This post originally appeared today at the Full Spectrum Doula Network, so the language is directed toward that particular community. But the message applies to the larger reproductive health community as well–and is a key element to the work we have to do to create an inclusive movement that fully represents the vibrance and diversity of this world.
One of the core goals of this community is to create a safe space for the full spectrum of doulas and other reproductive health workers. For transgender or genderqueer folks working in the reproductive health world, part of feeling safe is not being asked to constantly, on a minute-to-minute basis, identify within the conventional gender binary of male and female–and not constantly, on a minute-to-minute basis, having your gender assumed as female because of your work as a doula or midwife.
This post is just a gentle nudge to remind folks here that your language matters. To remind folks that part of creating a safe space lies in challenging ourselves to change our behaviors that might be alienating or denigrating to folks we really don’t mean to oppress.
Here, in this safe space, you don’t have to be a ‘lady’ or a ‘she’ or a ‘woman’ (or even a ‘womyn’ for that matter) to be a doula or a midwife or an advocate.
Many of us have talked about how we’ve felt alienated in our local doula communities or in other online communities. I guarantee you that for some folks, gendered language and expectations of gender performance are a key part of that feeling of alienation. This new community provides an opportunity for each and every one of us to challenge ourselves to take an intentional step away from using pronouns and generalized terms that assume a female gender identity for all reproductive health workers.
FSDN has a draft Community Guidelines document, which states,
In order for FullSpectrumDoulaNetwork.org to function as a safe space for everyone, we will not tolerate racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ageism, or any other behavior that creates an environment that is oppressive, hostile or uninviting to any person.
Let’s imagine what it must feel like to come here, to our cozy little radical corner of the reproductive health world, to our safe space, and feel unwelcome, misunderstood, or alienated, based on an overwhelming abundance of ‘she’ and ‘ladies’ and the like.
Let’s realize that even with the best intentions, our words can create an environment that is not a safe space.
Let’s be intentional with our language. Let’s be safe for each other.