Centering Queer and Trans Birth: Recap of Our October Collaboratory


Watch the full event

Key Takeaways: 

  • Queer and transgender people face harmful discrimination and violence in birthing spaces.
  • More harm occurs at the intersection of birthing as a Black and transmasculine man than as a white, transmasculine man.
  • As a healthcare provider or birthworker, be open to correction and not taking it personally, nor centering yourself in the process.  


The State of Health for Queer and Trans POC

Queer and transgender people face uniquely oppressive challenges when navigating medical systems. Assumptions, expectations, and misinformation around gender and sexual orientation in medicine are rooted in oppressive binary and heteronormative systems that reinforce a limited definition of what constitutes health.  

People who identify under the LGBTQ+ spectrum and are of the BIPOC community face the double jeopardy of encountering both racism and heteronormativity which results in the higher — and often highest — level of health disparities. Specifically in prenatal and birthing spaces, queer and trans people of color experience stigma, discrimination and erasure

For PTBi’s October Collaboratory, keynote speaker Kayden Coleman led a cultural competency training for providers who care for queer and trans birthing people. Coleman is Black trans dad of two daughters, both of whom inspire him to engage in advocacy work for transmasculine individuals who birth their own children. 

Birthing While Black and Transmasculine

Kayden ColemanLike many of our birth justice advocates, Coleman began by sharing his pregnancy story. During his transition, he was told to pause taking testosterone hormones in preparation of a top surgery in 2013. “I was always told that after a certain amount of time on testosterone, it would render me infertile. I wasn’t going to be able to have kids,” he recalled.  

A few months later, Coleman noticed he was unusually gaining weight.“So I’m in and out of the doctor [asking] ‘What’s going on? I’m petite.’… They are basically like ‘Kayden, there’s nothing wrong with you.’ But I am like ‘Okay, I know something is wrong with me. Something is off.’”  

It was a lot of fighting for basic things. Like ‘Yes, I know I am at the OB’s office. I didn’t make a mistake.'

Kayden Coleman

Keynote Speaker, Trans Father of Two

By the time that Coleman got a pregnancy test and confirmed it with his doctor, it was determined that he was 21 weeks along. Even at an LGBTQ+ clinic, it was overlooked that Coleman’s symptoms were indicative of pregnancy — moreover, the clinic that he was referred to was not competent in inclusive reproductive health.  

In addition to having to change his gender marker to female in order to receive perinatal services, he was constantly misgendered. “It was a lot of fighting for basic things,” he noted. “Like ‘Yes, I know I am at the OB’s office. I didn’t make a mistake.’” 

For Coleman, his perinatal experiences resulted in trauma, a correlation of that trauma with his daughter, and being diagnosed with PTSD and postpartum depression — all while having no support.

Postpartum Support as a Black Transmasc Father

Even transmasc parent groups were spaces that were for white folks, many of whom (unlike Coleman) have planned pregnancies with a different set of struggles. “I was low-income, living inner city as a Black person, and when I found out I was pregnant, I qualified for Medicaid. I didn’t have many choices in terms of care. When we hear stories about white transmasculine people, often times in those stories, they became pregnant through IVF — it was a planned pregnancy normally — and they are having these beautiful experiences,” he said. 

Aside from socioeconomic differences in birth experiences, Black trans men are often considered threatening and screened for mental health issues. These stereotypes and microaggressions are rooted in anti-Black racism.

“When Black people enter medical spaces, there is a high chance that we are not taken seriously or listened to. Add [being] trans on top of that and the focus becomes being Black and trans and not what we are there for. Our issues are not being taken into account. There’s been many times when I’ve gone in for one thing and my entire visit has turned into this trans Q&A thing. Or they spend most of the time trying to gauge our level of whether or not we are mentally ill or not,” Coleman emphasized. “The health system is based off white supremacy. There are things in place that are meant to keep us where we are.” 

Anti-Black Racism in Trans Advocacy 

Following Coleman’s training, Ajira Darch — a queer, fat, Black doula who works with Roots of Labor Birth Collective— and king yaa (pictured below) — a queer and trans reproductive justice educator — engaged in a fireside chat. 

“The erasure of Black trans experiences in reproductive experiences is something that we need to address,” king yaa said. “There was another trans man, a white trans man who was pregnant at the same time. The ways in which social media has not given Kayden the amount of attention that this other white trans man [received] who shared stories about being on a farm and about their goat. Kayden has a full ass life. Kayden is a Black, gay, trans man [and he shares that.]”  

king yaa

“The only time white people rally around Black transmasculine people such as myself is to save me. Because they want to eat up that trauma and they need to be that white savior and that’s just being honest with you. And once they are done saving me, they unfollow,” Coleman responded. “The white transmasculine experience is just more palatable. Because it is these stories of triumph and bravery.” 

king noted that too often for Black people, survival is the ultimate goal. king hopes that, beyond survival, folks can come away with the best experiences whether that be in births or abortions. These experiences should not only be safe but empowering and beautiful. But for many Black folks that is not the case. 

Providers and Birth Workers Can Make a Difference 

 Ajira Darch

What should birthworkers and providers bring to the table? “We have to look beyond learning pronouns. Pronouns are the minimum,” Darch added. “A sense of a willingness to actually engage with some of the experiences of people outside of your own. It’s sometimes exhausting how the main ask is just [for providers] to listen and learn.” 

“Not making any assumptions,” king recommends. “Being welcome to partners, especially in LGBTQ+ families, and asking about roles is often foregone in these spaces as well.” Darch also shared, “Being open to being corrected without centering yourself. It’s not your birth, it’s not about you.” 


Take Action

  • Recognize that allyship requires constant action: Continually educate yourself about anti-racism and trans experiences by learning from — and paying — transgender advocates. (Such as Kayden Coleman, learn more about how you can fund him via his Instagram.)
  • Engage in respect and care for trans birthing people, keeping in mind that Black queer and trans experience differs from the white queer experience.
  • Take time to listen and give attention to the requests and needs of Black patients and LGBTQ+ families.