This is a series highlighting folks who identify as Radical Doulas. Are you interested in being part of the series? Go here to provide your responses to the profile questions and I’ll include you!
About Rory O’Brien: I’m a genderqueer doula working in the DC Metro area with a passion for supporting LGBTQ families grow. I am currently a pre-certified labor and postpartum doula with DTI and ProDoula, and expect to complete certification by March 2017. In addition to working as a labor and postpartum doula, I hope to soon provide supportive services for LGBTQ people and families seeking surrogacy, adoption, and abortion. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RoryOBrienDoula/
In addition to my doula practice, I am a faculty member of the Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program at American University, a sex-positive educator with Lotus Blooms, and a skilled expert in violence prevention. I hold a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health from Washington University in St. Louis.
What inspired you to become a doula?
As a public health social worker, I am passionate about filling the gaps in services that are offered to my LGBTQ community. After learning about doula work through friends and colleagues, I recognized a need and felt that I could meet it.
On a personal note, I also felt separated from the birth world despite my long-term involvement in movements for reproductive and sexual justice. I saw my doula practice as a way of being involved in a truly incredible chapter of people’s lives. I feel incredibly honored to be welcomed into this work and world.
Why do you identify with the term radical doula?
I identify as a radical doula because I am a doula who supports the birthing person in achieving the most fulfilling birth possible, however the birthing person sees fit. I support varied family arrangements, including same-sex, trans and genderqueer, polyamorous, single, and asexual people and families. I support people through labor and postpartum and I hope to support people through adoption, surrogacy, and abortion – however people choose to expand or not expand their families, I want to be available to them to support them through that choice.
I am radical in my perspective on birth, my methods of support, and my commitment to this work. I advocate for the right of every birthing person to self-determination.
Finally, my work as a doula breaks gender boundaries. As a genderqueer and male doula, I distort perceptions of who can provide care and compassion and I present a model to other male-bodied people that directly opposes violence and control over the bodies of women, queers, trans, and people of color. I am proud to represent new ways of being in this world.
What is your doula philosophy and how does it fit into your broader political beliefs?
I honor the self-determination of LGBTQ people. This alone sets me apart in placing trust in the abilities of LGBTQ people to parent. I believe that we all have the right to choose what we do with our bodies, and that we all deserve respect and support in times of beauty and strife. I fully support the choices of the people I serve, with regards to how and whether to have sex, give birth, have an abortion, breastfeed, parent alone, adopt, alter our bodies, and do any other thing that is of a personal and intimate nature.
I support you in making that choice and I will advocate on your behalf to ensure that you can make that choice now and in the future. I will stand in the streets, call my representatives, publish editorials, and draft policy. If you ask me, I will happily raise up your voice so that we might change these systems together.
What is your favorite thing about being a doula?
I love the idea of supporting people to express themselves confidently in the face of serious challenges. I am excited to be a part of this momentous occasion, to see the excitement, joy, and triumph of a new family.
If you could change one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth, what would it be?
If I could change one thing, I would set a new rule: pregnancy and birth can be challenging and scary, so people going through this experience deserve our support, not our negativity. I want all birthing people to be surrounded by empathy and encouragement.