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On today’s podcast, we have an exciting takeover in celebration of Pride Month. We have Mystique Hargrove, Kortney Lapeyrolerie, and Nadine Ashby to talk about their experiences as Black queer and trans birth workers.

Mystique (She/They) is the radical femme CEO, and creator of “The Black Birth Healer.” Mystique is a holistic birth and postpartum wellness specialist who is certified as a full spectrum doula, a lactation educator, a childbirth educator, and a Diaspora death doula. Mystique is a Pathway 3 IBCLC mentee, an Evidence Based Birth Instructor, and our podcast coordinator. Currently, Mystique is a Ph.D. student with a research focus on inclusive services and advocacy in perinatal mental health for Black LGBTQ+ individuals. 

Kortney (She/They) is a queer Black healing justice activist, birth worker, conflict mediator, and content creator. She is the founder and organizer of the Queer Doula Network, which maintains a digital LGBTQIA+ birth work and birth work-adjacent directory, provides workshops, and holds community spaces for LGBTQIA+ birth workers to find support. Kortney has worked with the Black Health (formerly the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS) and the Latino Commission on AIDS, providing capacity building around communications and sexual and reproductive health. 

Nadine (They/Them) is a queer trans birth doula and doula educator. Nadine’s work is built on a foundation of social justice and equity. Nadine’s birth work journey started with their mother taking them to the births of family members and friends. Nadine leaned into the incredible transformative power that birthing people unearthed at each birth they attended. This reverence led Nadine to earn a degree in Biology with the intention of becoming a nurse-midwife.

They talk about what Pride Month means to them as Black queer and trans birth workers and their past experiences which lead them to their roles to advocate for birth and reproductive rights of queer and trans bodies of color. They also talk about the challenges they face in their communities as Black queer and trans birth workers and the hopeful futures they envision for their communities. 

**Content Warning: They will talk about racism, misgendering, homophobia, transphobia, and trauma.**

Resources
Learn more about Mystique here (https://www.theblackbirthhealer.com). Follow Mystique on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/theblackbirthhealer) and on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/blackbirthhealer). Learn more about Mystique’s fundraiser project on Black-led birth and postpartum services here (https://ifundwomen.com/projects/black-led-birth-and-postpartum-wellness). 

Learn more about Kortney and The Queer Doula Network here (https://queerdoulanetwork.com/). Follow The Queer Doula Network on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/QueerDoulaNetwork/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/queerdoulas/). Learn more about the Queer Doula Network membership here (https://www.patreon.com/queerdoulanetwork). Connect with the Queer Doula Network by email here (queerdoulanetwork@gmail.com). 

Learn more about Nadie here (https://www.doula4all.com/). Learn more about Roots Community Birth Center here (https://www.rootsbirthcenter.com/). Follow Nadine on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Doula4all) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/Doula4all/). Learn more about Birth Revolution here (https://thebirthrevolution.org/). 

Transcript
 

Rebecca Dekker: Hi everyone, on today’s podcast we’re celebrating Pride Month with a podcast takeover with Mystique Hargrove, Kortney Lapeyrolerie, and Nadine Ashby. 

Welcome to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. My name is Rebecca Dekker and I’m a nurse with my Ph.D. and the founder of Evidence Based Birth®. Join me each week as we work together to get evidence-based information into the hands of families and professionals around the world. 

As a reminder, this information is not medical advice. See ebbirth.com/disclaimer for more details. 

Hi everyone and welcome to this special edition of the Evidence Based Birth® podcast. This is only the second time we’ve done a podcast takeover. We did one last year with the Minnesota Healing Justice Network. 

And this year I’m super excited for Pride Month that we have three amazing birth workers who are going to take over this podcast and just talk about whatever they want to talk about with you. 

And we are focusing on LGBTQIA+ issues today and talking about the history and celebrating Pride Month.

Before we get started, I have a quick content warning. In today’s podcast takeover, our guests will talk about racism, misgendering, homophobia, transphobia, and trauma. 

So, I’d like to introduce our three honored podcast hosts today, and then I will step away. So Mystique Hargrove (she/they), is the radical femme, CEO and creator of “The Black Birth Healer.” 

Mystique is a holistic birth and postpartum wellness specialist incorporating traditional Caribbean and Moroccan healing practices to serve bodies in need in her community. 

Mystique is certified as a full spectrum doula, a lactation educator, a childbirth educator, and a diaspora death doula. Mystique is a Pathway 3 IBCLC mentee, and Evidence Based Birth® instructor, where she’s also currently our podcast coordinator along with being a holistic herbal practitioner. 

Mystique also serves as an advisory board member for the United States Lactation Consultant Association, or USLCA. Mystique completed her Master of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from North Carolina A&T State University, and is currently a Ph.D. student with a research focus on inclusiveness and advocacy in perinatal mental health for Black LGBTQ+ individuals.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie, pronouns she/they is a queer Black healing justice activist, birth worker, conflict mediator, and content creator. She is the founder and organizer of the Queer Doula Network, which maintains a digital LGBTQIA+ birth work and birth work adjacent directory, provides workshops, and holds community spaces for LGBTQIA+ birth workers to find support.

