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Tuesday , November 13 2018
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UTEP Clinic Helps Transgender Individuals Find Their Voice

In the Voice Modification Clinic for Transgender Individuals at The University of Texas at El Paso, speech language pathology student April Gutierrez is helping Andi Tiscareño find her feminine voice.

For two years, the clinic housed in UTEP’s Campbell Building has provided free vocal modification services to transgender clients such as Tiscareño, who choose to change their voice as part of their transition.

“Whenever I’d go through drive-thrus or I’d be on the phone, I’d be called ‘sir’ rather than ‘ma’am’ and it would always depress me,” said Tiscareño, a UTEP mechanical engineering student who has been living as a woman since 2016. She said the therapy has helped. “I’m hardly ever misgendered anymore.”

Tiscareño is one of 18 clients served at the clinic since it opened. It is the only clinic in El Paso that offers voice modification services to transgender men and women.

“We knew there was a need for this type of service in the community,” said Patricia Lara, Ph.D., speech language pathology assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences. “Insurance does not cover voice therapy for individuals who are transgender, and it can be difficult for them to find voice treatments that are safe and effective. If they try to do it on their own, they can cause damage to their vocal folds.”

In the clinic, 16 graduate students from UTEP’s speech language pathology (SLP) program work with Lara, director of UTEP’s Voice Brain and Language Lab, and Clinical Supervisor Deena Peterson to develop treatment plans and provide one-on-one voice modification. Both are certified speech language pathologists. The goal is to help clients raise or lower the pitch of their voice to match their gender identity.

For individuals like Tiscareño who transition from male to female, developing a higher pitch is necessary to sound feminine. Taking testosterone can help transgender men lower their voice by thickening their vocal cords, but for transgender women, taking the hormone estrogen does not thin out their vocal chords. They require exercises to raise their pitch.

During the spring semester, Tiscareño met with April Gutierrez twice a week to work on different techniques to help feminize her voice. They did vocal exercises to adjust Tiscareño’s pitch, and her intonation and resonance.

“(Tiscareño) has a musical background, so she was really good at matching pitch with the keys on a keyboard,” Gutierrez explained. “Now we’re practicing resonance by doing exercises that bring the voice forward. When females speak everything is forward in our mouths. Our tongue is forward. Our articulators. Our lips are spread apart. There’s a lot that goes into it.”

During their sessions, Tiscareño speaks into a computer’s microphone to measure her pitch. Lara said the pitch range is from 85-180 hertz for males and from 165-255 hertz for females. One of the tools the clinic uses is a free software program called, “Praat,” that analyzes speech. Tiscareño‘s voice appears as a wave on the screen indicating that she has reached a pitch of 173 hertz.

“(Tiscareño) is hitting a very feminine range,” said Peterson, who observed the session. “She’s definitely at her ideal pitch. She’s just adding some qualities to her voice.”

By helping transgender people find their true voice, the clinic also enhances their quality of life.

Since starting voice modification sessions 18 months ago, Tiscareño said her voice is higher, which has made her more comfortable presenting as a woman in public.

“It lifts that weight off my shoulders that I don’t have to try so hard to be perceived as a woman,” she said.

For Gutierrez, the opportunity to work with the transgender population has enriched her education.

“This is something that I’m passionate about, and I’m really looking forward to learning more from Dr. Lara before I graduate next year,” Gutierrez said. “I did not think that I would have the opportunity to work with the transgender population, but that’s what is so amazing about our speech profession is that you can do so much and help so many people.”

In addition to receiving valuable hands-on training, SLP students also received Safe Zone training. The goal of the training is to create more inclusive environments and spaces for the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning) community, Lara said. Students learn how to be effective health care providers to the LGBTQ population.

She is working on a study that examines voice therapy outcomes in transgender individuals following voice therapy.

Lara said patients are discharged when they’ve met their personal goals. In addition to attending regular voice modification sessions, she also advises patients to stay away from cigarettes and caffeine and to drink lots of water to ensure their vocal cords stay properly hydrated.

The clinic also works with clients on non-verbal communication.

