Supporting every birthing body & parent: A guide to inclusive language
CN: use of gendered and non-inclusive language to offer alternatives
Should we consider using inclusive and affirming language when discussing birth and parenting? A resounding yes, and let me tell you why. When I got into birthwork, I already knew that affirming and inclusive language would be the platform I worked from. Inclusive language at a baseline harms no one, we are holding space for each person's identity.
Inclusive language not only affirms people in the LGBTQIA+ and trans and gender diverse communities but also single parents, non-parenting birthing people, and non-monogamous people. There are expansive identities all of which benefit from affirmative inclusive language.
Background & resources:
It’s important when we talk about birth and parenting, we recognize a few truths.
Not all pregnant people are women
Not everyone who gives birth will be parenting that child
There are many types of relationships outside of a monogamous and heterosexual model (ie. single parents & polyamorous relationships)
If you do a quick search online for doulas in your area or childbirth education classes, you will likely see one type of family presented; a white, able bodied, heterosexual, cisgender, couple. The language used will also reflect this specific idea of birthing people and their families. These specific portrayals of families do not accurately represent the wide range of diverse individuals and families that need access to these essential services.
In my work, I want everyone to feel safe, seen, and affirmed when visiting my website or working with me. To make sure that birthing parents have the best experience possible with me as their doula, I make sure to use language that holds space for diversity when it comes to sexual orientation, gender identity, and people's definitions of family.
If you are looking for further resources on gender identity or relationship structure, below are a few resources to support your education and exploration.
The Gender Unicorn: Trans Student Educational Resources
Polyamorous Relationship Structures
USA Today: Not All Pregnant People are Women
Listed below are a few language shifts you can use to be more affirming of all experiences. Please remember, gender neutral terms are great for general audiences, but always ask about preferred language when referring to an individual. In addition, you may mirror language that individuals use for themselves. Refrain from making assumptions about what language someone may use. One of the exciting things about language is that it’s always evolving, and so these terms might shift in the future. It’s a great idea to take a look around for what inclusive language is being suggested in your community.
Wrapping it Up:
It is important to me as a queer person and as someone who strives to be a safe place for everyone to feel seen and heard that my practice was also accessible to each person. Birthwork and parenting are not one size fits all, and therefore neither can be the language. Using inclusive language allows space for expansive visions of families and identities. Each person who makes this shift contributes to making the birth and parenting world safer and more accessible for each individual and family.