Fenix Cobbledick (they/them) (featured above) started hormone estrogen therapy through the Einstein Pride Program three years ago. A teacher at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts who identifies as nonbinary, Fenix is currently being treated by Hussein Safa, MD (he/him), who serves as medical director and attending physician in the Pride clinic. When discussing future potential gender-affirming services such as facial feminization surgery and laser hair removal with Dr. Safa, Fenix thought voice therapy would help achieve a more androgynous voice and better vocal control.
"Because I'm 5'10", muscular and forthright, people overwhelmingly perceive me as male - and that is disheartening," explains Fenix. "When Dr. Safa said the Pride program was partnering with a MossRehab speech therapist in providing voice therapy, I said I was interested. I've read enough to understand that I wouldn't be able to train my voice properly without the guidance of an expert."
What is Voice Therapy?
While speech therapy addresses speech problems after a voice injury from a neurologic issue such as a stroke or a degenerative disease like Parkinson's, voice therapy focuses on adapting voice in a gender-affirming way using vocal nuances including pitch, resonance, volume, and intonation. In some cases, such as in Fenix's, achieving the voice of a certain gender is not a desired vocal trait.
In March, Fenix started attending voice therapy sessions with Alyssa Giegerich, MA, CCC-SLP, a MossRehab speech-language pathologist trained in gender-affirming voice therapy. Because everyone’s journey is different, Alyssa concentrated on Fenix’s goals, thoughts and feelings when working towards finding the right voice.
"During a typical session, I'll say something or read a passage while Alyssa records it," says Fenix. "When playing it back, we'll discuss how I felt about different parts. Certain segments might sound too manly while others are really beautiful and I won't recognize that voice. The process is very emotional to me."
Fenix noted that Giegerich did a "bang-up job" in just a short time working with her. "I go to voice therapy every three weeks because I need time to practice. But, that's how I operate," notes Fenix. "I don't know how long I'll attend voice therapy, but I'll know when I get there."
Read A New Soundtrack: Gender-affirming Voice Therapy.
For information on MossRehab voice therapy and other gender-affirming services, contact the Einstein Pride Program.