“Females and males have different communication styles,” Lara explained. “Females tend to use their hands a lot when they communicate. We tend to have better eye contact than males. We also tend to get closer to our listeners.”

For more information about the Voice Modification Clinic’s services, contact Patricia Lara at plara2@utep.edu.

By Laura L. Acosta – UTEP Communications

More LGBTQ Texans Than Ever are Running for Office, Magazine Says

A self-described “gun-toting, truck-driving, true Republican,” Shannon McClendon avidly followed state politics and served as a five-time appointee for various boards under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. But until now, she never pushed herself to run for elected office.

“I’m a Republican who happens to be gay,” the lawyer from Hays County said. “I’ve been told on more than one occasion from members of my own party that Republicans eat their young. So I was pretty much scared from running.”

Then came the 2017 special legislative session, in which legislators debated a bill championed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick requiring transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on their biological sex.

It failed to pass, but McClendon said the fact that the bathroom bill was seriously considered made her so “incensed” that she couldn’t sit by the sidelines any longer. She is now challenging state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, in the Republican primary for Senate District 25. 

According to a list compiled by OutSmart, a Houston-area LGBTQ magazine, McClendon is one of at least 48 openly LGBTQ candidates in Texas vying for federal, state and local offices — from the U.S. House of Representatives to the state Legislature and from the Texas Supreme Court to the Austin City Council. The number is roughly three times higher than in any previous election cycle in the state’s history, the magazine reported.

Candidates and experts attribute the unprecedented number to the frenzy stirred up by the Texas bathroom bill and the Trump administration’s proposal to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

“It’s been shocking for many of us how easily some of the progress we’ve made can be ripped away,” said Gina Ortiz Jones, a gay Democrat hoping to challenge U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, R-Helotes, in the November general election. “And a lot of folks are done assuming someone is going to do what we could do ourselves.”

But the bathroom bill has done more than just bolster LGBTQ individuals’ resolve to seek elected office. Those running said it has also made voters more receptive to their candidacies.

The path to elected office

It’s not new for LGBTQ Texans to seek or hold elective office here. Among those running in 2018 are incumbent state Reps. Celia Israel, D-Austin, and Mary González, D-Clint, as well as former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, one of two LGBTQ Democratic gubernatorial candidates. At the local level, New Hope Mayor Jess Herbst — the state’s first openly transgender mayor — hopes to be re-elected.

As more LGBTQ people are elected to office, their sexuality and gender identity become less of an issue, Israel said.

“The longer I’m in the public eye, the more people want to know my position on transportation issues than LGBTQ issues,” said Israel, who was first elected to represent House District 50 in 2014 and is running unopposed in her re-election bid. “We’re making forward progress. People are more accepting, and you see even conservatives embracing the concept of gay marriage and accepting their neighbors.”

Don Haider-Markel, a University of Kansas professor who studies LGBTQ political participation, said many candidates first entered the political fray on the tails of former LGBTQ officials. They volunteered on campaigns or obtained a staff position post-election, which gave them a launchpad to run for office, he said. 

“With a lot of candidates in Texas, you see a similar pattern. They’re well-networked in the political community already,” Haider-Markel said. “They’re not running for office on a whim. They’ve been building toward this over time.”

Almost all of the candidates on OutSmart’s list are challengers, Democrats and from big cities. Haider-Markel said LGBTQ candidates in Texas — and ones in other traditionally red states like Kansas and Arkansas — tend to run in districts that lean left and are likely to support Democrats. Republican LGBTQ candidates face a steeper climb in getting elected, occasionally winning their primary election but usually losing the general election to the Democratic nominee, he said.

The Victory Fund, a national group that endorses openly LGBTQ candidates at all levels of government, has had more than 20 Texas candidates apply for endorsement this month alone, compared to 17 in all of 2016, according to spokesperson Elliot Imse.

Annise Parker, the Victory Fund’s president and CEO, said the increase in LGBTQ Texas candidates is part of a national trend that stems from the Trump administration’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and proposed ban on transgender troops.

