Newspaper shines spotlight on 2pass Clinic voice therapy

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Ellen Defrancq

Katrien Eerdekens, the speech therapist at 2pass Clinic, and Jolanda Claeys, the permanent resident of our guest house, were interviewed about voice therapy in the Belgian newspaper Het Belang van Limburg. The newspaper also made a video. We reproduced the article and video below, with permission of the producers Hanne De Belie and Nico Vandepoel.

“Making the voice sound more feminine”

BOCHOLT – From a low male voice to a high female voice: that is the aim of the voice therapy given by Bocholt speech therapist Katrien Eerdekens (26) to transgender people. As one of the few speech therapists in our country, she specializes in feminizing the voice of transgender people. “A man’s voice cannot be feminized by means of hormones,” says Katrien. “Intensive speech therapy helps.”

Hanne DE BELIE

Monday, March 6 is Speech Therapy day. This year the focus is specifically on language development in toddlers of up to 4 years. But Bocholt speech therapist Katrien Eerdekens (26), who followed romance to Antwerp, has a very different field of specialization: feminizing the voices of transgender people. “During my specialization on the voice, I one day heard a lecture on the voice on transgender people,” says Katrien. “I found it so interesting that I wanted to know more. I delved into it, through self-study and additional training in London.

All- woman

During the past year, she has worked at the 2pass Clinic in Antwerp, which specializes in the transformation of trans women – from plastic surgery to hair removal and changing the voice. “A trans woman is a woman who discovers that she was born in the wrong body. He would rather be a woman and must go the whole way,” the speech therapist explains. “Then there is the group of genderless people who feel themselves neither man nor woman. The population I work with are real trans women, women in a man’s body, in other words. Most of them have undergone a sex change operation or have a firm intention to also have facial surgery, hormone treatment, and a voice change. The voice is my job. A trans man usually takes male hormones. The hormones cause the mass of the vocal cords to increase and the vocal cords to become thicker, which lowers the pitch of the voice. They barely need speech therapy. However, female hormones are not strong enough to thin the vocal cords. Hence trans women need speech therapy to feminize the voice. Surgery on the vocal cords is also possible. (To say I would leave out part of that operation is too simplistic a statement and would need more explanation.) A long recovery period is essential for this, and the voice quality decreases. Hence, the majority of patients go solely for voice therapy.”

Bass note

Eerdekens starts her therapy with voice examination. “I initially measure the pitch of the voice,” she says. “The pitch of a male is around 120 Hertz, whereas a woman it is 220 Hertz. Whether a voice sounds male or female depends on the pitch, resonance, intonation and articulation. The resonance is the sympathetic vibration of the cavities in the body. Men speak mainly from the chest Women speak mainly from the nose, thus producing less of a “bass tone” . We try to project the breast resonances more towards the head. To the nose, or rather the cavities behind the nose. Because of course we do not want them to sound like (Belgian stand-up comedian) Philippe Geubels. “(Laughs)

The intonation and articulation should also be worked on. “Men speak mostly in a monotone, women speak with more pitch fluctuations,” says Katrien. “Women articulate more specifically with their lips and tongues, articulation movements are smaller. I also coach you to do that, through exercises. I developed an app together with a transgender patient for doing these exercises at home, it will be in the market at the end of March. This way, our foreign patients who come here for a month for their transformation can continue to follow voice therapy by means of the app. Also, some patients who live far away, like the Limburgers, can practice by means of the app. So take me to your home.” (Laughs)

The evolution towards a more feminine voice does not happen overnight. “Trans Women are my most motivated patients, who very diligently follow the rules,” says Katrien. “In half a year’ time, they can already achieve beautiful sounds. For others it takes for it is showing a year or year and a half before there are good results. Of course, there also is an emotional component. Stress and tension will ruin your voice. For this reason, let’s first work on relaxation. Only then can we move on to the feminization of the voice. However, they will never get a real female voice from speech therapy. Even though they will already sound much more feminine.”

Transgender Jolanda (57) followed voice therapy lessons

“Learning to speak to a higher pitch”

ANTWERP – Jolanda Claeys (57), born Johan, attends voice therapy presented by speech therapist Katrien Eerdekens. “I have now had six sessions, and my voice has already become several frequencies higher ,” she says. “That’s encouraging.”

“I have contemplated becoming a woman for twenty years now, but due to my family circumstances and employment situation, I always put it off,” says Jolanda. “In a previous life I was married and I had a restaurant. Now I am free. I have undergone two surgeries:a face surgery and new teeth. I have not chosen a sex change operation. For me, feminine appearance and hormone therapy is sufficient. And now my voice gets its turn: the idea is that I’m going to talk at a little higher pitch. Many transgender people have the problem that they look feminine enough, but once they open their mouth, they sound very masculine. I was advised not to undergo vocal cord surgery. I have a few girlfriends who had problems after such an operation. The risk is too great. That’s why I opted for speech therapy. I do exercises with Katrien: she records words and measure the frequency. Via specific techniques, she teaches me how to use my voice differently. She gives tips on femininity and masculinity of a voice, how to breathe. A woman frequently laughs when speaking. I have to go there every week for a session and practice a lot at home. But it is promising: after six sessions, you can hear a difference. “.

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