Today I’m sitting down with Beth Hardy of Heart Tones Birth Services. Beth has a lot of fantastic insight into the queer community. She’s been working as a doula since 2011. A doula is a birth support person who is educated in birth and is there to help clients physically, emotionally, mentally. Doulas don’t do anything medical and are strictly there to support the birthing person and their partner. Beth’s work as a doula began in San Francisco and has now moved to Salt Lake City. Beth identifies as queer, is married to a trans person and wants to help the queer community especially when it comes to birth.
Many people don’t quite know what to do with those that don’t fit into the traditional box of straight, cis females within birth. Birth is inherently feminine culturally, and even for those that identify as cis women, they may not identify as a “birthing goddess” while laboring. That language may not fit with everyone. There’s people giving birth that do not identify as women and people are becoming more socially aware and part of that is learning respectful language and being educated about it. Beth is not just a doula, but an educator to her community and doula community with an emphasis on inclusivity.
Doulas often serve as protectors to their clients and Beth’s work is that much more important for the queer community. The last thing you want to be doing in labor is answering even more intimate questions than usual (or any questions at all for that matter).
Beth is also a board-certified music therapist and is trained to use music in all it’s different forms within healthcare in some way – hospice, birth, all times of life. Beth is also trained in music therapy assisted childbirth. It’s not live music, it’s using recorded playlists in labor that help the birthing person feel more calm, more comfortable and adds an extra layer of familiarity. Most people in the US deliver in the hospital, so having a specialized playlist from home can foster feelings of safety like a cocoon of peace, tranquility and strength.
Sometimes going to the hospital can really throw off labor. It smells different, it’s lit differently, there’s nothing about it that is your home, and those feelings of safety make a big difference instinctively, when it comes to laboring and delivering a baby. We need to feel safe and secure and having this musical security blanket is amazing.
Beth also writes custom womb songs for her clients, asking about how they’re feeling, what they want to say to their baby, how they want to feel, all those sweet and tender things that help get you into the mindset that this is a person that we want to welcome into the world. She takes those words and puts together an original song to be played during their pregnancy, as a gift to their baby, to themselves and to be played during the birth.
Beth has some intimate insight into the queer community and speaks openly on her social platforms about how to help support and love and be educated.
(Obviously we’re both speaking from where we know and Beth knows she does not speak for the entire queer community.)
So how do we approach pronouns? What are appropriate questions to ask?
For Beth working as a doula, she sticks to anything she actually needs to know. She’s not a medical provider so she doesn’t need to know anything about their medical history unless they feel like they need to share it because it might affect their birth.
For example: “How are you planning on feeding the baby?” It’s open-ended, it’s easy and it leaves the question easily answered.
Sometimes we get really protective of our language, like the term breastfeeding, because we’re just now getting comfortable with it! Broadening our language or adding additional terms doesn’t harm anyone and helps encourage inclusivity. For example: “breast-feeding AND chest-feeding” doesn’t take anything away from those that breastfeed or are passionate about breastfeeding.
You’re just adding to it, you’re not taking anything away. It’s just allowing more people to feel included. And I think that’s kind of the case with a lot of this stuff. With terms, don’t feel threatened, your femininity, your reality of who you are, is not in any way compromised or lessened because other people are now included in this experience of childbirth (or anything).
I felt like I couldn’t say woman after being harassed a bit, and instead I now say “women and people,” “parents,” etc. It’s so easy to open up your language and be more inclusive.
I feel like often curiosity gets the best of people, and we sometimes lose general decency. If you wouldn’t want someone asking you about your genitals or who you like to be intimate with, maybe don’t feel like you can do that to anyone else, even if they look like they don’t fit in the cis/het box.
What’s a good way to ask about pronouns? It can be helpful to state your own first and lead with inclusivity and making people comfortable. Using the term “preferred pronouns” can be offensive. Leading with your own quickly and easily opens up the conversation. Pronouns, a rainbow and other small visual cues in your social media can also signal to others that you’re offering a safe space and an open conversation.
What challenges does the queer community face when it comes to birth? The biggest challenge is the expectation to be an educator while also being in labor. That’s part of why a doula is especially helpful for those that are queer. Being called the wrong name, pronoun, etc can be especially troubling, confusing and can pull you out of the cocoon you so carefully created!
Consent is also something that is extremely important (for ALL birthing people) but especially for queer people that may be suffering from dysphoria or other disorders that can come with identifying as queer.
It was so good to hear that most people just want to do good and try really hard to be inclusive. Beth hasn’t experienced a lot of discrimination personally and is so glad.
Beth is very comfortable, very out and happy to answer questions but not everyone is like that and we shouldn’t expect them to be. Gender and sexuality are very personal topics and it’s not anyone’s job to educate you about themselves or the entire LGBTQIA+ community.
GOOGLE IT. Youtube it. There’s so much information available.
Imagine trying to explain and represent everyone in your own community. For me (April) I identify as cis gender and heterosexual, but it’s a lot to ask me to speak for that entire community and explain every part of it (believe me, I’m The Vagina Blog, it’s a lot!) and we’re all fairly familiar with the cis-het experience! Don’t ask our queer community to try and do that! Before asking, ask yourself that question and see how you would respond.
And I’m so grateful that many, like Beth are so open and willing to help and educate. As society becomes more aware and people become less marginalized, we will be continuing to learn about how to best respect and love each other. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Apologize and move on, don’t make it about you, don’t expect people to make it ok for you. Just fix and move on. We are all going to have moments of stumbling and making mistakes.
So Beth, how do you manage your period?
She loves cloth pads. She tried the sponge, the cup and has found cloth pads to be the easiest and most comfortable. She gets on etsy and shops cute small shops and has a whole collection!
Where can we find you?