Parker, a former Houston mayor and the first openly gay person to lead a major U.S. city, said more underrepresented candidates — including LGBTQ people, women and people of color — are running for office because they are worried about the country’s direction.

Shaking the stigma in Texas

While the Trump presidency may have created discontent among voters, the bathroom bill grabbed many Texans’ attention and forced them to solidify and act on their beliefs, Haider-Markel said.

Last year, as Texas lawmakers stalled discussion of public education, health care and transportation to debate the bathroom bill, many voters became agitated, Parker said. Candidates said opposition to the bill from numerous business leaders, faith leaders, school districts, tourism officials and law enforcement officials increasingly led non-LGBTQ voters to view the proposal negatively.

As a result, Parker said, more voters began focusing on whether candidates could “get the job done” on issues affecting a broader scope of Texans, rather than on their sexuality or gender identity.

Mark Phariss was one of the plaintiffs who sued to overturn the Texas ban on gay marriage. But Phariss said only the recent confidence that a candidate’s sexuality wouldn’t decide a political race encouraged him and many others to place their names on the ballot.

“I always felt I wouldn’t be judged on my own merits,” said Phariss, a Democratic candidate for Senate District 8, which is an open seat now that state Sen. Van Taylor, R-Plano, is running for Congress. “Now I decided to give Texans a choice and let them make the decision themselves, rather than assuming. I think that’s really what all LGBTQ candidates are doing.”

While on the campaign trail, some office-seekers have noticed their LGBTQ identity is rarely brought up, if at all. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeffrey Payne said he seldom addresses being gay while stumping.

“If someone asks, I’m honest about it,” Payne said. “But when I used to test the waters and tell voters directly, they’d say, ‘We don’t care that you’re gay. As governor, what are you going to do?’ And it’s wonderful.”

Still, Jones  the Democrat who hopes to challenge Hurd — said she can’t separate her experience as a veteran and being gay from her candidacy, especially after serving under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

“I bring it up,” Jones said. “You don’t want to be accused of playing identity politics, but politics is about identity. I’ve been able to show people that I know what it’s like to have the talent but have others concentrate on something that shouldn’t matter.”

However they address being part of the LGBTQ community, candidates agreed being open about their sexuality while running for office is crucial for future candidates. The visibility, they said, will eventually normalize the idea that LGBTQ leaders can be qualified leaders.

“I’m married to the love of my life, and that should be a non-issue,” McClendon, the lawyer from Hays County, said. “Maybe in time that won’t be an issue. Many of us in the broader community are looking forward to that day.”

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Months after state lawmakers tried and failed to pass bills restricting transgender restroom access, transgender Texans plan to vie for seats in Congress and the Texas Senate next year. [Full story]
  • Dozens of women from Texas are running for Congress this year, and several are drawing attention as serious contenders, prompting predictions that the state will elect the first freshman female to a full term in Congress in 22 years. [Full story]
  • After generating a heated statewide debate earlier this year, the Texas bathroom bill died in the special legislative session with little drama or fanfare. [Full story]

Author:  RISHIKA DUGYALA – The Texas Tribune

Writers, Activists to Kick Off NMSU’s 2018 Pride Season

Pride Season at New Mexico State University kicks off Monday, January 29, with a discussion by Che Gossett, a transgender writer and activist of color from Rutgers University, who will discuss gender, sexuality and race.

On Feb. 2 Kavi Ade, a transgender spoken word poet of color, will perform his work on the events of violence perpetuated against the black-trans-queer body.

“Che is a collaborative event with Gender and Sexuality Studies and marks an important move by our departments to bring matters of transgender identity into the classroom,” Zooey Pook, director of NMSU’s LGBT+ Programs said. “And Kavi is being cosponsored by the Black Student Association and Black Programs and will help kick off Black History Month. It’s hugely important that our departments are working together on this to show the intersections of our identities.”

Pook said the events being held during pride season are a great opportunity for members of the university and the community to learn more about the LGBT+ community and to participate in events that celebrate diversity.