Kortney has worked with the Black Health, formerly the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, and the Latino Commission on AIDS, providing capacity building around communications and sexual and reproductive health. 

She lives in Greer, South Carolina in a multi-generational home that keeps a well-tended vegetable garden, more than a few pets, and an endless supply of storytelling. 

Nadine Ashby, pronouns they/them is a queer trans birth doula and doula educator. Nadine’s work is built on a foundation of social justice and equity. When Nadine is not attending births or doing arts and crafts with their two children, you can usually find Nadine practicing their skating at the local roller rink.

Nadine’s birth work journey started with their mother taking them to the births of family members and friends. Nadine leaned into the incredible transformative power that birthing people unearthed at each birth they attended.

This reverence led Nadine to earn a Degree in Biology with the intention of becoming a nurse-midwife. Nadine is the owner of Doula4All and runs The Birth Revolution, which is a doula training and birth adjacent worker training. 

Welcome Mystique, Kortney, and Nadine to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast. 

Mystique Hargrove: Thank you so much, Rebecca. Thank you for having us. I’m so excited to share this space with you guys, especially with it being Pride Month and us being queer and trans, birth workers of color. It’s a lot.

But we are here and we are here to dismantle and pretty much take over and bring back what our ancestors and everybody else did. So I definitely appreciate you Rebecca for giving us this space to take over and just talk the talk and let’s go. 

So I kind of want to get into just let’s discuss what does Pride Month mean to you? So either Kortney or Nadine whichever one of you guys want to go first, kind of think about, or tell us about what this pride month mean for you and your work. 

Nadine Ashby: I guess I could go first. I think that Pride Month for me, ultimately, especially in the spaces that Black people have carved out for ourselves is a reminder to continue fighting oppression through joy. 

And it is also a time to celebrate each other and celebrate ourselves and build community with each other. It’s a reminder to keep going for me. I think that pride in the mainstream, kind of the mainstream pride celebration I think for me as a Black, queer and trans person, I often feel pushed out of it because of the ways that just white people are often centered and police are typically included in pride celebrations and it’s hyper-corporatized. 

And so I am really thankful for the work that Black people have done to create space for ourselves and center ourselves during Pride Month. 

Mystique Hargrove: Yeah, I definitely agree. I definitely see a lot of it being pushed as being white-centered and celebrated in a whitewashed way when Black folks are like, but had we not started what we started, had we not thrown that brick, just had we not laid the path period and made all these sacrifices, literally blood, sweat, and tears, none of this would be possible. 

And I feel like our foremothers, fathers, and parents, and aunties and whatever, all those who came together, before Pride Month was Pride Month, it’s like they’re not celebrated enough. 

It’s kind of like a sprinkle. It’s like, okay we won’t give you all this. And then all white faces, especially I see it in birth work and it’s not a lot of representation of us. 

And it’s also the fact that in the Black community still homophobia, it’s still transphobia and we are still kind of we have our voice, we found it, but we’re not backed up on it. 

We have each other’s back, but sometimes it’s exhausting because we’re trying to fight this other fight because it’s so dissected. I don’t think a lot of folks get that. I think they think we’re all like kumbaya, one with all. And it’s like, no.

Because there is racism and in the queer and trans community, that exists. There is transphobia in the and trans community. And it hits harder in my opinion for those of color, especially those who are Black and it’s no separation when it comes to people of color. 

Like they feel that, “Oh all people of color have the same battles and struggles and dealing with … live the same lives.” And it’s like, no, we’re even dissected even then because Black experience as being a Black, queer and trans person, it’s very different for somebody who’s not Black and not even necessarily just white, they’re folks of color who are queer and trans. 

So our experiences are different and it’s like it seems we are blended in and it’s not separated. And I don’t like that because it’s we have voices too. Yeah we’re standing together as siblings and family and kindred but we have our separate issues. 

And I feel like, like you said, Nadine, it’s very like corporate. It’s very like, this is cookie-cutter Pride. That’s what I call it, that’s what I consider. It’s like cookie-cutter. This is exactly what it looks like for us. No, it doesn’t, that’s not.

Because a lot of us, yeah, we want to be liberated and free and express joy and celebrate, enjoy. But a lot of us are struggling and it’s a balance. It’s we’re struggling, we’re celebrating. And then there’s some of us in the middle like we’re kind of pulled side and side through it all. So what about you Kortney? 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: No, I completely agree. I at certain stages of my life have avoided any sort of pride celebrations, mentions of pride around me altogether because I’m like I at times don’t see a reflection of myself in these celebrations and what I’m seeing on TV and what I’m seeing on social media. So, I’m like just keep the rainbows away from me right now. 

I don’t care about your rainbow cookies that you made for this one time a year. But I think that I’ve had friends who are friends of color who are like, “Okay, if you’re not seeing yourself reflected in it, then we are going to make our own thing.” 

