‘We definitely need more SLTs’: The transgender community’s perception of the role of speech and language therapy in relation to their voice, language, and communication needs

Frances Creaven, Mary-Pat O’Malley-Keighran


According to Sydor (2013), it is critical to include all vulnerable, hard-to-reach groups in research in order to identify their specific needs. Transgender individuals can be considered as belonging to such groups. Speech, language, and non-verbal communication are often strongly related to gender. For transgender individuals experiencing mismatches between existing communication behaviours and their true gender, changes to these aspects of communication can help improve quality of life and mental health. Research has indicated that speech and language therapy (SLT) can successfully support the transgender (TG) community’s communication needs but, internationally, this intervention is under-utilised (Gelfer and Tice 2013; Hancock and Garabedian 2013). This qualitative study aimed to investigate the TG community’s understanding of the role of SLT in relation to their voice, language, and communication needs. It also explored how the TG community access the available care pathways and what factors are considered when making decisions relating to their participation in SLT. Two main themes, communication and SLT were identified. This study identified a continuing need to raise awareness of the breadth of the role of SLT within the TG community. As there is no defined referral pathway to SLT services, the research highlighted a need for the SLT profession to provide details of all trans-competent clinicians and to ensure that other members of the medical profession who interact with the trans community utilise this information to provide appropriate referrals.

Keywords: transgender; communication needs; speech and language therapy; qualitative research; hard-to-reach; thematic analysis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1921/swssr.v19i3.1189


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