8 ways to become a queer inclusive doula practice

by Anna Balagtas

I hear this question often: I want to be more inclusive to queer people. How can I do that?” and my answer is always, “Why?”

Why do you want to be queer inclusive? Is it because you’re queer yourself and want to find more supportive ways to care for your community? Is it because you’re cis and/or straight and want to make sure you want to provide safer spaces for people? What drives your needs and wants to make your practice queer inclusive? What are your priorities? Let’s start there first.

The reason it’s important to ask ourselves these questions is because for many there is the fear that folks will call themselves queer-inclusive without taking the steps to actually make themselves safer people or safer spaces for queer folks to interact with. 

If the reason you want to call yourself queer-inclusive is because you want to drive more business to your practice without doing the work, then you’re in this for the wrong reason. I kindly ask you to step aside and make room for the careworkers who are ready and committed to truly be queer-informed.

We have to remember that a queer inclusive practice is not just a label you put on your business. Queer inclusivity is a lifestyle and a commitment to lifelong learning. Queer and inclusive communities are constantly evolving, which means we need to be open to changing our ways of thinking and working, regularly. The goal is to live such a queer-inclusive life that it naturally becomes a part of your practice – because you enforce it everywhere else in your day to day! We’re not performing queer inclusivity here – we’re living it.

Once you’ve confronted and unpacked the reason why you want your practice to be more queer inclusive, let’s dive right into the how. 

Here are 8 ways to become a queer inclusive doula practice.

Note, there are absolutely more than 8 steps to queer inclusivity so don’t stop here. Use this as a jumping off point and keep exploring all the different ways that are not included in this list.

1. Cis straight folks, expand your learning. Learn directly from queer folks about their needs.

Queer folks have been loud about our access needs for a while now. Just one quick search on Google and you’ll see a sea of recommendations and requests from queer folks about ways to ensure care feels affirming for them. Mind whose voices you’re listening to, too. It’s not enough that they identify as queer – you have to diversify these voices too! Think: queer fat folks, queer PGM (people of the global majority) folks, queer disabled folks, queer neurodivergent folks – look into whole intersections of people!

2. Queer folks, also keep expanding your learning. Find your blind spots and look into positionalities that are not your own and how best to support communities that you are not kin to.

Just because you’re queer doesn’t mean you’ve done the work. The way you experience queerness will still be different than how another person of different intersections experiences queerness. To become queer inclusive, we need to be mindful of how we position ourselves. Even though we hold queer identities, it doesn’t make us experts on the spectrum of queerness and the ways people experience queerness. Let’s take me for example: I’m a queer Filipina femme, but I wouldn’t know the experiences of someone who is Indigiqueer/2Spirit because that’s not part of my positionality. What I can do, however, is follow and listen to the voices of Indigiqueer/2Spirit folks and learn from their cues of ways I can support their communities. If you want to explore more about your own positionality, check out this post!

3. Build your resources and refer out.

Take note of the full spectrum intersections within queerness and make a list. In this list, try and find people to follow, practitioners or other doulas who hold these intersections, books, documentaries, podcasts, workshops, websites, etc. and turn it into a living resource list. (A living resource list is a list that constantly grows and changes – it’s never stagnant.)

Keep in mind, though you might have the resources and tools to help queer folks and to provide care, perhaps you’re not the best person to be their support system. Gauge the type of care your clients are looking for. Again, taking me as an example: a pregnant transmasc person may seek my support as their birth doula. I feel very capable of supporting them, but I will always leave the option to refer them out to someone I know who is also a doula and transmasc themselves or have more experience in supporting transmasc pregnancies. If this potential client still chooses my care, I know it’s because they truly chose me even after I had sent them other referrals.

4. Create brave spaces and safer spaces.

Understand that any space you hold will not automatically be “safe” just because you say so or slap a Pride sticker to the window or a rainbow flag on the wall. You have to actively work on creating brave and safer spaces. That could look like having gender neutral bathrooms, leaving room for feedback, asking folks for their accessibility needs, and how a space might feel braver for them before arriving, etc.

5. Signify you’re a “safer” person.

In addition to hosting safer spaces, you have to make it known that you are a safer person through your personal actions. This could look like introducing yourself with your pronouns (if it’s a safe environment to do so), if you’re queer, openly communicating this identity (if it’s a safe environment to do so). What you don’t do is say “well I have queer friends so that makes me a safe person for queer people”. No no, it truly does not.

6. Ask for feedback.

If you’ve supported or are supporting queer folks and families, ask them for honest feedback with how they felt with your care. Have the option to give this feedback anonymously so they can be honest with their experiences and not feel that they need to protect you from something that you need to learn in order to grow. It’s important for you to hear feedback even if it doesn’t feel good. It’s a reminder that there’s always room for growth.

7. Ask your queer friends and trusted folks to support you in your growth – but make sure you pay them for their labour.

I have something called “Pick My Brain” paid consultation calls where folks can book me for an hour and… pick my brain! About anything and everything! Check to see if there are queer folks in your community who have capacity and is open to have you ask them about paid “queering up your practice” consulting and take them up on this to further expand your knowledge on queer inclusivity.

8. Amplify queer voices of the global majority (QTBIPGM)

Just like referring out, amplifying queer voices is directing energy to other queer folks in the queer community. Even if you are queer yourself, I’d like to remind you again that there are different flavours and spectrums of queerness that we won’t be as versed in as we are in our own positionalities. Just another reason to expand your resource list and amplify the voices of the queer folks around you! Beware of scarcity mindset. Amplification does not take away from you. Amplification opens you up to connection – the absolute opposite of scarcity.

Et voila! We’ve explored 8 ways to become a queer inclusive doula practice!

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, queer inclusivity is a lifestyle – not just a label. By working towards queering up your life it’ll naturally lead to queering up your practice too. I’d like to invite you to take these steps and expand on them. Just like your living resource list, let these steps be living too and foster ways to nurture and grow it. The queers are counting on you.

You got this. Keep on queering on!

Resources:
Books
Videos
 Podcasts
Workshops

 

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