So, there is sort of like the reminder, I guess, that we still get to celebrate ourselves even if we don’t see ourselves reflected in sort of the general pride scene. 

Mystique Hargrove: Most definitely. So I would want to kind of transition into being Black and queer and trans and a birth worker. What are your experiences? I want folks to know that we have these experiences, some are shared, some are individualized, some are mixed up in the chaos and mess. We can’t dissect them. It’s a lot of different experiences. 

So I guess in the past when it comes to being not necessarily a birth worker, just being Black, queer and trans, what have been your experiences if you want to share. And if you don’t, that’s completely okay because a lot of our experiences are trauma. I’m just going to be real.

We always say, “Oh, I’m going to share my story. I’m going to share my experience.” And a lot of folks don’t understand that when we are sharing these experiences or these stories it’s trauma, it’s trauma behind it. 

And then when we’re talking about it, we are reliving it. So if you are comfortable, you want to share like a little bit, you don’t want to get too deep. That we all set boundaries. I’m all about boundaries and setting limits.

But kind of sharing your past experience or present experience as a queer and trans Black birth worker or just person in general. 

Nadine Ashby: Yeah. I think this is a good question and an important question. For me my experience just in general as a Black, queer, trans person, and I put emphasis on the trans part of it because there have been so many instances where I have gone to seek medical care and had to educate an entire team of people about how to treat me like a human being. 

And in those situations not only am I educating about my experience as a trans person and how to take care of me as a trans person, but also I am a human being as a Black person and as a queer person. 

It’s just like so many layers and it can be very overwhelming to realize people’s baseline as so low. Know about how to take care of you and how to just even be decent to you. 

I think that in birth work, my being open about my identities has been kind of isolating because a lot of the things that I believe about how we talk about birth, how we talk about people and their bodies, how we talk about breastfeeding and chestfeeding, and how we talk about people’s families is fundamentally different than what a lot of birth workers, how a lot of birth workers refer to things. 

And getting into arguments with people and getting pushed out of spaces really happens all the time. And then there are also those people that try too hard to be in community with you and you get the people just do too much and they try to use African-American vernacular to try to connect with you, like Black friends speak like, “Yes, yes, girl.”

Mystique Hargrove: Or like, “Yes boo, do it, sis.” And it’s like what?

Nadine Ashby: And I’m like, wait a minute. 

Mystique Hargrove: Right, right.

Nadine Ashby: First of all, it makes no sense. And it just makes no sense. It’s ridiculous. And so that’s really been my experience. It’s been exhausting because it’s constantly educating people over and over again. And people assuming that everyone in this space is a woman and identifies as a woman or a mama or, yeah. So that’s been my experience in birth work. 

Mystique Hargrove: Yeah. I totally agree with you. I would say 200% from folks just dropping heavy binary, heteronormative agendas, like I mean heavy, like bombs just dropping. And it’s a lot, it’s intense. It’s a little too much. And when you mentioned when being just mentioning the fact of like, okay, let’s be inclusive. This is how we show up inclusively in spaces so that those who are not cis-gendered or heterosexual or just the typical normal mother and father or husband and wife, just outside the quote “norm” folks feel threatened by the word inclusive and using inclusive language. 

And “Why are you using ‘birthing people?’ I’m a mother.” We’re including everybody. “It excludes folks who are women and…” no, it doesn’t. It’s including everybody. When you’re like, “We’re going to their house,” that’s not binary, it’s inclusive. It’s not excluding everyone.

If you identify, you say you call yourself a mother, a mom, mama, cool. Nobody is fighting against that. Nobody is telling you you have to change the way you talk about yourself. It’s about creating spaces for others who are like, “I don’t call myself a mama or a mother,” especially in the Black community. I don’t say mama.

Folks will be like, “I don’t say mama.” I call myself mama. I’m non-binary. But my son, my child calls me “mama”. And I’m cool with that. But I tell folks, “Don’t you call me mama, call me a parent.” 

Don’t say “Hey mama.” No, no, no, no, no, no. Because we haven’t established any kind of rapport or anything. So, just off gate or, Kortney may laugh at me for this one, folks call me “sis.” I don’t like that. Don’t assume because I’m feminine presenting, and I call myself a femme and yes I say I’m a Black woman, but I’m non-binary, I’m genderfluid. One minute, I feel like a woman or I’m saying I’m a woman, next minute I’m like, I’m non-binary, because it’s fluid to me, and my identity is fluid.

And I always call myself, I’m a unicorn. I don’t fit in and that’s okay. But a lot of folks don’t get that. They’re like, “Okay mama or baby girl.” No, no, no, no, no, no, no. 

Like listen. So it’s the active listening that is not being taken into play into place. It’s a lot of ignorance with it. And like you said, I too as well, I do feel isolated at times in birth work. It’s plenty of times where I just want to quit. I’m like, “Y’all can have this I’m good. I’m done with it. Nobody wants to listen to me or my people. Nobody wants to acknowledge what we have to say.” 

