The world today faces many redefinitions. These redefinitions include issues such as right of life, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Redefinitions present themselves in a variety of situations like marriage, school systems, and multiple professional careers. People assume these issues will not affect their lives. The reality is redefinitions shape much of culture around them. Redefinitions affect mindset, behavior, religion, and identity. Redefinitions are the biggest factors affecting the Christian’s life today in America. Christians must learn how to appropriately respond to LGBT individuals personally and professionally.
Redefinitions influence career paths and how professionals react to these communities. Speech-language pathology is no exception. ASHA, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, is the national organization for Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs). ASHA began redefining terms many years ago to include all LGBT communities.
A specific population affecting the field of speech-language pathology is the transgender community. These individuals often approach SLPs with the desire of changing their voice. Speech-language pathology contains the goal of creating the best voice for communication possible. For the transgender community, this best voice makes communication sound as feminine or masculine as possible. Their best voice bases itself in preference towards a specific gender. Therefore, ASHA states the job of the SLP is to provide speech therapy to aid this community in achieving their best voice possible.
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Best practice describes the standardized procedure for creating a therapy protocol for specific types of patients. ASHA specifically designates the process of best practice for transgender clients. This process begins with safe zones, areas the SLP provides for these clients. Safe zones create environments for transgender clients to speak openly about their feelings and struggles without receiving judgment for their lifestyle. Following safe zones, SLPs move toward understanding the client’s specific goals and finding a therapy approach that matches those goals.
Another foundational aspect of treating transgender individuals involves cultural and linguistic competence. Cultural and linguistic competence is providing service that is respectful of, and responsive to, an individual’s values, preferences, and language. Care should not vary in quality based on ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, or other factors (ASHA, 2017).
Best practice and cultural and linguistic competence create obstacles for Christians who choose the career of speech-language pathology. An SLP will likely experience situations involving the transgender community. Christians in this field must understand all the factors involved within this community to react effectively with grace and love.
ASHA recommends approaching transgender clients with an open approach unaffected by any preferences. ASHA believes in providing a space where this community feels comfortable to explore new voice techniques in correlation with their desired gender. They believe the SLP helps facilitate this ease of transition for the client.
SLPs must understand the process of gender modification. At the point of these individuals coming for speech therapy, they may have undergone multiple surgeries and treatments. Often, these individuals take hormone treatments to help lower or raise their pitch. Some clients even try smoking to lower their voice. Transgender individuals often have emotional and physical trauma from prior life experiences. They face rejection from family and friends, depression, and anxiety often before coming to an SLP.
These factors force the SLP to approach transgender individuals with extreme care. These clients need a caring and loving person who will counsel and help them find acceptance of their natural selves. ASHA’s requirement creates a problem for Christian SLPs. A risk of losing a career or credibility follows if one does not exercise best practice. The mission is to love all people, but not condone actions and lifestyles against God’s design. Therefore, Christians must ask the following questions. Why does the transgender community actively seek out speech therapy? What does the Bible say about transgenderism and how Christians should respond to it? How does a Christian SLP appropriately react to a transgender client asking for voice modification?
Why is it such a big deal for the transgender community to seek speech therapy as an option for gender modification? Transgender clients try surgery, hormone treatments, and other means by which to change their physical representation. According to Gorham-Rowan and Morris (2006), hormone treatment may not aid in altering the vocal folds to resemble the opposite gender. Therefore, transgender clients desire speech therapy to alter one of the most noticeable differences between males and females. Some clients try to forcefully change their voice to be perceived as a specific gender. This direct manipulation of the natural voice may cause other voice problems such as tension, unnatural sound, and breath flow restriction. Therefore, transgender clients seek speech therapy to alter their voices with as little resulting consequences as possible.
What does the Bible say about transgenderism and how Christians should respond to it? Because of the controversy related to this topic, it is necessary to see what God has to say about it. A Christian SLP must seek wisdom before simply reacting. An unsupported reaction proves fatal to a Christian’s testimony.
First, God clearly designed people as either male or female. Genesis 1:27 states, So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. God did not design any room to explore variations of these two gender identities. No other categories are even mentioned in biblical accounts. God not only created these two identities with his own image, but he also created them with specific roles. Genesis 2:18, 20-22 describes a brief picture of these roles. It states, And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
Second, because God specifically designed people in his image, those desiring to change that image act directly against God’s perfect design. God did not design for people to change who they are. He designed bodies as a place of worship for him, not a worship of self. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states, What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. When people change their natural selves, they hinder how God’s natural design is presented. Ephesians 2:10 states, For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Last, understanding these aspects of God’s design proves key to accepting God’s original creation. A Christian should understand that people who struggle with gender identity may not understand the design behind their existence. A Christian must show love, patience, and boldness in describing God’s original design. Transgender clients often have difficult backgrounds due to physical trauma from gender modification, emotional trauma from family and friends, and possible spiritual trauma from church. An SLP must understand the hurt this community faces. The response of the SLP must be geared towards restoration not condemnation. Showing transgender people that God loves who they truly are, and that they can accept that for themselves, proves the mission of the Christian SLP.
Understanding the way God thinks about people who choose to alter his creation is important in understanding how to treat transgender clients. SLPs must create a practical approach to implement when interacting with this community. How does a Christian SLP appropriately react to a transgender client asking for voice modification?
An SLP must initially react to the client with kindness, not apprehension. First, the Christian SLP should seek to refer the transgender client to another clinician. Second, Christian SLPs may use lack of experience in the area of gender modification therapy to dissuade clients. Next, the Christian SLP should explain the long-term ramifications of pursuing voice modification including muscle tension and other voice disorders. Furthermore, the Christian SLP must remind the client that therapy may prove unsuccessful in completely altering the voice to match the desired gender. If all responses fail in discouraging the client from pursuing therapy, then one option remains.
Last, Christian SLPs can explain their inability to provide modification therapy due to personal convictions. In this explanation, the SLP must show this refusal of treatment is not directed at the client personally. SLPs must explain they are not refusing therapy as a whole, but specifically the area of gender modification therapy. In refusing to provide therapy, it is likely, if not inevitable, that the Christian SLP may lose a job or credibility.
This form of practical response is necessary of Christians in many professional careers including surgeons, psychologists, coaches, and many other professions. The responses of professionals to these communities affect the lifestyle and attitude of the transgender community. A surgeon refusing to perform modification surgery, a psychologist refusing to help people to accept an unnatural gender, and a coach refusing to allow transgender students to play on a unisex team create an uproar in the politically correct community. The response of these professionals must be respectful and loving of the person, but not the lifestyle.
Providing treatment facilitates the progression of a lifestyle directly against God’s original design of humanity. Christians need to love the person but cannot condone the lifestyle. The purpose behind this stance is not one of judgment or retaliation, but rather a goal of restoration. Any antagonism toward a transgender client does not represent the true love of Christ. The goal should be maintaining our testimony in sharing the hope of Christ to this community that desperately needs the truth of natural identity in Christ. God created all people as a unique masterpiece for his glory. Transgender people need this truth presented clearly with love and tact. If Christian SLPs follow a biblically practical response to transgender clients, they will show love and boldness despite any situation presented to them. Therefore, Christian SLPs must face these situations knowing what the Bible says and how to implement truth into their daily careers.
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