Butches with Buns in the Oven!

ImageI opened up my Facebook today to see this fantastic picture and the words “Look guys! It’s our first butch + bun…in the oven!”

I could not be happier with this photo! First off, Chris in the picture has got all kinds of sass, which naturally I love. Secondly, pictures of people who look like me and who are pregnant!!! Someday, maybe I can add my picture(s) to the Butches + Babies blog.

I feel so happy and through the roof because it raises awareness that butches are carrying and birthing children (along with genderqueer and trans folks). When the public thinks of childbearing amongst gender non-conforming folks, my guess is the only image that (maybe) comes to mind is Thomas Beatie sharing his pregnancy on Oprah (or maybe Scott Moore if they’re really radical) as being THE transman who is also a birth parent. THE As in the one and only. A salacious circus sideshow for the public to consume and ponder about how this is even possible. This article announces that Moore is “[t]he world’s second known pregnant man”. This claim simply isn’t true. Trans and other gender non-conforming folks have been getting pregnant and giving birth since, well, longer than Oprah has had a talk show for sure. For sure.

But ay, there’s the rub. Yes I care that there is public awareness of these pregnancies. Yes, I want people to feel like they are not alone in their parenting decisions. To me, however, that’s not the most pressing issue. Most of all, I want there to be good, qualified, culturally competent, and sensitive care givers that gender non-conforming folks can reliably turn to for their GYN and OB care. I never want someone to wonder whether their healthcare provider will mix up their name and/or pronouns, never ever to worry if their body and embodied experience in this world will be treated respectfully or even competently. And part of the problem is that if there’s not public awareness of the pregnancies and births of gender non-conforming folks, then care providers will not feel the push to become competent in this area. To intentionally change their practices to become radically inclusive of all people who need their services. I want to applaud the ACNM for their recent position statement promising to work towards inclusive and competent care for their gender non-conforming clients.

Homebirth midwives, I think, could be ideal care providers for necessary sexual and reproductive health services for trans and gender queer clients as well as for pregnancy and birth. Imagine a homebirth for your beautiful family watching Baba push his baby out in the water into the waiting hands of his love and then snuggling up with their baby surrounded by care providers who know them for who they are and love and respect them. With no social workers coming in moments after the birth demanding to know who the birth parent is, removing the non-birth/non-biological parent from the room and making them sign second-parent adoption papers instead of bonding with your child in those precious first hours. Nobody using the wrong pronouns intentionally and derogatorily. Nobody giving anybody the stink eye, looking shocked, or being confused. And nobody talking about how ideal your breasts are for breastfeeding after you had a long conversation about with your care provider prenatally and explicitly stated that you plan to chestfeed your infant. Just you, your family, and your competent, inclusive care providers that you feel comfortable being your whole selves with.

I fully intend to serve queer and gender non-conforming clients in my (future) midwifery practice. I’m so close to that reality I can taste. Now we’ve just got to get MANA the general population of homebirth midwives on board and we’d really be heading in the right direction.

What to Wear as a Butch Midwife

So, what do you wear as a butch midwife? I’m still trying to figure that out. One answer I’ve come up with is this dapper gentleman to my right. What is more at the heart of midwifery than knitting? I could knit myself this handsome vest (already planned as my next big project), fit right in with midwifery and still be my beautiful butch self, right?

One of the main problems I have with dressing as a butch midwife is that I understand formal/business casual menswear. I also understand casual menswear. What I don’t understand is that very fine line between the very casual and the more formal that most midwives walk and how that translates into butchwear for me. I can’t just wear polos every day, and sweater vests are fantastic but completely unrealistic for the Austin heat. Add to the mix that I’m 5’2″ means that most men’s clothing does not fit very well and I’ve gotten myself into a real pickle (most men’s shorts look like poorly tailored capri pants on me, for example).

I have some growing to do for sure, part of which is discovering my own aesthetic. While I think that not knowing what to wear says more about my lack of education than the challenges of being a butch midwife, the fact remains that I could use an education. Do you, gentle reader, have any ideas for me, tips, suggestions, or places to explore?


Butch Midwife

What does it mean to be a butch midwife? I personally know a few lesbian midwives (and know of many more), but none of the lesbian midwives I’ve spoken with are openly and outwardly butch in appearance currently even if they are out to their clients as queer. I know transmasculine midwives and student midwives who dress masculinely, but no cisgender butches. Granted, I’m still pretty green in the midwifery world and I certainly don’t know everyone, but I’m guessing if there are other butch midwives, we are a pretty rare breed.

Note: I focus in this post on midwifery because, well, that’s where my brain is these days. However, I know there are many butch and gender non-comforming birth workers out there. One great example is Miriam Zoila Perez who continues to do the birth work world proud as a butch/genderqueer doula.

I identify (most days) as a soft butch and as a dyke. It’s an identity I have taken years to come to and one that is still evolving. I have figured out what that identity looks like in most of my life, but when it comes to midwifery it’s all still a bit of a mystery to me.

I have spoken to most of the queer midwives I know about what it is like to be practicing as a queer midwife, their particular challenges and joys in the process, and sought advice for myself when I finally begin to practice as a bona fide midwife with my own clients. What I haven’t been able to suss, though, is how do you dress and present as a butch midwife? More importantly, how do I want to dress and present as a butch midwife?

Just in time for this post, dapperQ has begun a series on fashion in the workplace. Seems like this issue has been on other people’s minds recently as well. Jody Mousseau kicks off the series with her own story of coming into her butch identity and what that meant for her in the workplace:

As an adult tomboy/soft butch, changing my fashion in my private (i.e. non-work) life to one incorporating the men’s clothes that I feel comfortable in was no problem.  However, I initially had my reservations about taking this mode of changing fashion into the workplace. My primary concern was, “how will people react?”  I had been dressing a certain way for years, and although I was uncomfortable dressing in somewhat feminine clothing almost the entire time, this very public transition in the workplace was difficult.  But the process began.

However, dressing for midwifery is a bit more nuanced than business casual in an office. I more or less get how to dress butchly in an office setting (if I may be so bold as to invent words here). With midwifery, though, people wear everything from flowing purple caftans to mini skirts to just plain jeans and a (often birth/midwifery-related) t-shirt. Most midwives I know dress less formally than business casual.  This is for some a calculated move to help put clients at ease mixed with the knowledge that practical clothing is important when you can get called to a birth at any moment.

Another challenge, perhaps the main challenge for me, is the history of midwifery as (straight, gender-conforming) women’s profession. It’s hard enough being out as queer as a midwife and how that affects your client base and who is willing to hire you, but try being masculine of center midwife and the game just got that much harder. (And don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to be trans and doing birth work, that’s a whole different story for another day.) Clients who might be able to stomach a lesbian midwife may not be willing to embrace one who dresses in men’s clothing. Or maybe not, I don’t know yet. Maybe any client who is comfortable with a queer midwife doesn’t mind if she is also butch. Maybe all of this worry is for nothing. Who knows? That’s part of the point – I can’t know until I actually try, in part because I don’t know any other butch midwives who could share their experience.

It’s nice and lovely to tell someone to be yourself and dress how you feel, but what about when it affects your bottom line, your ability to feed yourself and your family, even your ability to work in your chosen profession? For me personally, it means thinking very carefully about where I choose to move to join or set up a practice (and thank goodness I have that flexibility of geographical location, many midwives are not so lucky). It also means doing some more soul searching about my identity and presentation and how that fits into midwifery for me personally, making sure that however I choose to present feels genuine to me and helps me feel confident and professional.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post trying to suss out what one actually wears as a butch midwife.