Content Warning: racism, transphobia, homophobia, microaggressions, oppression, mental health
Can we talk about how postpartum care doesn’t inclusively serve LGBTQIA+ families? This is a necessary conversation.
Historically, the LGBTQIA+ community(an acronym that means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, with + meaning additional individuals who are a part of the community) has experienced homophobia, transphobia, racism, discrimination, and violence. Many acts of violence are targeted against those in the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those who are trans and of color. Violence and discrimination can affect LGBTQIA+ people in different ways, including impacting their mental health. According to the Williams Institute of UCLA, at least 46% of LBQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer) women* are diagnosed with depression.
LGBTQIA+ Black/IPOC (Indigenous, People of Color) also experience additional layers of discrimination, oppression, and violence, as people of color who are not heterosexual and/or cisgendered. Intersectionality has its place in the lives of Black and Brown individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community, because marginalized lifestyles such as being disabled, single parenthood, non-monogamous relationships, no to low-income environments, and more need to be considered.
Now, why does all of this matter regarding postpartum support? Why read about the heaviness of these experiences when it comes to postpartum doula support?
As a doula who is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I am here to serve my people and amplify the importance of postpartum doula work that centers LGBTQIA+ families.
My Approach to Postpartum Support
I approach this work in these ways:
- My work is centered on advocacy. As an advocate for my community, this plays a huge role in my work as a postpartum doula serving LGBTQIA+ families. I connect myself with other birthwork organizations that are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, such as the Queer Doula Network. I also joined and connected with other perinatal community leaders to strategize how to amplify the need for postpartum support . Outside of being surrounded by some amazing leaders who are doing the actual community work, I continue to also partner with perinatal education programs and resources to facilitate information-sharing about the importance of and how to show up for the LGBTQIA+ community in postpartum.
- I make sure to check my personal and professional experiences (i.e. traumas) that could influence my work in a problematic way. My daily self-reflection and healing practices help me to move in this work to serve my community. Yes, being a Black femme birth worker can carry past traumas that cause harm to my community if I am not aware of how my own experiences can create barriers. In other words, I work on keeping my trauma out of my work so that my clients feel safe, affirmed, and not forced to receive “second-hand trauma.”
- I create spaces that help to affirm and provide inclusive support by the genuine gift of active listening. As a postpartum doula, active listening to clients’ needs is required. I come in as a guide. I do not label myself as an “expert,” due to the fact that my clients teach me how to serve them in their time of need. They are the true experts of what they want and how they want it. Even in times where they may not know, I come in as a team member in their postpartum recovery—to work with them rather than dictate what they should do. How dare I come into their space to proclaim I know it all? I definitely do not. Postpartum doula work for the LGBTQIA+ community needs more active listening. This helps to create better ways of showing up inclusively and not just in a performative manner.
As a postpartum doula, one of my major goals is to make sure my clients feel safe in their own space and journey of healing. I am there to not only serve, but to empower and encourage my clients to express their needs. I do this as supportively as I can.
There are a variety of resources that provide a vast amount of information for those who want to know how to support LGBTQIA+ individuals and families in an inclusive way. Some of my favorite resources for becoming involved, connected, and informed are below.
*binary language used according to report, please note that this information excludes people who are nonbinary and transgender.
Resources for Further Reading
King Yaa, The Queer Birth Worker (Queer+Trans ReproJustice Advocate)
Moss The Doula (Trans & queer centered doula services)
Mystique Hargrove (She/They) is a certified full spectrum doula, lactation educator, and childbirth educator focusing on serving the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community. Mystique is also a Pathway 3 IBCLC mentee, midwifery instructor, holistic herbal practitioner, and Evidence Based Birth® Instructor. Currently, Mystique is a Ph.D. student with a research focus on inclusive services and advocacy in perinatal mental health for Black LGBTQ+ individuals. Find them at TheBlackBirthHealer.com