Gov’t Spending $152,500 to Study Voice Therapy for Transgenders

April 23, 2013 - 4:19 PM

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Transgender Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova in 2012. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – The federal government is spending $152,000 to study “voice therapy” for transgenders, saying it is incumbent to being “accepted as one's preferred gender.”

“This study will illuminate the capabilities of the human larynx and inform the relationship between voice production and perception,” states a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant, awarded to George Washington University.  “The long term goal of this research is to inform and provide new directions for Transgender (TG) voice care, thereby improving the lives of TG people who feel their voice is a great obstacle to living as their preferred gender.”

“Incomplete gender presentation can negatively impact the TG individual's job opportunities, relationships, and social acceptance,” the study explains.  “Results of this project will advance an aspect of gender transition vital to being accepted as one's preferred gender and living a successful, healthy life.”

George Washington University received $152,500 in 2012 from the NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.  Adrienne B. Hancock, an assistant professor at GWU, is leading the project.

According to the University, her primary research addresses “transgender voice and communication.”  “She has examined transgender voice physiology as well as the psychosocial influence of voice and communication skills for transgender speakers,” her bio states.

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Transgender symbol. (AP Image)

The project will compare male-to-female transgender voices with men and women voices, judged by 100 listeners to “judge the gender” of the speech samples.  Those male-to-female transgenders who pass as a female voice will be placed in a separate group and then compared to those who still sound like men.

“Like voice therapy for other populations, [transgender] voice therapy should be grounded in knowledge of the vocal mechanism of the speaker,” the grant states.  “It should not resort, as it currently does, to establishing acoustic goals based exclusively on differences between normative values of two gender groups and assumed gender perception boundaries.”

The study hopes to influence voice therapy methods for transgenders by its project end date in August 2014.

Its public health relevance statement reads: “The production and perception results of this study will inform voice therapy clinical protocols for Transgender speakers who face discrimination when their voice does not match their preferred gender presentation, which limits their ability to contribute to society and live healthy, safe lives.”

Although CNSNews.com asked the NIH for comment on this particular grant, the agency’s public affairs office responded by e-mail with a general statement that read, “NIH research addresses the full spectrum of human health across all populations of Americans. Behavioral research will continue to be an important area of research supported by NIH.  The details of the specific grant that you are inquiring about, including funding amounts and project start and end dates, can be found on NIH Reporter.