And that’s a lot, it is harmful. And I don’t think folks get that how harmful it can be because I have friends who are like, “I’m Papi, I’m Baba. Don’t call me ‘mama,’ don’t say I’m a mother. Don’t say ‘mommies’ and ‘Hey mom,’ no, don’t do that.” 

But a lot of folks really get, they feel offended by saying, “Why would I say ‘birthing people’ or ‘persons’ or ‘pelvic exams’? Why should I say that?” And I don’t think folks get the fact that they need to do some work on themselves to see why does that trigger you so bad that it’s a marginalized community coming in to say, “Hey, this is how you amplify and help raise our voices and make sure we’re here.” 

We’re telling you these are the things like, “ABC.” And you’re like, “No one, two, three,” no, no, no, no, no. That’s not what this is about. So yeah, it can feel like a little, I’m not going to say a little, it can feel completely isolating because it is times where I literally will just shut everybody out, birth work and everybody out because I balance both perinatal mental health and birth work in general and I literally shut out because I’m like nobody is listening, nobody gets it.

Now like me and my kindred we may get it, and we’re venting to each other and we’re listening to each other. But as Kortney knows. But as a mass, popular, everybody else, yeah nobody wants to listen and it’s frustrating. 

And it doesn’t help the fact that it makes me, kind of pushes me away. But somehow the answers just come through and shake me up and say, “This is not what you’re going to do. What you will do is keep pushing because I didn’t pave this way for you to just say, ‘This is too much. I got to stop. I’m quitting. I’m giving it up.’” 

It’s a lot. So it’s a lot to deal with. Did you want to say anything Kortney? 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Well you know I have lots to say on the topic of being isolated because that …

Mystique Hargrove: Well say it.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Yeah, because this is a whole lot for me because this is something that I think about all the time and I’ve definitely spilled into your DMs being like, “I feel so isolated being a Black, queer, non-binary birth worker.”

So the issue is I’m Black and I’m queer. And so Black folks get triggered sometimes that I’m Black and they automatically assume because I look a little bit more femme at times that I am the cisgender people who have been treating them badly in birth spaces. 

So they automatically bristle when I enter into a space and I’m like, “Wait, wait, let me just talk first. Give me a minute. Just give me a minute.” We are together, in on this together. 

And then I have Black, straight cisgender people who automatically assume that because I’m queer, I’m working specifically within white spaces and they will automatically think that I am pushing some sort of white, queer agenda and I’m like, “I am not.” 

And they also bristle. And then I have white folks who, because I’m Black, automatically that doesn’t make me an authority on certain things. I do not have ownership of my intellectual property. It belongs to the world. Right?

And so it does make you pause and want to isolate yourself. But I’m a community organizer. I cannot silo myself. And so sometimes I am literally like, “I’m going to shut this whole operation down. I’m going to shut the Queer Doula Network down,” because it’s an emotional, it’s not a burden. It’s just a lot of work. It’s a lot of emotional labor keeping that up because I’m trying to balance all of these folks’ feelings around things and not seeing me necessarily.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes, and I’m like, “Kortney, no, I need you, I need you, please don’t leave, don’t do this to me.”

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: I am going to shut it down.

Mystique Hargrove: “You are my only hope. What can I do? I know my plate is full, but I’ll help you out right now, I’ll help you out.” 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: No, because the way that the Queer Doula Network started, I was in a training. It was my first doula training ever. And the trainer was trying to explain, I was in Mauldin, South Carolina and the trainer was trying to explain that not all birthing people are women.

Now I had been in this training for more than one day already. I had been chummy with everyone in the room, but it was all cis-gender, straight, mostly white women, and a trainer brought up like, “Okay, yeah, there are birthing people, there are trans folks who have babies.”

And the way they reacted was just so, they just folded in on themselves. They just reacted like such a way. And I was like, “Yes, that’s true. I’m confused.” And then after I did that, I was blocked from any sort of social networking experience during the rest of the training, because they were just like, “Oh, we didn’t know that you’re like that.” 

Because they were like, “Oh no, birth is a womanly experience? It is a sacred experience. And only women who have given birth.”

Mystique Hargrove: Sorry.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: “Yeah, should be there for other women giving birth and anything else that’s not natural.” And it also it’s not real, you know? And so I was like, “Oh, okay.” So this is where we are. This is how this space works. Okay. 

Where do I go as a queer birth worker to network with other birth workers? And I really didn’t find anything major. So I was like, I guess I’m going to create something then. 

So that’s how that happened because I was trying to break the isolation. But even within this space I’m isolated.

Mystique Hargrove: Right, right. Yes. And I definitely thank you for that because I tell folks who are queer and trans and they are birth workers I’m like Queer Doula Network, if you don’t where or who to connect with, go there and then just go forth because that’s how I connect with other folks. 

I’m like, “Oh we’re in here. Oh, okay.” They’re there. It’s not a sprinkle of us. It like a lot of us we’re spread out and then a lot of us are already in the streets, in the communities. 

