Gender-affirming Communication Services
What are gender-affirming communication services (GACS)?
The Eckelmann-Taylor Speech and Hearing Clinic at Illinois State University (ISU) provides gender-affirming communication services (GACS) for individuals who would like to alter characteristics of their voice and communication to express their gender identity and/or gender presentation. The clinic proudly serves many individuals who belong to the transgender community as well as other individuals who wish to modify their voice presentation for personal or vocational needs. All identities are welcome in the clinic. With the support of qualified clinicians, clients will explore various techniques, exercises, and training that contribute to others’ perceptions of one’s gender. These individualized and client-centered sessions prioritize the needs and goals of the individual.
What can I expect from a one-on-one GACS session?
Gender-affirming communication services may support the quality of life for many people by providing a space to gain confidence and skill in the modification of their voice and/or communication. Education regarding vocal health is an important component in the process. Clients will understand the benefits of mindfulness, stretching, and breath techniques to support voice modification. The clinicians prioritize safe and effective vocal exercises that do not contribute to dysfunctional or harmful voice alterations that harm to the structures of the larynx. Treatment sessions are designed to build sustainable changes to voice characteristics associated with pitch, resonance, articulation, intonation, vocalizations (such as laughing or crying) and even vocabulary selection. Aspects of communication such as gesturing, vocal inflections, body posture, positioning, and facial expressions can also be part of the client’s service plan.
The foundation and philosophy for our GACS:
ISU’s speech and hearing clinic recognizes the disparities that continue to exist for many individuals along the gender spectrum within the healthcare system. Many cities and states throughout the nation still lack access to gender-affirming communication services and do not offer this diverse training for graduate student clinicians enrolled in their academic programs. The clinicians at ISU aim to create a positive, equitable, and inclusive experience that prioritizes client-centered care and confidentiality for those seeking services. From the initial appointment, the client’s desires, needs, and goals will be discussed and addressed to make sure that the intervention helps them to develop communication style they feel comfortable and proud to call their own.
ISU’s clinic stands by the following philosophy statement as a foundation for their gender-affirming communication services:
"When a client reports a sense of dissatisfaction with their vocal gender presentation, it is not the clinician's role to refute or corroborate the client's perceptions, but rather to help the client identify as specifically as possible the vocal characteristics they would like to work on, the direction in which they would like to develop them, and to make recommendations for intervention options that would be best suited to support the desired modifications of the client's vocal gender presentation."
Azul, D. (2015). On the varied and complex factors affecting gender diverse people's vocal situations: Implications for clinical Perspectives on Voice and Voice Disorders. 25(2):87. DOI: 10.1044/vvd25.2.87
ISU’s speech and hearing clinic is also proud to share many informal partnerships with local and national LGBTQ+ organizations. Our current connections include: the non-profit Prairie Pride Coalition of McLean County, Illinois; Central Illinois Friends; ISU Pride; and Planned Parenthood.
Community Group for clients receiving services
Current and former clients are also invited to participate in an informal, weekly 1-hour community group. Group members can practice their communication, discuss topics related to the transgender or gender-diverse community, and share experiences with others in a safe, inclusive environment. The GACS group is held on a HIPAA-complaint Zoom Platform. The group is led by a certified, licensed, and trained clinical educator as well as various graduate student clinicians who are committed to serving individuals who benefit from these services..
What are the next steps?
Gender-affirming communication services are elective and may be sought out for a variety of reasons. Some client’s healthcare insurance plans may cover the cost of services, while other clients pay out-of-pocket, or qualify for the clinic’s sliding scale fee structure. Please call or email the ISU clinic to receive more information about the services offered and to schedule a consultation with a speech-language pathologist and/or graduate student clinician. We know how important your voice and communication is in everyday life, and we want you to be proud of how you sound.
Phone number: (309) 438-8641
Who else might want to know more about this service?
We hope potential undergraduate and graduate students recognize the value of this service when making decisions about their academic careers. We invite students to further inquire about the academic and clinical opportunities offered through the program at Illinois State University.
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