Queer Birthing Practices and Feminist Phenomenology

Having spent much of my clinical practice as a perinatal nurse, working in the US and Canada, and being a member of the LGBTQ community, it is not surprising that one of my great passions as an educator and researcher is in the area of queer birthing practices.  In particular, my scholarship has largely explored phenomenological and feminist questions that address the taken-for-granted practices of nurses and primary care providers in their relationships with women, where gender and queer practices intersect in the context of birth.

Despite health care changes to diversity initiatives and cultural competency programs, that provide more inclusive definitions of culture beyond ethnicity and race, in addition to the relevance of cultural humility and safety approaches that have educated nurses on the limitations of their own knowledge and sense of privilege (Goldberg, 2014), there continues to be a lack of understanding in how to work equitably across difference in birthing contexts with queer women, where the standard(s) for treatment have been historically and institutionally grounded in a sociocultural privileging of heterosexuality (Goldberg, 2009). Insofar as birthing posits heterosexuality as taken-for-granted, the historical narrative of birth continues to reinstate discriminatory patterns of oppression. As such, relationships outside of the assigned birthing norms are often described as “other,” independent of best practice guidelines developed to support nurses and other primary care providers in their commitment to the provision of equitable care.

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We use feminist phenomenology to frame the research we do and to address queer birthing questions in the context of health care, and specifically nursing practice. While this is not a methodology given primacy in healthcare research, it nevertheless provides a robust framework for addressing issues of power and privilege in relation to perinatal provider practices and their impact on affirming and/or diminishing lived space across difference. In particular, this methodology has been useful in our work, insofar as it provides a means for articulating the complexities of birthing within health care systems and structures pervasive with heteronormative practices that negatively influence and potentially harm queer women’s birthing trajectories. To read more about queer birth and/or feminist phenomenology, the following may provide insight into these important areas for nursing practice, research and education:

Article: Equitable Health by Lisa Goldberg

Feminist Phenomenology and Medicine

Queer Birthing Relationships web site

On Female Body Experience

About lisagoldberg2014

I am an Associate Professor and Caritas Coach in the School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS. My educational scholarship spans over 10 years and includes the mentorship of undergraduate and graduate students in nursing and other health-related disciplines. Using innovative feminist and queer phenomenological methodologies, my research examines the taken-for-granted and relational practices of nurses, primary care providers, and women in contexts of birth (and beyond) against the institutional landscape of gender, power, and heteronormativity. More recently, having completed the Caritas Coach Education Program through the Watson Caring Science Institute (WCSI), my scholarship has integrated new strategies for more deeply understanding LGBTQ health in relation to its systemic invisibility within curricula and nursing education more broadly. This further builds on the potential integration of Caring Science as a way forward with respect to deepening nursing curricula, thus ensuring it critically questions the place of the situated-self in the nurse’s world. This returns nursing to its historical beginnings of health, healing and holism, offering a foundational ethic upon which to create a new ontology for nursing practice, research, and education. On a personal note, a few fun facts about me: I am obsessed with all things tea; live by choice without a vehicle or cellphone--perhaps the only remaining person in the western world to do so. I dream of London and taking tea with Dame Judi; I have a beautiful black fluffy cat named Petunia, and a niece of ten whom I adore. If I were not a nurse academic, I would own a tea shop--although I would worry about the amount of cake I would consume on a daily basis! And not too the surprise of those who know me well, I studied philosophy and modern dance prior to my life as a nurse.
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