Trans-Voice Virtual Support Group is open to individuals 13 years of age and up who identify as transgender and/or non-binary. To register, visit https://www.henryford.com/transvoice. The group meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month.

About the Author:

Tom Wesley
Tom Wesley is a co-publisher at Pride Source, working with community partners and supporters. He can be reached at [email protected]