“We have led a revolution at NMSU to celebrate and include our transgender students with initiatives like Preferred Name and Inclusive Housing. By bringing Kavi and Che, we continue to highlight the myriad of diversity in our transgender population,” Pook said. “These events are illustrating our commitment to the richness of our diverse community. All of our students, faculty and staff at NMSU should feel represented.”

Both events are free and will be held in the Corbett Center Auditorium. For more information, contact the LGBT+ Programs at 575-646-7031

Following is a list of all Pride Season events:

Tuesday, March 27 (7 p.m.)
Pride Season Drag Show
Corbett Ballroom

Wednesday, April 18 (1 p.m.)
Alianza of New Mexico
Free HIV testing and information session on safe sex
Corbett Center Aggie Underground

Tuesday, April 19 (11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.)
Pride season lunch
Free lunch by Sodexo and music by Mike Maven of the Young Pandas
Corbett Outdoor Patio

Friday, May 4 (6 to 8 p.m.)
Rainbow Graduation
NMSU Golf Club House
Please contact LGBT+ Program for information on tickets

Pride Season 2018 kicks off Monday Jan. 29 with a discussion by Che Gossett, a transgender writer and activist of color from Rutgers University, and concludes Friday May 4 with Rainbow Graduation. JAN18

Author: Melissa R. Rutter -NMSU

Guest Column: Addition of Colors to PRIDE Flag Mean Inclusion, Solidarity and Progress

PRIDE Month is here! Cue the lights, catchy music, drag queens, and…debate about black and brown being added to the Pride flag?!?

So, unless you’re living under a rock, you’re sure to have seen the news that the city of Philadelphia has added the colors black and brown to the Pride flag in an attempt to be more inclusive of people of color. Cities like LA have, in turn, shown their support for this addition and everyone has chimed in with their opinion about it via social media.

Now, it’s no secret that the LGBTQ community has been unfair and discriminatory against people of color for as far back as we can remember. From “no blacks” scribbled across gay dating app profiles like Grindr, to the white washed Stonewall movie that curiously erased black trans activists that are credited for the start of the Stonewall riots. Racism and perpetuating whiteness through the erasing of black and brown bodies from LGBTQ culture is a long-lived problem.

Statistics even show that most white gay men feel safe and accepted in today’s culture where as queer people of color continue to feel unsafe and unequal. So, what’s a brown and black piece of cloth gonna do about that?

Well, for one, after years of being basically erased from history by a community that is already marginalized it’s fair to say that giving people two stripes on a freaking flag is the least we can do. The argument that I’ve seen the most regarding the addition is “well the flag has always been like this so why change it” which in my personal opinion is the worst argument ever.

Confederate flags have always been flown in the south, does that mean that we shouldn’t remove them? Homophobia and racism have always existed, does that mean that shouldn’t change?

The argument that something should stay the same because it’s always been one way is so far fetched it’s honestly ridiculous. Some people argue that “if it’s not broken we don’t have to fix it” or “the Pride flag already includes everyone” well, here’s your newsflash, ITS BEEN BROKEN FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR.

Just because the system has worked for you doesn’t mean its worked for everyone. Just because –  in your head – racism doesn’t exist in the LGBTQ community, doesn’t mean it actually doesn’t exist.

new flagAs new strides for equality and a perfect world arise, we must continue to push for a better, all inclusive community. The Pride flag has never been representative of race before, but with the turmoil and tensions of today it’s important to recognize that race matters because for some people that’s a struggle they live with every day.

You don’t get to take a break from being black or brown. It’s a skin you can’t shed, and the lack of representation for people of color is one that has existed for decades.

Adding two colors to a piece of cloth won’t change everything or make everything better for these people, but it definitely lets the world know that in OUR gay community, we won’t discriminate against people on the basis of their skin because we know what it’s like to be discriminated against for something we can’t change.

I get it, change is scary and hard. But refusing to evolve makes you like the people who didn’t want gay marriage legalized because “it’s always been man and wife”.

We have to continue to evolve and be better than we were yesterday.

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Guest Contributor: Chandelier Kahlo

Previous Columns HERE

Art Show Review: All Are Invited Inside (AAII) Show in Las Cruces

Dominique Isiah Tafoya is the creative force behind All Are Invited Inside (AAII). He celebrated his first art show in Las Cruces, on Tuesday, June 13th.

