New 'gender-affirming' voice course teaches college students how to sneeze, cough like opposite sex

Russell Sage College is launching a 20-hour Gender-Affirming Voice Program in spring 2025, allowing “gender-diverse” individuals to modify their voices and non-verbal behaviors, like sneezing, to align with their identities.

The program will offer small group sessions on their Albany campus, focusing on aspects of voice such as pitch, inflection, and resonance.

Russell Sage College in New York is launching a Gender-Affirming Voice Program in spring 2025, offering gender-diverse individuals the opportunity to modify their voices to align with their “identities”—including by modifying how they sneeze—through a comprehensive 20-hour course.

“The Gender-Affirming Voice Program at Russell Sage is for gender-diverse individuals who seek to modify their voices to match their identities,” the university’s website explains. “Starting in the spring semester 2025, the program will take place on a weeknight on our Albany campus.”

Under the section that explains the program’s “philosophy,” the university wrote, “We provide participants with the opportunity to explore their voice and communication goals in a safe, welcoming small group environment.”

The page explains that the program will teach both language and non-verbal communication. Additionally, it will cover actions such as coughing and sneezing.

[RELATED: ‘Queer Resource Center’ that hosted ‘Gay Skeleton Wedding’ organizes special graduation for LGBTQ students]

“Broader aspects of language and communication are also covered, with attention to language and nonverbal communication,” the website explains. “Finally, we attend to behaviors such as coughing, sneezing, and throat-clearing, because these often affect listener perception of gender.”

The course will last twenty hours over a semester and cover a range of vocal dynamics to allow participants to “modify” their voices to match their “identities.”

“Modeled after the longstanding program at The College of Saint Rose, sessions will be two hours long, and each semester will include 10 sessions,” Russell Sage’s website states. “The program allows participants to explore aspects of voice, like pitch, inflection, resonance, articulation, and loudness.”

[RELATED: Montana State to host special celebrations for ‘multicultural’ and ‘LGBTQ-identifying’ graduates]

Russell Sage’s program is based on a similar program at The College of Saint Rose, which recently announced that it will close this month. The professor who co-founded Saint Rose’s transgender voice modification program, Jack Pickering, has explained that the goal of the program is to “enhance” a person’s identity.

“You’re taking a flute and making it play like a piccolo. You’re trying to make the instrument play differently – not to treat a problem, but to help enhance a person’s identity,” said Pickering.

A graduate clinician involved in Saint Rose’s program, Ann Nguyen, likewise stated that part of its purpose is to support individuals as they change their gender.

“Their voices are changing and they start to dress differently. They might come here in a button-down shirt, and then they pull back their hair, and you see a beautiful pair of earrings. Their body language is more confident, more feminine, and the change is suddenly really big,” Nguyen explained. “You’re seeing people who have been living two lives, while others navigate a new identity. It’s our job to be supportive.”

Campus Reform has contacted Russell Sage College for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.