By Katie Presley
Queer folks, it often seems, spend a lot of time waiting for the rest of the population to catch up. Marriage equality is just beginning to enter law books, when (surprise!) we’ve been marrying each other forever. Our “ability” to adopt, birth, and parent children is debated at dinner parties; meanwhile, we’re missing those parties because we’re busy taking care of our kids. This isn’t to belittle the growing presence of queer issues in the national and international conversation, certainly, but doing the actual living of our lives will almost always win out over engaging in rhetoric about it.
With this is in mind, when I became interested in doula work, which has existed for thousands of years and is currently enjoying a renaissance among natural health advocates, I found myself in a familiar position. Doula is a Greek word meaning “female attendant,” and has been applied most often to birth support specialists, who offer non-medical emotional, physical, and informational support to people giving birth. In recent years, “full-spectrum” doulas have begun offering their services in conjunction with adoption, abortion, pregnancy, birth, post-partum, and miscarriage.
At the beginning of this year, I found myself with a critical mass of doulas and doulas-in-training in Austin, Texas. Our experience covered the spectrum of pregnancy, but we were having trouble finding one place where all of our backgrounds could serve one inclusive community. Too often, politics get in the way of supporting a person in need. Is it anti-choice to rejoice in the birth of a child? Is it anti-birth to advocate incessantly for a woman’s right to a safe, affordable, legal abortion? We said no, resoundingly, and The Bridge Collective was, pun unavoidable, born of our desire to connect these and all pregnancy-connected communities.
Our organization is the first of its kind in Texas, but the tradition of radical doula-ship from which we emerged is rich and thriving. The Doula Project, Open Umbrella Collective, and Open Arms are just a couple of examples of doulas around the U.S. who are redefining the work we do, and, notably, whom we do it for. We believe people count more than procedures, and that every body counts. It’s as simple as that. And, as a queer doula, I’m ready to wait while the mainstream catches up to that idea.
This is the first in a series of posts about being a queer doula. Look for more from Katie and The Bridge Collective soon!