So, we don’t have time for the fancy promotions and marketing and stuff because … And that’s why I try to tell folks it’s folks out here really doing the work, not just services, there are folks like you and Nadine out here like oh we in the streets, we are in the streets, IG, Instagram, all that great stuff. 

It’s great posting a picture here. There’s some let’s fun facts or whatever when it comes to birth work, how they do it, setting the trend when it comes to marketing. 

But it’s like when you are in these streets in the community, you really don’t have time for that. And especially being Black, queer and trans being in this birth work, sometimes we don’t have time for all that because we are balancing, taking care of folks. We’re balancing being siblings, parents, family members, whatever. And then we’re also balancing our own self-care. We’re also healing. 

We are healers in this work, but healers need healing too, healers need breaks. That’s how I created “The Black Birth Healer.” It started pretty much just dedicated, well my business started off servicing sex workers in Atlanta. And I was just doing herbal medicine with them. 

I had a very traumatic experience in my birth. Luckily me and my child we’re here, we’re good, we’re safe, covered, protected, all that great stuff. And I just jumped in to be like my experience was terrible and that nobody who is Black, queer and trans should ever experience that. There needs to be some type of holistic healing. It needs to be mental health. 

We need to know how to take care of ourselves with our food choices. And if we are able to do herbal medicine and go back to tapping into our ancestral type of roots of healing and advocacy and organizing because that’s what they did. That’s what our folks did back in the day. 

Of course they didn’t have all this technology back in the day, but that’s how their work was amplified because the community saw what they were doing. And they also took care of each other as well. I talk about sometimes, I dedicate my work to my abuelita, Mother Canada, because in my sense, I always told, I was just telling my mom, like I really feel my grandmother was two-spirited because she had this masculine energy. Well, probably three-spirited. But she just had this masculine energy. She had feminine energy. She had just like androgynous energy.

Her being from the Caribbean, homophobic, transphobic over there, and come to the States and outside she’s dressed in nice hats and shoes and dresses, but behind closed doors, she’s just in her own element. And she taught…and a lot of me is her. I literally feel like I’m walking in her shoes because she was fiery. She was bad a**. 

She flipped it over if she needs to. And she did a little bit of healing, like where she’s from in the Caribbean. And when she moved to New York and all that good stuff. 

But in a sense, she is my inspiration of just be yourself. You’re going to be loved. You’re going to be supported regardless, just be yourself. And that’s where the magic happens. That’s where the healing begins. And that’s what I do in this work is to just make my work more so priority over Black bodies, but definitely particularly Black, queer and trans bodies because I’m like the research does not show how much we are suffering. It’s very generalized. It’s very binary, not taken for accountability of being accountable for saying, “Hey, the LGTBQIA+ community are dealing with this bull…” 

And especially if they’re Black, it’s very like everybody is dealing with the same thing. And if they’re a person of color, they’re experiencing this and it’s like folks don’t get how intersectionality works. They don’t understand how maybe there are levels, there are layers, not levels, there are layers to this that folks like us, we have to navigate through. And it’s like as soon as we remove a layer with thinking we’re healed from that, we’re good it’s another thing that we have to think about and heal from, and it’s exhausting. 

But in the same time, I love where we’re going. I love the work we’re doing now because in the past, maybe our ancestors didn’t have that chance to be that loud and bold. Some of us had ancestors who worked behind scenes and were silent. Some of us had ancestors. Mostly…I can…I get where I’m coming from are fiery. 

They flipped it over. They don’t care. You’re going to listen to what I have to say at the same time they had to deal with those consequences. They still had to kind of walk on eggshells. 

Now our generation is like, we’re burning down the building, we’re knocking down the doors, we’re flipping all the tables because we said this is the problem, nobody listened to us. It’s like I always say like, the fire is burning, the building is on fire and everybody is like, “Let’s say every man, woman, and child.” 

And it’s like, “So what about us who are not in that category?” And then we’re like, “Our building is burning, it’s crumbling, it’s falling down.” And it’s like, falls on like it’s silent. Nobody listens to us. It’s like we’re neglected. It’s we’re dismissed. And then when we really start flipping things over then it’s, “Okay, we’re being attacked and why are you all so hostile?” 

And it’s like we’ve been yelling this whole entire time and you haven’t listened to us. So yeah, now we’re loud. And before..and a lot of us are still the peacemakers and bridging the gaps. I really, like I always say, Kortney is one of those folks who is … that you’re bridging the gap because I’m like I don’t know what to do. I’m about to pop off and I can’t pop off because it’s a lot of energy to pop off. I can’t do that.

But what’s the point? I’m not going to pop up. “Kortney help me.” And it goes into we also take care of each other. I will say that’s one thing about us. If nobody takes care of us and nobody heals us, we do that. We do that for each other. We definitely will come through and be like, okay.

So clearly the outside world isn’t going to help us. We’re going to help each other. We’re going to create our own spaces. We’re going to create our own programs and training. We’re creating what fits us and that’s beautiful.

That gives me, that’s when I come back into the work and be like, okay, there is some hope into this birth work and what I’m doing. Okay because I see what we’re doing and I see where it’s going to take us. 

