#TransMCR 8 May 2021

Updated: May 17, 2021

I was kindly invited to speak about gender-affirming voice and communication change at the most recent TransMCR event on 8 May. For those unfamiliar with this, it's a free monthly event put on by LGBT Foundation to support trans and non-binary people and their friends and families. It includes learning new skills, catching up with old friends, listening to talks and more. You can find out more here:

I spoke about the work my voice coaching colleagues and I do at Indigo Gender Service and how we're keen to push for a more service user-led approach nationwide. As we like to say at Indigo, "it's trans and non-binary people who are the experts in their experience, not us". Yes, we have specialist voice coaching knowledge to help people achieve their goals. But ultimately it's the service user calling the shots on what they do and don't want from their voice and communication style(s) - and that's exactly why I joined the service.

We have big hopes for the two-year pilot. Within the voice coaching team we are shouting loud and proud and far and wide about our work amongst our profession. We are engaging with the next generation of students, supervising them as volunteers at our workshops in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of a trans-sensitive workforce. We also welcome qualified NHS Speech and Language therapists from both the Greater Manchester area and beyond to develop their skills working with gender-diverse people. We know that gender-diverse voice and communication features very little on current university courses. We aim to plug that gap in our outreach work and involvement of volunteers.

It's surprising to me that, even in 2021, a trans-led service like Indigo is seen as an innovation. Yet the more I read around the historical treatment of gender-diverse people, it becomes strikingly clear: medical model approaches have been and remain the norm. Gatekeeping of healthcare services has led many trans and non-binary people to tell medical professionals what they expect to hear, not what is true to them. This effectively suppresses the diversity of their experiences in order to suit what (typically) cis healthcare staff understand by 'trans'. What I am learning through my work is that if I've met one trans person, I've done just that - met one trans person. It's impossible to know and appreciate the richness of a community when you view it from the outside, and from a narrowly defined lens. By taking a more social model approach, Indigo recognises and dismantles the systemic barriers that trans people face in accessing gender-affirming healthcare. It places the person at the heart of the service and decision-making. It truly values service user insight, and not in a tokenistic way. Indigo was built on a foundation of co-production, and service users feed into its service delivery at all stages.

As at 4 May 2021, 200 people had had their first GP appointment. That, for a brand new service which only launched in December 2020. It's inspiring to be a part of Indigo's success. I really believe we are setting a precedent for change.

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