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Singing While Sick & Queer Empowerment: A Trans Toronto Singing Teacher's Perspective

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

In the vibrant and diverse city of Toronto, the LGBTQ+ community has found a place to thrive, express themselves, and find their voices. While providing singing lessons in Toronto, I have had the privilege of working with many individuals from the queer community, witnessing firsthand the power of singing as a means of self-expression and empowerment.

However, one challenge that often arises, especially in a city known for its long and harsh winters, is the question of whether it's safe to sing while sick. In this article, we will explore the intersection of vocal health, vocal empowerment, and the unique considerations that individuals from the queer community may face.

**The Importance of Vocal Empowerment**

For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, finding their voice goes beyond the physical act of singing. It encompasses the journey of self-discovery, self-expression, and self-acceptance. Singing can be a powerful tool in this journey, allowing individuals to connect with their true selves and express their identities in a way that words alone cannot convey.

Singing has the potential to boost self-confidence, alleviate stress and anxiety, and provide a sense of belonging. It can serve as a form of therapy, helping individuals process their emotions and experiences. However, when illness strikes, it can feel like a barrier to this essential form of self-expression.

**Can You Sing While You’re Sick?**

Vocal rest is commonly recommended in situations such as acute laryngitis, the presence of vocal nodules, following vocal surgery, or when high-stakes performances are on the horizon. While vocal rest is essential in these cases, the question of whether you can sing while you're sick depends on a few key factors: Symptoms, Skill, and Stakes.


Understanding the nature of your illness is crucial. Most vocal damage occurs not directly from the illness itself but from how we manage it. Coughing and throat clearing, for example, can place strain on the vocal folds and lead to issues. If you have a lung infection, swollen vocal folds, or have been coughing excessively, it's wise to proceed with caution.

However, if you have a head cold or nasal congestion with minor symptoms, you can generally sing without significant worry. In some cases, singing can even have a soothing and therapeutic effect on the voice. The key is to use proper vocal technique and not push your voice beyond its limits.


Consider your skill level as a singer. Are you familiar with vocal exercises like sirening or lip bubbles that can help reconnect parts of your vocal range? Do you understand how to modify your voice through your passaggio or use techniques like twang or cry to reduce strain? How does your breath control and vocal fold closure affect your condition?

If you're an experienced singer with a good grasp of these techniques, you may be better equipped to sing while sick. However, if you're a beginner (with approximately 0-2 years of lessons) and have been coughing frequently, it's advisable to take a break from singing until your symptoms improve. You can still participate in virtual singing lessons under professional supervision to continue your vocal development.


For those who rely on singing for performances, the stakes can be high. While I don't recommend public performance while contagious, there are situations where you may feel compelled to proceed with a gig despite being under the weather.

Some doctors have prescribed steroids for singers to reduce vocal fold swelling in such situations. While this option can provide temporary relief, it may come with negative repercussions on the voice that last for a few days. It's crucial to consult with your ENT specialist before considering this option.

Alternatively, you might choose to rely on your body's natural adrenaline to power through the performance. Discuss your situation with your Singing Teacher, as experienced voice teachers have a deep understanding of anatomy and healthy vocal production.

**Vocal Empowerment for the Queer Community**

For members of the queer community, finding their voice is often a multifaceted journey. It goes beyond singing and encompasses the process of embracing one's true self, expressing their identity, and advocating for their rights and recognition. Singing can be a powerful vehicle for this journey, offering a safe and affirming space for self-expression.

**Practical Steps for Vocal Self-Care**

In addition to considering whether to sing while sick, it's crucial for members of the queer community to prioritize vocal self-care, especially when facing the unique challenges that may arise in their journey of self-discovery and empowerment.

Here are some practical steps for maintaining vocal health:

1. **Stay Hydrated:** Hydration is key to vocal health. Drink plenty of water to keep your vocal folds lubricated and functioning optimally.

2. **Warm-Up and Cool Down:** Before and after singing, engage in gentle vocal warm-up and cool-down exercises to prepare your voice and prevent strain.

3. **Rest Your Voice:** If you're feeling fatigued or have been singing extensively, give your voice adequate rest. Silence can be golden for vocal recovery.

4. **Avoid Vocal Abuse:** Be mindful of how you use your voice in daily life. Avoid excessive throat clearing, yelling, or speaking loudly, as these can strain your vocal folds.

5. **Seek Vocal Health Professionals:** If you encounter persistent vocal issues or discomfort, consult with a laryngologist or voice specialist to address any concerns. Toronto has some of the finest ENT's available, which can be found through google or recommendation by your voice teacher. It you are outside of the metropolitan area, you may have to travel to speak to one.

6. **Practice Good Technique:** Whether you're singing or speaking, use proper vocal technique. Consider taking singing lessons or voice coaching to refine your skills.

I can help with that! An invitation:

Are you a singer in Toronto, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or someone on a journey of self-discovery and vocal empowerment? Whether you're an experienced vocalist or just beginning your singing journey, your voice deserves to be heard and celebrated.

I, as a dedicated singing teacher in Toronto, understand the unique challenges and opportunities that singing can offer, especially in the context of vocal empowerment. If you've ever wondered about singing while sick, vocal self-care, or how to harness the power of your voice, I'm here to help.

And if you can't come in to the studio, but still want the benefit of a trauma-informed, gender affirming voice teacher, I also provide online singing lessons!

**Claim Your Free Consultation**

I invite you to reach out for a free consultation where we can discuss your vocal goals, address any concerns you may have, and explore how singing can be a transformative tool on your journey of self-expression and self-acceptance. Whether you're facing vocal challenges or simply seeking guidance on vocal health, I'm here to provide insight and support.

During this consultation, we can:

- Assess your current vocal abilities and needs.

- Explore strategies for vocal self-care and development.

- Discuss your unique journey and how singing can empower you.

In the journey of vocal empowerment for the queer community, singing serves as a powerful means of self-expression and self-acceptance. While the question of whether to sing while sick depends on various factors, it's crucial to prioritize vocal self-care and make informed decisions that align with your overall well-being.

Remember that your voice is a unique instrument, capable of conveying your identity, emotions, and experiences. Embrace the power of singing as a tool for self-discovery, self-expression, and vocal empowerment, even in the face of challenges. Your voice matters, and it deserves to be heard and celebrated for its authenticity

To claim your free consultation, register here with your name and a brief description of your interests and concerns in the intake form. Let's embark on this empowering vocal journey together.

*Note: Limited consultation slots are available, so don't hesitate to secure your spot.*

About the Author: Tylor van Riper is a singing teacher in Toronto, specializing in healthy vocal production through balancing acoustics & power. With degrees from multiple universities (MA, Musical Theatre, Guildford School of Acting) he performed on international stages, before founding OUT THERE SINGING, a private voice school in Toronto's Gay Village, which has a mission to empower and train gender diverse voices.


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