Nadine Ashby: Yeah. Definitely. Everything that you said is spot on. It’s spot on. And I want to make sure that we highlight that criminalization piece. You know, I find that everybody is like, “You have a voice, you should use it, fight for your rights,” type of thing.

These people who are on the sidelines and have nothing to lose.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Nadine Ashby: And when we do, because we do and Mystique, you and I seem like we are probably some fiery people because I’m also a table flipper.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Nadine Ashby: When things build up and we are not heard and people are out here slipping through the cracks, losing their lives, losing their babies because of negligence, because of Blackness, because of white supremacy culture, transphobia, queerphobia all of the things, they look at us and they’re like, “Oh, you are angry and violent and big Black brute, you are so aggressive.” 

But no one looks at how aggressive and violent and torturous it is to deny somebody healthcare because you don’t understand how they identify themselves. And you don’t understand who they are, how violent it is to … 

Like if someone is telling you something is wrong and you are actively, actively not listening, that is extremely violent and should be met with the same level of violence.

Mystique Hargrove: Yeah.

Nadine Ashby: I’ve never been a nonviolent person. And so I think that that’s such an important piece that a lot of people don’t get is that it’s okay to be violent against us. And we have to sit back and be docile. And that just ain’t it. 

Mystique Hargrove: It’s not.

Nadine Ashby: It ain’t it, and I’m really proud of the ways that we are stepping up and taking the risks in order to see to it that we are safe, that other doulas are safe and that our folks are safe and getting the care that they need.

Mystique Hargrove: Most definitely. Did you want to add anything Kortney? 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Yeah, kind of going off that because I do have a lot of, not a lot, but I have Black, queer, birth workers slide into my DMS and they are … I see so much untapped potential with people because they are afraid that if they say something they’re going to be villainized.

They don’t put together their training programs that are very much needed and are pretty tightly put together. They don’t put them out because they’re fearful that if they do, they’re going to be met with backlash. 

And it adds to the whitewashing of the space, when birth work has been our thing since the beginning.

Nadine Ashby: Period, one more time for the people in the back.

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Right, but it’s white watching the space. And so there are these people who are so talented who should have a million followers on Instagram.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes, yes.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: But they are being held back by this fear that if they tell the truth, there are going to be consequences. And it’s just something I continue to see. And I don’t know how we get around that. I really don’t. 

Mystique Hargrove: And I agree. I have folks who are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community and they’re Black and they have these great ideas of healing for grief and loss. For those who experience, take the liberated choice to have an abortion, how to navigate through that or making that decision and being supportive, just tough areas where we need extra hands-on type of healing. 

And I’m like publish it, market it, push it out. And it’s like, “Well, I feel that if I talk about just being Black is fine, but being Black, queer and trans, I feel like I’m going …” And me being me, I’m like, “I don’t care.” I’m not going to, I didn’t say I don’t care. I say something else. But for the podcast I want to keep it clean as possible. 

But I’m like, I don’t care. Push it out. We need that. It’s so many folks who are in need, we still have time. We have things that we need to grieve about.

Whether it’s the loss of a baby or even we had a traumatic birth experience and a traumatic postpartum, we’re trying to struggle with postpartum. That’s huge. That’s a missing link, a couple of missing links when it comes to postpartum, in just we need to create more spaces for us. I’m like push it. 

But folks are like I don’t know. And it’s I feel like the more we as a collective come together to encourage each other, to put fire under each other, I feel that it’s going to create something huge, something major in the atmosphere for folks to have no choice but to sit down, be quiet and listen so we can then correct and check you and dismantle all this mess, all the, all the mess that, like I said, the heavy bombs that you keep dropping in birth work.

So we can show you, like I always say, put us in the front, we’ve been on the front lines, protests, riots, all that we are on, Black folks been in the front lines, queer and trans Black folks been on the front lines doing this. 

We’re the ones taking all the heat. We’re the ones strategizing and saying, “Let’s work smarter and not harder. And let’s be wise and play chess, not checkers.” We’re the ones doing this. Our experience that’s it. It’s no like I didn’t go to school. I’m like, I don’t care, your lived experience, that’s it.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Yeah.

Mystique Hargrove: That’s what qualifies you to do this? There’s a lot of folks and in my opinion it’s folks who’ve read all the books and did all the studies and all that. But unless you haven’t lived, actually lived the point of almost losing your life, losing your baby’s life or you have lost your baby’s life, losing everything, you don’t have support you. If you have not experienced those struggles, in my opinion, you can’t teach about it. You can’t write a book about it because your background, your foundation, it comes from paper, Black and white paper, words written by mostly white folks. 

And it’s not a lot of us in the mix. I feel like a lot of us should be writing those books as well. I’m like, you have a voice. I’m telling you kindred to kindred you have that voice to say, “Okay, I know you all have these fancy cute, like let’s do postpartum this way. Let’s go for a spa day. Let’s do a spa.” 

