Charity Goodwin applies makeup before heading to her Voice in Transition class at LU. UP photo by Sierra Kondos.

Charity Goodwin applies makeup before heading to her Voice in Transition class at LU. UP photo by Sierra Kondos.

LU classes help local woman transition

Charity Goodwin was on the path to becoming a cosmetologist when she began experiencing backlash from her teacher and peers because of the sound of her voice. 

The traumatic experience led Goodwin, who is transgender, to take matters into her own hands by taking a voice class to “feminize” her voice. 

Lamar University Speech and Hearing department offers a “Voices in Transition” program free to the public. The program recognizes the needs of specific and culturally diverse populations, including assessment and treatment options for transgender, transsexual and mutational falsetto people. 

“Voice in Transition is what we run under the voice lab and vocology clinic,” Nandhu Radhakrishnan, clinic director, said. “Voice therapy was primarily for people who suffered from any voice problem, such as vocal nodules, polyps and vocal fold paralysis. But recently in voice therapy, we not only treat patients, but also people who have normal voices, so that they can enhance their voice and meet their daily needs.” 

Radhakrishnan said that speech and voice are areas of transition for the transgender community when conforming to their new gender.

“Unfortunately, these clients are less aware about our services and are unaware of the importance of learning to modify their voice and speech in a healthy fashion,” he said.

Goodwin, a caregiver in the Beaumont area, utilizes the voice class twice a week.

“I quit a Beaumont college last February (because) a student and a teacher both kept mis-gendering me and referring to me as a man,” she said. “I did not register at this school as a man or transgender woman. I registered as a woman and all of my documents reflect this. I never told any of the students I am transgender even though I wasn’t hiding it, but this isn’t the reason I was at school.”

Goodwin said she feels that her voice led to people referring to her as “he.” Transgender individuals are addressed by their respective chosen names and the pronouns that correspond to their gender identification. Being misidentified by pronoun is a trigger for emotional distress.

“I understand the trigger word thing now, because this is very hard to talk about,” she said. 

Goodwin struggled at the college for five months before dropping out.

“I was polite to these people and I kindly corrected them, but also had to raise my voice several other times,” she said. “They kept embarrassing me by calling me ‘he’ in the classroom while others just watched, stared at me, or just completely ignored the situation all together. 

“I reported the situation and it got worse. Corporate HR, the school director and the vice president of compliance all told me there’s nothing they can do but ask these people to not misgender me. I was told it would surely happen again so I should accept this because people will do this in the work field. I haven’t had an issue like this before, and I transitioned while working in the plants and refineries. 

“They also said I sounded like ‘the old me,’ the guy I was before transitioning, so anyone could make that mistake. This did two things. First, it pissed me off because they don’t know what ‘the old me’ sounded like and I told them this. Second, it just made me not want to talk in class or ask questions. I tried so hard to stay, but many (people) know the struggle I had and the tears I shed trying to not let this get to me, but they kept doing it.”

Goodwin said she felt out numbered in the classroom and the meetings.

“It was like I was the problem because they said I need to be more open and understanding — (that) people aren’t used to someone like me, whatever that means. In the end, they said as long as they apologize, it’s OK. Next time, instead of correcting them, they want me to tell them it hurts my feelings. I guess they didn’t figure that out already. I told HR they just gave them permission right in front of me.” 

Goodwin said she started experiencing anxiety and panic attacks. 

“The room felt like it was closing in and after the meeting I found it kind a hard to breathe,” she said. “I left school early that day and didn’t return the next day. I went back to school the following day but I was late because I didn’t want to go in. Those panic feelings were creeping back. Sure enough, I get called “he” two more times by my teacher. Most people don’t know this, but I was really depressed for a while after this.” 

Goodwin was diagnosed by both her doctor and her therapist with mild depression and anxiety due to traumatic stress.

“It really was the most humiliating thing I’ve ever been to,” she said.  “I tried to get legal help and even talked to organizations. They couldn’t help me because Donald Trump rescinded the transgender guideline protections. I felt like I hit a dead end. I never went back to class and I dropped out. 

“There is a part of me that is ashamed that I quit and I’m sorry if I let anyone down, but I did fight as long as I could. It just mentally exhausted me and I felt so alone in that place. I just wish things had gone as well as in the male-dominated industrial field (that) I transitioned from male to female in.”

The classes consist of a series of exercises to make trans men and women’s voices more reflective of their gender. Goodwin said her experience is a great example of why the class is important. 

“Our voices are important because they can out us as trans-people — the point is to blend in,” Goodwin said.

For more information on the program, or to schedule an appointment, call the Lamar Speech and Hearing clinic at 880-8171.

Story by Sierra Kondos, UP staff writer

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

Share this article ....Share on Facebook200Share on Google+0Tweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Comments are closed.