Working on the speaking and singing voice is a vulnerable experience for all students. It can be even more vulnerable for a student or client who is working to find a voice which aligns with their gender identity. As voice teachers, it is our responsibility to create a safe, welcoming, and open space for all students, especially those that are underserved and underrepresented. A recent statistic stated that roughly 0.6% of the U.S. population is transgender and this population is going to become more and more visible. If you come across a student who is gender diverse, you want to be able to affirm their identity through voice and exploration.
To become culturally competent, it is recommended to explore the terminology and vocabulary to use. I would also recommend gaining an understanding of gender identity and pronoun use. Providing a google form or questionnaire with questions about pronoun, name, and gender identity is a great place to start with clients. Ask your clients if there is anything you can do to help them feel comfortable and safe in your studio. Also know that the students' gender identity and sense of overall identity is evolving and we want to let them know that they can feel comfortable updating us on their names and pronouns. A pride flag or transgender flag couldn't hurt either if you have a space for it ;)
What vocal range should they sing in?
I recommend getting a voice range profile to understand where their habitual voice lies. Ask the student "do you want to maintain and use this lower range?" "do you want to maintain and use this higher range?" Our job is to help them maintain a safe, healthy, and efficient voice as they work towards the speaking or singing range that feels authentic for them. No need to label Soprano, Alto, Tenor, or Bass.
Know that we are working with an entire human and have to consider all communicative contexts. Do they identity as female across all contexts and 100% of the time? We also have to consider a variety of aspects including pitch, resonance, intonation, articulation, vocal quality, timbre, etc.
We are not working to find an "ideal female singing voice" or "ideal male singing voice." We are working to help the student find a voice which aligns with their unique identity. Think of helping them find a unique "vocal fingerprint," a voice that is truly theirs.
For more tips on working with gender diverse singers and speakers, follow me at @live_vocally or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.