A lot of us don’t have spa days. We can’t afford spa days. Our spa days is taking a breath. That’s how we unwind, we have to breathe through it. 

And I want to just ask you guys, what do you feel as a collective we need to be doing, we should be doing more as a collective, whether it’s just with us or whether it’s with actual allies, because there are allies and there’s performative allyship because we’ve experienced that as well. 

So what do you see or what do you feel is needed for the future of birth work especially helping and healing our community and serving our community so we could be safe, period. 

Nadine Ashby: Yeah. Well, I want to say before we jump into that, that to any Black, queer, trans birth workers out there, as long as you are in alignment with the truth and you are in alignment with the needs of your community and you know what the needs are, you’re just fine.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes. 

Nadine Ashby: The rest of us got your back and we’ll guide the way. Yes, some people feathers are going to be ruffled, but they need to be ruffled. They need to be ruffled. So, I just want to like give some encouragement to be brave.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Nadine Ashby: And to know that there are birth workers out there like the three of us and there are many, many more of us who have your back and are willing to support you through this work.

As far as how we move forward to create safer, more affirming spaces, I think it starts with education and that’s why myself and a friend of mine who was also a trans birth worker, their name is B, we started Birth Revolution because I wasn’t seeing much as far as birth education that centered Black, indigenous, trans experiences. And also dived into the ways that this work needs to be intersectional.

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Nadine Ashby: Looking at phobia, looking at ableism, looking at all of the different societal things and constructs that affect the people that we’re working with and how if we don’t acknowledge those things, we are doing people a disadvantage.

And so I think providers, midwives and birth workers need to ultimately build competency and queer, trans, people of color identities, healthcare needs, and understanding the history. I also think that insurance companies need to get it together. 

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Nadine Ashby: Because I think that we hold other in a way that is radically different than anybody else can hold us. Having a doula that is culturally matched with you is life-changing and it can really save people’s lives. And we deserve to be paid and people deserve to have access to us. 

And midwives deserve to be paid, especially the queer, trans midwives who are doing this work, who are holding these people up and keeping them safe, deserve to be paid.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes, yes.

Nadine Ashby: And a lot of midwives don’t even get paid for postpartum care, and that is trash. And we know that people are dying because of lack of postpartum support. It’s not just the birth that is the most important part.

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Nadine Ashby: It’s the entire journey and they need to be paid. So that’s what I envision. I also think that there needs to be when it comes to people having access to the education to become healthcare providers and midwives, I think that the institutions need to recognize that people who have been historically pushed out of this work even though it is the work that we have been doing forever, the work that we have taught them how to do.

Mystique Hargrove: Come on.

Nadine Ashby: They need to acknowledge that they need to take these barriers away. Should we be having to pay for this? Absolutely not. How you going to charge us for our things. We should not be having to pay for this stuff. So it’s also a conversation about reparations and what that looks like.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Nadine Ashby: So that’s to happen in order for birth spaces to be safer for folks like us. 

Mystique Hargrove: Thank you. Thank you for all of that, all of it, every single part. What about you Kortney?

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Yeah, I think that there is absolutely an issue with folks operating, and it’s because of what’s happened, operating from a space of scarcity and not abundance and kind of thinking, if I share my knowledge with my fellow Black birth worker, it’s going to get stolen. So I am not going, I’m just going to sit here, think that I have an inferior product and not have anyone look over it because I’m afraid it’s going to get snatched. 

And that is totally fair because white people have indeed been stealing our knowledge. So we’re used to it.

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: So we’re just assuming that Black people are going to do the same thing. They’re still doing it. 

Mystique Hargrove: Yes.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: They still take our knowledge and don’t give us credit for it. 

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: They still replicate the things that we create that are great, and then market it and make lots of money like I don’t know where I got this idea from, it just came to me in a dream. 

Mystique Hargrove: Right. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: I was in the shower like, no, you didn’t.

Mystique Hargrove: That didn’t happen. That didn’t happen.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: That totally didn’t. That didn’t happen. So, we are all working from that place of fear. And so we are not sharing with one another. We are telling each other, don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Because if you tell somebody, somebody is going to take it, or somebody is going to taint your vision and it’s we would be stronger if we could work together, but we’re fearful. And it’s not like that fear comes from nowhere. It does come from that. 

Mystique Hargrove: Right. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: That’s honestly true, right? But I want us to get over it somehow.

Mystique Hargrove: Right. We all can eat. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Exactly. 

Mystique Hargrove: I promise you, we all can eat. Folks are like, “You don’t mind telling folks how did you come up with an herbalism class? Or how did you?” No, no, because I can’t do this by myself. I don’t want to do this by myself.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Exactly.

Mystique Hargrove: It’s a lot.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: No, I offer, I tell people, I’m like, “Do you want to learn how to community organize in your area? How to digital community organizing because I also need help.” I am not trying to do this by myself. 

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: We have knowledge that we can share with each other. There is enough to go around.

Mystique Hargrove: I promise you.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: It doesn’t mean replicate my ideas. That’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying though, is take it, make it your own.

