Former pop-punk bassist Jess Gibbard is on a mission to transform trans voice coaching in North America and around the globe.
The Saanich-based 27-year-old started her business TransVoiceCoach.com just over two years ago, inspired by a lack of quality services in the field, and has helped people mainly feminize – and also masculinize – their voices with great success.
She describes it as the most meaningful work she’s ever done and is now focused on growing her coaching reach and bolstering her expertise by weaving speech pathology into the mix.
“I came out as trans in December, 2020, and couldn’t afford proper voice coaching (most options were $200-400 per hour). So I had to learn it myself. The province offers a free program but the wait list is 1-2 years and they don’t cover up-to-date material.
“I got into coaching because I wanted to provide the service that was lacking and share my learning in an affordable way.”
Gibbard launched her website and organically began attracting interest and eager clients. She now coaches five to ten people a week online.
“I wasn’t advertising the website and my advertising budget was $0. But I took a ‘build-it-and-they-will-come’ mentality and people started finding it via Google.
“Most of my clients come from North America, where our time-zones are more in sync, but I also teach around the globe, including Ireland, the UK, Japan and Brazil.”
After coming out as trans, Gibbard got Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in March of 2021. Much of the journey aided her in figuring out the science of voice coaching, where pitch and harmonics are key.
“If you’re on testosterone, a lot of the masculinization happens naturally (the vocal tract enlarging). For trans-feminine people it works differently. Taking estrogen doesn’t reverse the effects of testosterone. You have to manually reduce the space in your vocal tract.
“So a larger physical space having more air in the system causes lower-end harmonics to be extenuated and a smaller physical space higher-end harmonics.”
Gibbard does her coaching online from her bedroom in Victoria.
Gibbard also played bass in a pop-punk band called Furniture Party from high school up to 2022 — and learned piano and guitar as a kid.
“I’m starting to practice my music again, moving into the trans singing genre. I post acoustic demos on YouTube.”
She currently also works at an optometry clinic to supplement her coaching income, and studies linguistics full-time. She’s focused on ultimately adding another dimension to her coaching with a Masters in speech language pathology.
“My main goal with the trans voice coaching is to work with the province and see if I can help restructure their program into a more up-to-date and cohesive one. Having access to low-cost or free resources is significantly important for people like me.”
To learn more about Gibbard and her service, visit: transvoicecoach.com.
With files from Christine Van Reeuwyk.