New York University Researchers Develop Tool to Help Transgender Women Have a More “Feminine” Voice

Researchers from New York University have conducted a study that identifies technology that can be used to help transgender women find a voice that is more traditionally female.

“For transgender women, it can be really challenging to find a voice that matches how they choose to present their gender identity,” said lead author, Deanna Kawitzky, who conducted the research while a graduate student in speech language pathology at the university. “This study suggests biofeedback may be used as a tool to help trans women achieve a voice they are comfortable with.”

Biofeedback is a tool in which bodily functions are electronically monitored and visually displayed to help someone achieve more voluntary control of that function. Usually, it is used to measure functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, or skin temperature. This study was the first time biofeedback was used to visualize speech. Transgender women participants were provided with targets that represented acoustic frequencies typical to cisgender females. They adjusted their speech until their frequencies matched with these targets.

The study’s co-author is Tara McAllister, an associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders. She states that “many people want to change the way they speak — whether they have a speech disorder, or speak English as a second language, or are seeking to achieve speech that better matches their gender identity. However, our speech patterns are deeply ingrained over years of experience, so change can be extremely difficult. Research in the Biofeedback Intervention Technology for Speech Lab aims to understand how technology can help people make these changes in a quick and lasting way.”

Dr. McAllister earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics from Harvard University, a master’s degree in communication disorders from Boston University, and a Ph.D. in linguistics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study, “The Effect of Formant Biofeedback on the Feminization of Voice in Transgender Women,” was published on the website of the Journal of Voice. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply