5 Ways to Make Your Birth Business More LGBTQ-Inclusive

I recently had the pleasure of attending a webinar training called "Providing Culturally Sensitive Care to LGBTQ Families" with Kristin Kali of Maia Midwifery.  Although I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on the unique challenges facing LGBTQ families, I'm always looking for ways to learn more and make sure I'm providing the most inclusive care possible. 

In this post I will share five ways that birth workers can make their businesses more LGBTQ-inclusive, and I hope these suggestions are helpful! If you have questions, please leave a comment or get in touch! 

What do all those letters mean?

Before we jump in, I want to define "LGBTQ" for those of you who may not know what it means.  It is an acronym that stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning".  There are additional letters that some people include in the acronym including I (for intersex) and A (for asexual or ally). Sometimes there are even more letters, but typically you will see it as just "LGBT" or "LGBTQ". 

-This graphic is helpful in understanding the differences between sexual orientation (who you're attracted TO) and gender identity and expression (what gender you see yourself AS and how you choose to express that).  Used with permission from www.ItsPronouncedMetrosexual.com. 

While the terms lesbian, gay and bisexual refer to someone's sexual orientation (who they are attracted TO), the term transgender refers to someone's gender identity and expression (what gender they see themselves AS and how they choose to express that).  The word queer is defined by PFLAG as "anyone who feels somehow outside of the societal norms in regards to gender or sexuality."  Years ago the term queer was used in a derogatory way, but many in the LGBTQ community (especially younger people) have reclaimed the word and use it with a sense of power and pride. 

If you want to learn more about the words used in the LGBTQ culture, here's a link to a comprehensive list of LGBTQ+ term definitions.

Like any cultural group, there are subgroups within the LGBTQ community, and if you are new to the world of LGBTQ stuff you may find your head spinning with new information.  My best suggestion is to find good resources for information and remain open to learning and asking questions, always coming from a respectful place.  I will list resources that I have found helpful at the bottom of this post. 




1. Use inclusive language

Take a gander at your website, brochure, and anywhere else you explain what you do.  How many times do you use the words "woman, mother, mom, female, breastfeeding, father, or dad?"  I am not saying you shouldn't use language that includes terms like those, but just be aware of how gendered language may alienate potential clients who don't identify as female, or mothers, or fathers, etc. There are people who identify as male, trans, genderqueer, butch, etc. who get pregnant and give birth.  They may not identify as "goddesses" or "powerful birthing women" (both terms I have personally used in my written materials in the past).  They may not breastfeed, but instead may call it chestfeeding or simply feeding their baby.  These are all things that you should be aware of, whether or not you choose to make all of the language on your website gender-inclusive. 

Also be aware of how you talk to clients and what you post on social media.  Do you automatically use the terms mom, mother, woman, and female when referring to the birthing parent? Do you use the terms dad or father when referring to the non-birthing parent?  If so, you may be unintentionally alienating an entire group of potential clients who see what words you use and automatically think "that person doesn't get who I am" or "that person doesn't understand my family structure."   Consider instead using the terms birthing parent, client, pregnant person, partner, coparent, or spouse. 

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

Here is a list of some gender-inclusive terms that you could use on your website and when you're talking with clients: 

  • Gestational parent/pregnant parent
  • Non-gestational parent/non-pregnant parent
  • Parent(s)
  • Co-parent
  • Partner
  • Client
  • Donor
  • Parenthood
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant people
  • Feeding your baby
  • Lactation
Photo courtesy of  http://macaskillphotography.smugmug.com/  Used with permission. 

Photo courtesy of http://macaskillphotography.smugmug.com/ Used with permission. 

2. Educate yourself

Take trainings,  webinars (like the one I just took from Maia Midwifery), read blogs and websites like It's Pronounced Metrosexual and PFLAG, read books,  and ask questions!  Remember, you can't know things if you don't ask.  If you don't know who to ask, ask me!  I don't pretend to know it all, but I can at least direct you to some blog or article that can help you.  

HOWEVER, while you should ask your clients questions that are PERTINENT TO THE CARE YOU'RE PROVIDING (such as "what pronouns do you use?" or "what terms would you like me to use for your partner?" or "is there anything else you'd like me to know that we haven't covered?") you should NOT ask your clients questions about their sexual orientation or gender identity that have nothing to do with your care (such as "Your husband is trans? Does he take hormones? Has he had the surgery?" or "I read an article about a pregnant man, how does that work?" or "Isn't bixesual just another way to say you're confused?").  Your clients are not the people to tell you "everything you've ever wanted to know about LGBTQ issues...but were afraid to ask".  They are your clients, not your teachers.  If they volunteer additional information because they feel comfortable with you and choose to share, that is one thing.  But they are not there to educate you on all things LGBTQ. 

Image courtesy of Jamie & Beth Robinson. Used with permission. 

Image courtesy of Jamie & Beth Robinson. Used with permission. 

3. Use visual cues

What would someone visiting your website for the first time learn about you, without reading a word? Would they only see photos of straight-looking, opposite-sex, (white, able-bodied, affluent...I could go on...) couples holding their new babies?  Do all the articles you post talk only about straight couples? Or couples in general? What about single parents? 

Put visual cues on your website and social media that will tell people that you are open and accepting of LGBTQ people.  Put up some photos of same-sex couples, single parents, and gender-non-conforming parents with their new babies on your website (if you don't have any of your personal clients, use stock photos!)  List any LGBTQ-specific trainings you've taken on your site.  Post articles that pertain to LGBTQ parents, like this one titled "Questions You Have but are Afraid to Ask {Lesbian Parent Edition}", this one titled "GLBT Parenting and The Marvel of Multiples: Tips for Gay and Lesbian Parents Raising Twins, Triplets and More" and this one titled "GLBT Family Health: How In Vitro Fertilization Affects Your Baby's Health." 

4.     Be open, listen, ask, and be respectful

Know that you can’t and won’t know everything about the LGBTQ culture.  It's constantly growing and changing, and it can sometimes be hard to keep up.  The best things you can do are to be open to learning, ask for information, read articles and blogs, and always come from a place of respect when asking questions. 

5.     Don’t make assumptions

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

Image courtesy of www.MaternalFocus.com. Used with permission. 

One of my favorite books is "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz, and one the agreements he writes about is "Don't Make Assumptions."  Even if you think you know what a person's sexual orientation or gender identity is, you don't really know unless they tell you.  And again, as I said in #2, the questions you ask your clients should always be pertinent to the care you're providing.  You shouldn't ask your clients personal questions simply out of curiosity. 

Also, follow the lead of your clients in how they describe themselves, their relationship, and their gender identity and expression.  If they call their spouse "my partner," then you should use the term "partner" when referring to their spouse.  If they want their children to call them "baba" instead of "mama," then you should refer to them as "your baba" when you're talking to their other children.  If they refer to feeding their baby as "chest feeding" rather than "breastfeeding," then you should also refer to it as "chest feeding."  Get the idea?

Many people are afraid to ask questions because they think they'll look stupid or put their foot in their mouth. Let me be the first to tell you, there will come a time (or two) when you will put your foot in your mouth, stumble over your words, or make mistakes. Just know that and forgive yourself now.  It happens to everyone when we're learning about a new culture, group, or tradition.  But if you're coming from a place of genuine respect when you ask questions, the person you're asking will typically be very understand and forgiving.  

I hope this post has been helpful for you in making your birth business more LGBTQ inclusive.  Please feel free to reach out via email, Facebook or Instagram