MOORHEAD - Ayleah Evitt isn't preparing her voice for a choral performance. She's stretching her vocal cords as part of transgender speech therapy.

"Typically, females speak with more inflection and you're very good at that," Inga Sveen, a student clinician, tells her. 

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The program at MSUM is one of only a few nationally, started back in the early 2000s.

"Presenting to the world too because they're going to know who you are, they're going to either not like you or accept you," Evitt says. "One way or the other."

Evitt, born Lawrence Evitt and a veteran in the military, rolls her shoulders and massages her neck as a part of her new mission.

"Finally that I can be myself and present and not have people think second thoughts of well she looks female, but she sounds male," she says. "And that perspective causes a lot of problems for transgender people."

She practices matching pitch, and saying words or phrases into a computer program that says whether it sounds more feminine or masculine.

"Pass the butter," she says.

"Females will typically be a little more gentle, and butter," Sveen says. "Still place that sound, still be a little bit more gentle and not punch it as much."

Evitt performs vocal exercises every night as part of her eventual full transition, physically, to a woman.

"Accepting yourself and accepting not to care what other people think; to be and do who you are," she says.

Weekly therapy in a small room, making a big difference in the life of those often misunderstood. The program has helped around 50 people transition since it started.