The Queer Doula Diaries: What We’re All About

Queer Doula Diaries

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!


  1. As one of a small community of lesbian moms two decades ago and the (what I thought was dyke, turns out trans) relationship of 25+ years, I can totally relate to what you are saying about Doing long before others even begin Talking about what we’re already living.

    In that vein, it is so wonderful to see Doulas around the country expanding the meaning of the word, embracing more and more women in its definition. I love seeing the cohesion and the lack of politics that’s coming along with it. Bless you women for setting aside dogma for the needs of women.

    I started my doula career in 1983 and through the years have doula’d women through birth, postpartum, surgeries, tattoos, abortions, miscarriages, break-ups, breastfeeding, coming out and at the dentist. We doulas stretch far beyond birth, even before we try.

    Thank you, all of you for your work. Us older gals who won’t ever do all you’re able to do appreciate your energy and passion. I envy your path; it would have been mine 20 years ago. For now, I can support you through writing and exposure. I’d love to write a blog post about these organizations. Anyone want to be a spokesperson?

  2. Families manifest in a multitude of orientations and sizes, but the word itself means only one thing, really–belonging.


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