Cynthia Fortlage is an incredible person. She is a multi-award-winning gender identity speaker, consultant and specialist, solving gender-related issues for organizations. As a proud trans woman, Cynthia has dedicated her life to promoting “acceptance without understanding” her unique approach to bridging the gap of understanding between all genders and individuals.
In honour of today, International Trans Day of Visibility, we wanted to relaunch our blog by featuring Cynthia. Her incredible journey involves support and services at Deer Lodge Centre (DLC) and we, the Foundation, couldn’t be prouder to have Cynthia as an ambassador for the amazing work of the DLC Speech Pathology Team
Deer Lodge Centre Foundation: Hi Cynthia! Thank you so much for agreeing to chat with us today. Can you start us off with a bit of information about yourself?
Absolutely! My name is Cynthia Fortlage, a former Winnipegger now happily living in the UK in Northwest London. I like to refer to myself as one person who brings ‘two genders’ and two careers of experience! Formerly I worked in business and technology in the logistics industry. Now I work to develop intentional cultures of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
That’s such a unique way of putting it, that you are one person who brings two genders of understanding to the table. How old were you when did you first realize that you were born in the wrong body? That who you were as a person didn’t match the form you were given.
Extremely young. It was at the age of four. I had societal pressure to “man up” and “be the boy you’re supposed to be”. And that just didn’t feel right. But it wasn’t until 2016 when I realized that there was an unexplored journey, my gender, that I needed to address. So, I began the journey of transitioning.
And that led you to Deer Lodge?
Yup. My medical service providers mentioned the vocal services and programs at DLC.
And so that began the process of working to develop a more traditionally feminine speaking voice?
Yes! When I began the program, I was a working executive who was also doing public speaking. So, the use of my voice was very significant professionally as well as personally. So, to have an authentic voice that presented the same way as the rest of my physical being was extremely important.
What sort of things did you learn working with the Speech Language Pathologists at DLC?
There were the basic mechanics of speech, cadence, language, lyrically, pitch, tone and so on. There were so many techniques that involved exercising the voice, practical uses of our voice both in session and beyond. There was also a key element in building trust in our voice and appreciating the journey we have come by examining voice examples before, during, and after.
Our voices are so important to us and in our daily lives. How has finding your authentic voice altered and enhanced your life?
As a professional public speaker, in over 300 events and in 30+ countries, my voice is critical to being able to do my job. Finding my voice through treatment at Deer Lodge Center allowed me to not undergo another surgery (I already had nine surgeries in seven months). It also helped me find the ability to develop my voice, so I had the confidence to exist in public My voice is a critical part of my identity and it is now truly my own.
Before we go, can you chat a bit more about “acceptance without understanding”?
Of course! Acceptance without understanding is all about just that; acceptance. It’s the ability to see the human being first and not our differences. We don’t all have to understand each other, we just have to see the humanity in one another and put that first. You can accept someone without understanding them, and often enough once you do that, the understanding will come.
Thank you so much for doing this Cynthia. It’s always such a pleasure to chat with you