Category Archives: Gender

We Are Not All Women: Midwives, Doulas & the Gender of Birth Work

Tucked inside the new issue of SQUAT Birth Journal #5 is my latest article “We Are Not All Women:  Midwives, Doulas & the Gender of Birth Work.”  The article shares the experiences of a transgender midwifery student, and a male midwife who’s been practicing for 30+ years.

The article attempts to challenge our assumptions about the gender identities of birth workers, and to explore the estrogen-rich environment that is the birth world.

Here’s an excerpt from my interview with Kennedy Rollins,* a transgender midwifery student:

“Considering his experience of feeling alienated in the birth community, Kennedy wonders what effect his gender identity will have on his ability to serve birthing families.  “As someone who really wants to prioritize being accessible to people, and being able to be a competent care provider, how am I potentially restricting myself by transitioning?”

There will undoubtedly be families who are not interested in having a transgendered midwife as their care provider.  “I know that I would reach more people if I appeared to be female,” Kennedy admits.  But at the same time, there are also birthing families who embrace gender diversity as an element of the vibrant world around us, or who are themselves gender-non-conforming.  For these families, Kennedy and the handful of other publicly transgender doulas, midwives, and student midwives may be the ideal care providers.”

* A pseudonym has been used in this article to protect the privacy of the person being interviewed.

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Smiling at Fred Phelps

How the fuck do you smile at Fred Phelps?

Scotty Weaver was an 18 year old gay Alabaman who liked to dress in drag. He was brutally tortured & murdered by 3 teenagers in 2004. Fred Phelps is glad he's dead.

I’m watching the documentary Small Town Gay Bar, and there’s this loooong interview with the infamous Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church.  He’s smiling and happy and cheerful as he describes the wrath that God is bringing down on us all for our acceptance of “fags.”

And the kicker is, you can hear the (liberal, LGBTQ friendly) filmmakers chuckling along with him as he spews his hate to their camera with a huge grin on his face.

I get that they did what they had to do to get the interview.  I can identify with having to compromise yourself for a moment in order to accomplish a larger goal.

But imagining myself sitting across a table from Fred Phelps, smiling and chuckling along with him–EVEN just for a few minutes, for a fantastic purpose–makes my skin crawl.  My head is spinning at the thought of it.

End rant.

Gendered Language in this Safe Space

This post originally appeared today at the Full Spectrum Doula Network, so the language is directed toward that particular community.  But the message applies to the larger reproductive health community as well–and is a key element to the work we have to do to create an inclusive movement that fully represents the vibrance and diversity of this world.

One of the core goals of this community is to create a safe space for the full spectrum of doulas and other reproductive health workers.  For transgender or genderqueer folks working in the reproductive health world, part of feeling safe is not being asked to constantly, on a minute-to-minute basis, identify within the conventional gender binary of male and female–and not constantly, on a minute-to-minute basis, having your gender assumed as female because of your work as a doula or midwife.

This post is just a gentle nudge to remind folks here that your language matters.  To remind folks that part of creating a safe space lies in challenging ourselves to change our behaviors that might be alienating or denigrating to folks we really don’t mean to oppress.

Here, in this safe space, you don’t have to be a ‘lady’ or a ‘she’ or a ‘woman’ (or even a ‘womyn’ for that matter) to be a doula or a midwife or an advocate.

Many of us have talked about how Continue reading

this is THE conference to be at. see you there!

The annual conference ‘From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom’ is the closest thing to a major radical reproductive rights conference out there.  I suspect that a good number of you have already been to it before, and I’ll be there in April 2011.  Come! 

Every year 1,000+ reproductive health advocates gather for an Abortion Speakout, plus workshops on incredible topics like:

  • Expanding the Doula Model of Care: Training and Being Abortion Doulas
  • Abortion Care
  • Abortion Access Internationally 
  • Abortion Funding and Access in the U.S. 
  • Mothers Among Us 
  • Empowering Birth 
  • Politics of Family Creation 
  • Healthcare for All
  • Translating the Gender Landscape: Creating Awareness and Activism 
  • Trans Feminism
  • Beyond the Gender Binary: A Trans 101
  • Blogging for Reproductive Justice
  • Self-Help/Self-Exams
  • Demystifying Reproductive Health
  • International Reproductive Rights Roundtable 
  • Organizing for Health Care Access

These workshops are from last year, but this year’s schedule promises to be even more ridiculously great–it’s the conference’s 30th anniversary.  It’s hosted by the Civil Liberties & Public Policy program at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. 

The real kicker is that this amazing event is free.  Yeah, I said free.  So, no cost for the conference, plus a bunch of meals are included, plus free transportation around the area, means this is probably one of the most accessible (as well as the most fly) conferences around. 

So join me!  Come and share and learn and grow and network!  Who’s in?

Domestic Duty in the Desert…and Gender Inequality…Maybe?

My daughter Ramona, at Pritchett Arch near Moab, Utah, where we camped this weekend.

The Black Diaper Collective just rolled in from a weekend camping trip in the Utah desert with friends. 13 adults and 5 kids spent the weekend under the stars, camped below a beautiful sandstone arch near Canyonlands National Park.

Last night, as we finished dinner and settled in to share a few drinks and some s’mores by the fire, bedtime came for the kiddos. I watched as one by one, each of the kids’ corresponding mamas ushered them off to their respective tents. I heard one mama reading ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ to her 3 year old, and glimpsed another mom nursing her 2 year old and 8 month old to sleep quietly. As I humored my daughter through her giggly last-ditch attempt to avoid actual sleep in our tent, I thought about how all the wonderful papas were still sitting out there, comeraderizing around the campfire, while us women-folk did our domestic duty.

Uhm, whoa.  Domestic duty??  I don’t even believe in such a thing, but that seemed to be exactly what was happening as I looked at the scene around me. Continue reading