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Ithaca College implements the only gender-affirming voice care clinic in Ithaca

David+Bayne%2C+assistant+professor+in+the+School+of+Health+Sciences+and+Human+Performance%2C+teaches+and+supervises+students+at+Ithaca+College+who+are+getting+their+master%E2%80%99s+in+speech-language+pathology.+His+students+work+with+clients+for+50+minutes+a+week+in+the+no-charge+Sir+Alexander+Ewing-Ithaca+College+Speech+and+Hearing+Clinic%2C+which+was+established+in+2011+and+is+the+only+place+in+Ithaca+to+offer+in-person+gender-affirming+voice+care.
Courtesy of Ithaca College
David Bayne, assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, teaches and supervises students at Ithaca College who are getting their master’s in speech-language pathology. His students work with clients for 50 minutes a week in the no-charge Sir Alexander Ewing-Ithaca College Speech and Hearing Clinic, which was established in 2011 and is the only place in Ithaca to offer in-person gender-affirming voice care.

David Bayne, assistant professor in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, teaches and supervises students at Ithaca College who are getting their master’s in speech-language pathology. His students work with clients for 50 minutes a week in the no-charge Sir Alexander Ewing-Ithaca College Speech and Hearing Clinic, which was established in 2011 and is the only place in Ithaca to offer in-person gender-affirming voice care.

Gender-affirming voice care is a practice that focuses on using speech therapy to help individuals find the voice that most authentically suits them and the way they wish to express themselves. Speech pathologists work with clients to adjust aspects of their vocal production like pitch, resonance and intonation.

Bayne, who got his M.S. in speech-language pathology at Ithaca College and his Ph.D. from the University of Oregon, said no matter where he teaches, his focus is always on gender-affirming voice care.

“It’s an area that’s really near and dear to my heart, and voice is one of those things that’s so integral to your identity,” Bayne said. “It’s just very rewarding to be able to help people who feel like their identity is not being expressed the way they desire. Having the ability to help even just one single person find themselves authentically is just a really wonderful experience.”

Bayne said the voices he helps patients find are not typically constricted by any gender binary.

“I go in and say, ‘OK, this is what we know is typically male, typically female, but you don’t have to aim for any of those typical norms that we have,’” Bayne said. “‘I want to make sure that your voice is most authentic to you and your gender identity, so we might mix and match a little bit.’”

Bayne said it is unfortunate that the Sir Alexander Ewing-Ithaca College Speech and Hearing Clinic, which is located in Smiddy Hall, is the only place in Ithaca that offers in-person gender-affirming voice care.

“Unfortunately, I think it’s an area that’s really lacking in the Southern Tier and broader Finger Lakes,” Bayne said. “There are a lot of gender-affirming services in the area, but specifically for voice and communication, I believe that we’re some of the only ones that are providing that in this area.”

While these services are available for students at the college, Bayne said they are also open to people of all ages from any surrounding areas.

“Of course, we have quite a few IC students because they’re on campus and it’s easily accessible, but we also see a lot of students from Cornell and from the broader Southern Tier community,” Bayne said. “We have folks driving all the way down from Syracuse to get services.”

To maintain the privacy of their patients, Bayne was unable to connect The Ithacan with patients who had received gender-affirming voice care from the clinic. 

Elmina David, a graduate student who is getting her M.S. in speech-language pathology at the college, said via email that Bayne has been a big help for her and other graduate students who work under his supervision.

“We have weekly meetings where we discuss what we’re doing with him and he gives us great guidance that applies to our clients,” David said. “So he supports us by actually explaining how to approach this type of work and giving us suggestions for how we can get better.”

David also said that because the gender-affirming voice care work she does as a student clinician has been so rewarding, she would like to help the service become more widely accessible. 

“It started as an option on the list of clinic placement possibilities that I just thought sounded interesting, and has become something that I have truly enjoyed being a part of and want to continue doing after graduation, especially after learning about how difficult it can be to acquire these services depending on where people live,” David said.

Christina Gonthier, a graduate student who is also getting her M.S. in speech-language pathology at the college, said she was the teaching assistant for Bayne’s brain science course in Fall 2023. Gonthier said she admired Bayne’s effort to incorporate studies and texts from people of all different backgrounds into his classroom.

“He really wanted to highlight other individuals in the space,” Gonthier said. “So we were looking at women who are publishing research, or LGBTQ individuals or Black individuals or Hispanic individuals, just to make sure that we were highlighting all folds of research in the communication sciences and disorders community, opposed to just cis white males.”

As a graduate student, Gonthier also works with voice clients at the Sir Alexander Ewing-Ithaca College Speech and Hearing Clinic. Although she has yet to work with a gender-affirming voice client, she said she would love to do so in the future.

“I’m really loving working with adults and seeing what can happen when someone is proud of their voice again and can use their voice to express themselves,” Gonthier said. “I think there’s no better place to do it than gender-affirming voice care. It’s definitely something I’d be interested in working with in the future, and I think this summer I’ll have a gender-affirming voice client on campus, which will be exciting.”

Bayne also said they will continue to provide gender-affirming voice care for those who need it in the future, especially when it not only helps individuals feel more comfortable with their voice but helps them feel safer as well.

“Imagine if your voice and the way that you communicated did not match the way that you presented physically,” Bayne said. “That can put you in a lot of danger, especially if you’re in a situation where somebody might not be as socially aware or is prejudicial against folks that do not fit that gender binary. It’s really important to make sure that those people are staying as safe as possible, and that’s why I want to keep doing it.”

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  • J

    JWMay 4, 2024 at 9:55 am

    I am one of the students who utilized the services of the clinic when I was a student athlete on a women’s NCAA team, which prohibited me from starting hormone replacement therapy until after I graduated. Being able to access the clinic on campus and for FREE was life-saving gender affirming care. It would be amazing to see this program grow and inspire the development of more inclusive clinics like this one.

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