Queering birth: Pregnancy beyond the binary


By Natasha Weiss


The beauty of birth is something that every human experiences in one way or another. No matter what the journey looks like, the process of pregnancy is universally essential.


Unfortunately, the conversation around it is often incredibly exclusionary for anyone who isn’t a heterosexual cis-woman.


Inclusivity in Birth


While there is a growing acceptance of same-sex parents bringing babies into the world, the path of inclusivity must go beyond that. There are many people that don’t identify as a woman, yet are still capable of giving birth — with the desire to do so.


Everyone, especially people who don’t fit into the societal mold of the binary structures around gender and sexuality, are entitled to a respectful and dignified birth.


There are many people that don’t identify as a woman, yet are still capable of giving birth — with the desire to do so.

You might be wondering who is capable of giving birth besides women. The answer is anyone of reproductive age with a uterus! This means that trans men, transmasculine people, gender non conforming, gender non-binary, genderqueer, and anyone else who falls into this category, are all capable of giving birth.


Let’s Talk Language


One of the first steps towards an inclusive world of birth is by being conscientious of language. While "mother" is a beautiful word, it’s not representative of all the people who can take on this role. Terms like “pregnant person” and “birthing person” leave space for the myriad of humans that can carry life. Some people may not feel comfortable or identify with the word “vagina”, and so they may use alternative terms like “birth canal” or “genitals”. When it comes to lactation, new parents may choose to use “chest feeding” instead of “breastfeeding”.


While "mother" is a beautiful word, it’s not representative of all the people who can take on this role.

Other ways gendered language seeps into birthwork and parenting are by saying “husband” and “wife”. While this may work for some families, others, no matter how they identify may choose to use the term “partner” instead.


People may choose to avoid using gendered language for their children, in which case they may call them “sibling” instead of brother or sister, and use pronouns like they/them, instead of she/her or he/him.


Language is powerful, and for providers and birth workers, it is one of the first steps they can take towards creating a safer space for their patients.


Language is powerful, and for providers and birth workers, it is one of the first steps they can take towards creating a safer space for their patients.

Safety in Support


Speaking of providers, for LGBTQ+ people, finding providers who are not just accepting, but welcoming, and mirror their language, can make the difference all the difference in the intensity of birth. Unfortunately, this isn’t always attainable.


It goes without saying that healthcare in the U.S. is insanely expensive. Depending on someone’s resources, privilege, and location, they may not have the means to find different providers. Which makes it all the more important for pregnant people and their partner or support team to know how to advocate for themselves, and push for the most appropriate care possible.


Another helpful tool for LGBTQ+ folks navigating birth is to hire or find a volunteer full-spectrum doula. Full-spectrum doulas offer emotional, educational, and physical support for families during their reproductive journey, with an understanding of the wide variety of people and circumstances that come with it.


Support can also come from finding other parents and mentors who are also on this journey or have been through it before. There is a growing number of online and in-person meetups and groups for LGBTQ+ folks navigating parenthood.


Know Your Options


Pregnancy and birth are often overmedicalized, especially for queer people. This can sometimes take the magic out of the process by being forced or obligated to undergo often times unnecessary testing and procedures, because of their sexual and/or gender identification.


For many of these parents, there is also a matter of legal fees if one of the parents is not the biological parent of the child. This, with the potential added costs of insemination and fertility testing, can make having a baby that much more expensive than it already is.


For potential parents looking to conceive or who are already pregnant, the best thing you can arm yourselves with is knowledge. Know what tools and resources you have in your community, and what your options are.


Reproductive Justice for All


While we just discussed pregnancy here, it’s vital to look at the bigger picture of reproductive justice, and the importance of advocating for further and further inclusivity.


There’s a saying in birthwork that rings true here: “My body, my baby, my birth.” No matter how your baby enters the world, surrogacy, adoption, donors and so on, it’s a beautiful process. Ultimately, you know what’s best for you and your family.


“My body, my baby, my birth.”

Resources for exploring the world of queer birth:


A Guide to Gender: The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: This is a great tool for providers and birth workers to gain a greater understanding of the many variations of gender.


Birth for Every Body: Offers a variety of resources for people to help overcome health disparities and provide support for pregnant people outside of the binary.


Queer Birth: A Queer Doula's Guide to Supporting LGBTQIA+ Folks through Pregnancy and Birth: A handy and informative guide for birthworkers and families in navigating birth for queer people.



Want to read more?

Read When you have you're period, but you're not a woman: Menstruating beyond the binary


Natasha Weiss is a reproductive health writer, full-spectrum doula and contributor to the Public Goods Blog, a publication about health, sustainability and people making an impact. Check it out for a wide range of topics: everything from coconut oil and personal care products to anxiety and climate change.


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