The show itself brought out a plethora of colorful characters from diverse backgrounds. This show was comprised of a series of paintings that resonate a type of Warhol-Esque feeling amongst its viewers, AAII is a revolution in the era of Trump.

Unapologetically queer, Dominique throws his audience into the world of LGBTQ culture with his paintings of drag queens, intimate moments between men, and transexual women. Local queer icons such as Puto Kahlo and Carnitas Wilson served as models for some of his paintings.

19183973_1353733681342590_1888634672_nBesides his obvious queer influence, AAII also brings paintings celebrating people of color such as his painting “Forever Mine, Never Yours” which depicts a black women with the note “don’t bleach” on her black skin, “don’t touch” on her curly hair, “don’t minimize” on her nose, and “don’t steal” on her lips.

In the current world of bad politics and an administration that has completely ignored the existence of the LGBTQ community and been accused of being insensitive to the needs of people of color, AAII brings a breath of fresh air, resistance and self assurance that we all need to take.

Like many greats before him, Tafoya throws the things that many choose to ignore into the face of the audience. In times of political turmoil and unsettling social problems that many choose to ignore in our system, art is a weapon that brings these things to light, Tafoya not only does this but does it effortlessly with a stroke of his brush on the canvas.

Dominique’s art is both provocative and assuring, and we can bet that we have a lot to look forward to from the young artist. You can check out AAII on Instagram at @allareinvitedinside

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Guest Contributor: Chandelier Kahlo

Previous Columns HERE

Guest Column: Why PRIDE Month Matters

With the beginning of June drawing closer, we start to prepare ourselves for the Texas heat; and if you’re part of the LGBTQ community or an ally, that also means gearing up for PRIDE month!

The gay rights movement has flourished and grown drastically over the span of the last twenty years. Many milestones have been reached, from the repeal of DADT to marriage equality, the LGBTQ community has won many small and large victories over the years.

Pride allows us to celebrate not only these victories, but also gives us a chance to celebrate a newly gained visibility that was not granted to us a couple of decades ago. Pride is celebrated all through June in major cities throughout the country.

There are drag shows, parades, festivals and parties celebrated in rainbow technicolor to the soundtracks of Madonna, Gaga, Cher and any other pop icon that has supported the community through the years.

Of course, there are many common misconceptions regarding Pride festivities. For me, the most common I’ve heard is “If you want equal rights or people to respect you, then you shouldn’t walk around mostly naked grinding on each other in a parade.”

Now see, the problem here is the double standard placed on the LGBTQ community. There are plenty of heterosexual events throughout the year in which straight men and women run around dancing in bikinis or shirtless.

A person’s personal  choice to dress a certain way doesn’t make them less deserving of equal rights or respect. Pride – at its core – is meant to celebrate all the members of the LGBTQ community, regardless of who they love, how they dress, or how they identify.

For many, dressing conservatively in their everyday lives becomes a way to blend and live a heteronormative life to avoid the problems and stigmas associated with being LGBTQ; so Pride allows them a time of the year to celebrate their queerness and feel accepted.

Of course, another argument during Pride month is “well straight people don’t have Straight Pride so why do you need Gay Pride?”

This – of course – is a silly question. Straight people have never been discriminated against on the basis of their heterosexuality, so the need for straight pride doesn’t exist.

If the LGBTQ community hadn’t had to fight for the right to simply exist in public places, or for marriage rights, or for the right to have a secure job without their sexuality allowing others to question their ability to work, then we wouldn’t need Pride; Alas, history has been written, so we get to celebrate, wave rainbow flags, and enjoy the rights that we have worked so hard to achieve.

With all that out of the way, let’s remember to have a fun, safe, and happy pride month. Let’s remember that though booty shorts and glitter are all part of the magic, that many people have lost their life on the way here and there’s still a long way to go.

Take care of each other this Pride month. Happy Pride, everyone!

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Guest Contributor: Chandelier Kahlo

Previous Columns HERE