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Do what you need to do in your space. You have a lane, find that. Don’t pick my lane.

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Just like …

Mystique Hargrove: I worked hard for this lane. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: But yeah. So find your lane and use, these are all just tools, right?

Mystique Hargrove: Exactly.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: So use these tools, and we are each other’s resource. Please come to me, talk to me, please.

Mystique Hargrove: Go for it.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: My inbox is open. You can email me, DM me, like Facebook, I don’t care. I’m a resource and I’m not going to take your idea because I want these things to grow.

Mystique Hargrove: Right.

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: I want us to be able to build community so that we can have safer birthing spaces.

Mystique Hargrove: I’m just going to throw this out there, Kortney you might need to be like a birth working organizer type of marketing strategist. I don’t know. You can rephrase that however you want. But we need more folks like you to help other birth workers, especially Black, queer and trans birth workers to be like, how do I turn this idea into reality for my community? We need more folks like seriously. I’m just going to toss that out. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: I have a whole coaching thing for that. 

Mystique Hargrove: Do it. Speaking of which, how can folks find you, connect with you because this is the time I want to folks to know they heard us talk, but I want them to know how to get connected with you guys more and any projects you got going on, let the people know because this is the space to do that. So I’m going to let you all go first and then I will go last. But I’m going to you all go first. 

Nadine Ashby: Okay. I could go. So are we just giving handles? 

Mystique Hargrove: You can use social media handles, your website, your projects, your GoFundMe Mes, whatever you have going on. I want the folks listening especially when they share it with other folks to know how to get connected with you and see your work and see what you’re doing because you guys are literally those birth workers who are out in the streets and out in the community actually doing the work and not just posting about it. You all have amazing things. So go ahead, brag about yourself. 

Nadine Ashby: All right. So on Instagram you can find me @Doula4all D-O-U-L-A, the number four, A-L-L. And through my doula work, I also raise money in order to give people postpartum support. So people will come to me asking for saying that they need a postpartum doula, but can’t afford one. And so then I talk to them about their culture and their beliefs, and what’s important to them. And I find them a doula and then raise money to make sure that that doula’s paid. 

And the information about how to donate is on my Instagram and it’s also on my website @doula4all.com. My doula education stuff is @Birthrevolution on Instagram. It’s also thebirthrevolution.org. And you can read a lot about the kind of content that we are creating right now and our value systems.

And also there is a way to donate to the Birth Revolution as well, so that we can make it sustainable and make it free for Black trans folks and also help to pay other Black indigenous and people of color, healers to share their knowledge about birth work and anti-racism. 

Mystique Hargrove: And Kortney. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Nadine I’m just like blown away anyway.

Mystique Hargrove: Right?

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: I was like, “Okay.” So Queer Doula Network can be found on Instagram @Queerdoulas. We also have the largest online directory of LGBTQIA+ folks, and that can be found @queerdoulanetwork.com. 

If you want to sign up, there is a way to do that through Patreon, which is pitching on .com/queerdoulanetwork. And then if you want to join over 500 LGBTQIA+ doulas, mostly non-binary and trans folks, and you can find us on Facebook Queer Doula Network, the group. Yes. 

Mystique Hargrove: Awesome. And if you guys want to follow me, my IG handle is @Blackbirthhealer. Facebook is The Black Birth Healer. Email is Hello@theBlackbirthhealer. And my website is theBlackbirthhealer.com. If you don’t know, The Black Bird Healer.

I’m also raising funds for Black-led birth and postpartum wellness care for Black bodies, preferably for Black queer and trans bodies to just serve them free of cost, period. Not low cost, free of cost, so I’m raising funds for that. 

And that information is also on Facebook and Instagram, but you can also donate via Venmo. I’m looking it up now, @, the @ sign, the @Blackbirthhealer, all in one word.

But yeah, that’s how you can find me. That’s how you can find us. I appreciate both of you guys for sharing this space and just talking as a collective and this conversation is needed. More conversations are needed. 

This is just, I feel like, this is just a sprinkle of what is needed in birth work, especially when it comes to serving our community. So, I definitely thank both Kortney and Nadine for joining me for this podcast takeover. And I’m claiming that there’ll be more of these in the future on Evidence Based Birth®, because yeah, there’s levels to this and we’re leveling up, we’re elevating and we’re going to do even more great things individually and collectively. So thank you so much, guys. 

Kortney Lapeyrolerie: Thank you.

Rebecca Dekker: Today’s podcast was brought to you by the Evidence Based Birth® professional membership. The free articles and podcasts we provide to the public are supported by our professional membership program at Evidence Based Birth®. 

Our members are professionals in the childbirth field who are committed to being change agents in their community. Professional members at EBV get access to continuing education courses with up to 23 contact hours, live monthly training sessions and exclusive library of printer friendly PDFs to share with your clients, and a supportive community for asking questions and sharing challenges, struggles, and success stories. 

We offer monthly and annual plans as well as scholarships for students and for people of color. To learn more, visit ebbirth.com/membership.

 

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

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