Voice feminization surgery raises the pitch of your voice, making it sound higher. The procedure changes the length, tightness or size of your vocal cords. Transgender women may choose to have voice change surgery as part of their male-to-female (MTF) transition. Healthcare providers recommend voice feminization therapy before and after surgery.
Voice feminization surgery is a procedure to raise the pitch of your voice or make it sound higher. Surgery changes the length, size or tightness of your vocal cords.
Your vocal cords (also called vocal folds) are bands of soft tissue in your larynx (voice box). They control the pitch of your voice. They vibrate when you take in air. Surgery changes the folds so they vibrate differently and make higher sounds when you speak.
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There are different approaches to voice feminization surgery, including:
You may choose to have voice feminization surgery if you:
Many people choose to have voice feminization therapy before and after surgery. In addition to adjusting the pitch of your voice, a speech-language pathologist helps you feminize:
About 1% of transgender women have voice feminization surgery. More people (about 14%) choose to have nonsurgical voice feminization therapy instead.
A laryngologist performs voice feminization surgery. This type of healthcare provider specializes in surgery for the voice box and throat.
Many people do voice feminization therapy before surgery. A speech-language pathologist works with you on:
Your speech-language pathologist also makes sure you don’t have any existing voice disorders that could prevent a successful surgery.
It’s important to have realistic expectations about the results of voice feminization surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider or your psychologist before the procedure so you know what to expect. They can help you prepare emotionally.
Voice feminization surgery includes the following steps:
Depending on the type of surgery you have, your surgeon does the following:
Voice feminization surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. This means you probably won’t have to stay overnight in the hospital or surgery center. Most people can go home the same day as their procedure.
Your voice box will need several weeks to heal after voice feminization surgery. Most people continue voice feminization therapy after surgery. This therapy helps you adapt to the changes in your voice. Ask your healthcare provider when it’s safe for you to resume therapy.
Risks of voice feminization surgery include:
The major benefit of voice feminization surgery is that you can achieve a pitch that more closely matches your gender identity. Many people who have the procedure consider it an important part of their transition process.
For the first few days after surgery, you may need to avoid talking, laughing, singing or coughing. Be prepared to communicate nonverbally with text messages or notes. Your healthcare provider will tell you when you can gradually start using your voice again, as well as when you can resume voice therapy.
Sometimes voice feminization surgery doesn’t produce the results you want. You may need a second surgery to achieve your target pitch.
Your provider may use steroid injections or Botox® injections after surgery. These help treat vocal cord scarring or dysphonia.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Voice feminization surgery is a procedure to increase the pitch of your voice. Transgender women may choose the surgery as part gender confirmation process. Several surgical techniques are available to change the length, tightness or size of your voice box. Healthcare providers usually recommend voice feminization therapy before and after surgery.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/06/2021.
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