Written by Abbey LeJeune (they/them/theirs)

Whether you’re cisgender or transgender, straight or queer, or any practicing birth worker, you won’t automatically know how to care for and support LGBTQIA2S+ birthing and parenting folks. Creating a queer and trans friendly, inclusive, and affirming environment is not a one-and-done process; it is ongoing learning process as the queer community is ever expanding and shifting. Familiarize yourself with queer identities, family types, and queer conception, and customize your support and language to affirm each individual client and family. Here are 5 simple ways that you can support queer and transgender clients within your doula practice.

1. Don’t make assumptions.

Don’t make assumptions about someone’s experiences or identities. Looking at someone, you cannot guess their sexuality, their gender, their pronouns, or their identity (even if you really think you can). Really, you can’t tell much about identity or personal experiences from just looking at someone! Instead, offer space for your client to share this information with you, whether verbally or written down. Queer and trans people, and every single human being for that matter, come in different bodies and have unique individual experiences. As a doula, a way that you can offer up space and time to discuss experiences and identities can be through optional questions on a client information form. Ask pronouns, important identities, birthing role, parental role, past experiences or traumas that could impact this pregnancy or postpartum period, and even leave space for additional comments from the client. When it comes down to it, the only way to know someone’s personal experiences, sexuality, gender, pronouns, or identity is for them to explicitly share that information with you.

2. Use inclusive language.

Create space for all queer and trans identities on your forms, contracts, and educational materials. When creating those documents for your practice, ensure that the language you use is inclusive to as many people and identities as possible. For example, using language like pregnant or birthing person instead of pregnant woman or expectant mother; parent(s) instead of mother and/and father; body or chest feeding instead of breastfeeding; and internal reproductive organs instead of female reproductive system. By using the most inclusive terms possible, you will be able to make all of your clients, and potential clients, feel comfortable. And once you know what terms and labels they identify with, then you can use those moving forward in a client specific manner.

3. Educate yourself specifically on queer and trans rights and issues in your area.

As a doula, you should already be familiar with birthing people’s rights, but if you want to serve queer and trans clients, ensure you are educated and up-to-date on queer and trans birthing, parenting, health, and general rights and issues in your area (city, province/state/territory, country). For example, in the States, some same-sex parents have to apply to adopt their own child. There are also additional things to consider, like which doctors and health care centers are queer inclusive? Have they ever served a trans birthing parent before? What are the limitations and barriers to safety in your area? For example, in Florida, queer and trans folks are currently losing their equitable access to health care. It is important to help queer folks navigate the health care system, as it is a system that wasn’t designed for them (and more so may have been designed against them), and to be aware of the rights and issues in your area.

4. Advocate for your queer and trans clients (with their consent).

Queer and trans people are more likely to experience microaggressions and macroaggressions within the medical care system. Folks have been denied care, abused by medical professionals, coerced or forced into medical treatments, and been stripped of their own agency. Because of this history and present-time oppression, it is important to be prepared to advocate for your client. Make sure that your client is being respected and honoured as a whole; this includes being gendered correctly and having their physical and emotional boundaries respected. If your client is experiencing homophobia or transphobia, stand up for them.

5. Prepare to make mistakes and to be in a position of constant growth.

Even when you try your hardest to be the most inclusive birth worker ever, you will still make mistakes. That is part of who we are as humans. But we can’t let it get us down. Be open to making mistakes and learning from them. If you misgender a client, correct yourself as soon as you recognize the mistake and move on. Take the time to learn from queer and trans folks, in your community or online, that are willing to educate you and have these conversations with you. And don’t stop learning! As the LGBTQIA2S+ community continues grow and shift, there will be more things to learn. Prepare to make mistakes and to be constantly in a position of learning and growing as an individual and as a birth worker.

Further learning:

  • Queer Conception: The Complete Fertility Guide for Queer and Trans Parents-to-Be, book by Kristin Liam Kali
  • Baby Making for Everybody: Family Building and Fertility for LGBTQ+ and Solo Parents, book by Marea Goodman and Ray Rachlin
  • Birthing Advocacy Doula Tranings, @birthingadvocacy on Instagram or www.badoulatrainings.org
    • Continued Education Courses, such as Queer and Trans Reproductive support
  • Moss the Doula, @mossthedoula on Instagram or www.mossthedoula.com
    • Gender Affirming Birth Work Class
  • king yaa, @queerbirthwork on Instagram or www.kingyaa.co.za
    • Birthing Beyond the Binary Course