Tucked in a tidy corner of a Saanich home, in a small studio fully decked out with acoustic treatment, Jess Gibbard helps others across North America find their transgender voice.
As a musician, Gibbard already had a head start on the physiology of pitch and tone, but wanted to help others through the challenging process. Now, via her business Trans Voice Coach, she works with clients across North America in voice masculinization, feminization and androgenization.
Seated at a well-equipped computer, Gibbard chats with Violet from West Virginia – a friend as well as a client benefitting from Gibbard’s transgender voice training.
Gibbard says feminization draws the largest calling, as hormones don’t create the physiological changes that testosterone does – naturally lowering resonance and pitch.
The Camosun student found her own voice solo while on a wait list for Changing Keys, a speech and voice training program through TransCare BC, under the Provincial Health Services Authority. Waiting nearly a year forced her to think about her voice and how it worked. She immersed herself pitch and resonance control.
“When I first came out, a big portion of why I decided to focus on voice so much was because I was worried. You never know what someone else is going to do if they’re able to determine you’re not cis,” Gibbard said.
Violet echoes the sentiment that passing as cisgender – an individual whose gender corresponds with their sex presumed at birth – is important to not only be safe, but to feel safer. It’s the primary reason she sought a voice coach, and Gibbard is her second. It’s another point the two agree on – finding good service and affordable service are not always the same.
Violet puts Gibbard in the quality category with lessons easy to grasp and broken down into manageable steps.
“I really want my clients to understand what specifically they’re doing and how it’s affecting their voice. It’s a very technical approach but I try to break it down in a nice easy to digest format,” Gibbard said.
Lessons are designed to teach about the malleability of the human voice, and help an individual craft their own authenticity.
Safety and accessibility remain two key reasons she coaches – and does much of the work at no charge.
“At some point I would absolutely love for it to be able to pay the bills, but I’m not concerned if it never does because I just like being able to help people.”
She’s been coaching about a year now, and is also just at the start of a planned six-year journey through education. She plans to become a registered speech language pathologist, finishing with a masters degree at the University of British Columbia.
Trans Care BC supports the delivery of equitable and accessible care, surgical planning, and peer and community support for trans people across the province. Learn more at phsa.ca/transcarebc.
Learn more about Gibbard’s work at transvoicecoach.com.
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