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.
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: