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interviews

Alex Papale

Alex Papale, they/them, @thesexpositivePT and Flourish Physical Therapy. alex.papalePT@gmail.com

Emma: Alright, well, I am here with Alex Papale, and I am excited to hear a little more about you and your practice. If you want to start by saying where you are, and the kind of clients you see and the kind of work you do in the world, that would be awesome.

Alex: I am in Boston, Massachusetts and I am a pelvic floor and orthopedic physical therapist. I’ve been doing PT for two years, have been in Boston for eight. That’s just been my home base at this point. Predominantly working with, also based on preference and just happenstance of working with largely younger folks, which is really cool. A lot of college-aged people, lots of queer and trans folks, which is also really exciting because that’s my favorite group of people to work with if I had to choose. I work with everybody, but generally that’s the case. 

Emma: You can have a preference!

Alex: Yeah, I’m not discriminatory, obviously, of whoever – I’ll see anybody. But it’s obviously exciting with queer/trans folks coming in. Love working specifically also with kink folks – love that. Because I’m also a sex educator, I worked at a local sex shop for two years teaching workshops and I have taught workshops outside of there on pretty much anything from safer sex to kink-specific things, technique kind of stuff, sex across any age – sex for older folks or pregnant folks. Pretty much anything, love talking about it. So those things really overlap a lot. I’m not sure if it’s because of those things but also a lot of my patient demographics, people that I treat the most tend to have pain with sex, pelvic pain mostly. 

Emma: It’s so good to know who you can be honest with – like, which providers, you can be like, “This is me, this is my life, and also.. I need pelvic floor physical therapy, now what?” 

Alex: Yeah, it’s huge. 

Emma: Awesome. So glad we get to live in the same place. What are you queering right now?

Alex: Ugh, like I mean.. What are you not? Existing as a queer person these days… hopefully everything. I think just healthcare, I would like to say. Also sex ed, always. I think largely making it known that queer inclusive -not even just queer inclusive — and queer competnant healthcare is a necessaiyy and absolutely should already exist. I love what I’m doing, but I wish what I was doing specifically was not really a thing, because it should just be normal and expected. Which is unfortunately not the case. Same kind of thing with sex ed, I do a fair amount of sex ed for providers which is also really fun and also something I wish I wasn’t doing because it should just be included. Making sure that is always through a queer lens, because that is such a big lack in any sex ed. If people get any sex ed, it’s usually really heteronormative and cis-normative. 

Emma: Awesome, I mean, we need it – I’m all for it. I’m curious to hear a little more about what got you started in the first place. How does one decide to become a sex educator/pelvic floor specialist?

Alex: Great questions. I decided to do pelvic PT.. I was in PT school and not loving anything else – ortho’s cool, I don’t know, I didn’t really find anything I love. I have a distinct memory of working in a group during PT school. It was a research group of some sort, and I would always be like, “This is how this thing affects these marginalized groups, this is how this impacts trans people, or whatever it is, or LGBTQ people.” Someone else in the group made a comment like, “We all know what Alex is gonna do with their degree!” I was like, “What? Oh my god.. Ok, yes.” That’s the advocacy part of it. The pelvic side of that came in because I have chronic pelvic floor dysfunction and I have had it since my teens, really. I just never knew that that’s what was happening. It was literally me, in PT school, on a pelvic floor clinical rotation, before I realized like – it’s pelvic floor stuff and not the chronic UTI’s I thought was happening, or was telling myself. If it took me being in PT school, in a pelvic rotation to get the healthcare that I needed, how is anybody else supposed to access this? How are queer and trans people supposed to be able to access this particularly? So that became a big point of that. I was teaching a course for healthcare providers about trans inclusive healthcare and the sex shop I used to work at ended up tabling at it. I just ended up talking to them  – oh also sex ed is something I love to talk about, and they said, “Well, we’re hiring” so I picked that up and deeply fell in love with it. It was really cool to get a semi-formal (wasn’t really formal)… a very comprehensive sex ed training at this job along with having the experience of teaching workshops and learning a lot and having these resources available. 

Emma: That’s awesome, I mean I love a good personal draw story. That’s really when you can, I think, make the most impact with other people – when you personally are going through something they are, or that’s how they seek you out and find you as a provider. But it’s kind of funny that you ended up in PT school, not really thinking about it until deep into the program. That’s very interesting. 

Alex: I do think it’s wild that literally someone else had to be like “Well, we know what you’re doing,” and I was like, “What am I doing? Tell me please!”

Emma: “This is just how I live my life, iunno”

Alex: This is just what I get mad about! Obviously, I need to get paid to get mad about it. 

Emma: Yeah – thats right. Get paid! I love it. Well, you have touched on this, in terms of knowing about comprehensive sex education, and being queer/trans – not just inclusive, or competent –but focused, and in it yourself. Do you have a specific support philosophy that you bring to your work with clients?

Alex: I think that would just look like meeting people really where they’re at. I think that especailyl for queer and trans folks, especially with pelvic floor dysfunction there’s just so much shame that comes with that. Which is super relatable – and a lot of that can be… there are just so many facets of experiences and identity that can bring that up. Whether it’s trauma, whether it’s internalized homophobia or transphobia. It’s having a hard time being able to say out loud that you have this sort of dysfunction that largely affects your sex life, or your ability to experience pleasure which is already really hard to talk about. A lot of it is just hearing people and validating their experiences and just meeting people where they’re at. Whatever their goals are – working towards that and just validating them. Doing my best not to put my goals on somebody. If they just really want to be able to do this thing, then that’s going to be our functional goal and not, like, the kind of insurance pushed “oh they need to be able to insert a speculum” or whatever it is. Which you might have to do for insurance purposes, but it’s really important to need to …. Any of the little nuanced things that are important to my patients are things that I really try to center. 

Emma: Interesting. Did you say that being able to use a speculum is required by insurance? What was that?

Alex: Oh, yeah! That insurance – oh my god – so insurance will not cover “pain with sex” for folks that don’t have penises and that’s just generally true. So we tend to have to bill insurance with like, my favorite code that I use is just like “other muscle spasm” or “general pelvic pain” but it has to be like “functional goals” if insurance requires those, like, “patient will be able to insert a speculum.”

Emma: Wow. That’s fascinating to think about that side of it. 

Alex: It’s kind of wild – exactly – that’s obviously not most patient’s goals. Maybe it is for some people, but that’s not why they’re coming to PT. But that’s usually how things have to get billed, unfortunately. 

Emma: Yeah – wow, thanks for sharing that. Fascinating. Well – you told us a little bit about your pelvic floor work, your sex educator work… now I want to know about your natal chart. What’s your sun, moon, rising?

Alex: It’s a trip. Ok. So, I am a Virgo sun, an Aries moon and Aries rising. Like, yikes…. but..

Emma: Aries, alright, alright…

Alex: Also, starting to learn about houses – my Aries rising is in my first house, I think, so that’s also just even more Aries and, yeah… can be kind of intense. I think other aspects of my char that make that a little bit more palatable (well maybe not, this is arguable) but that my venus is in scorpio and my mars is in Cancer, which I think is very like the Virgo and the Cancer are the caretaker vibes. I feel fiercely protective of my patients and my work and the communities that I work with and I think that’s the Scorpio/Aries.. Also Virgo, honestly.. And Cancer….. I think my chart is honestly very accurate for myself and also, a little bit much. 

Emma: It’s cute. We can be true to ourselves and still be a little bit much. But it’s really sweet to hear the interpretation or how it comes into your work, even. 

Alex: It’s fun. A lot of just, I feel like the Virgo and the Aries to me is just a lot of a high quantity of somewhat finished to do lists, but it works out. 

Emma: I think a lot of people can probably relate to that – that’s awesome. Alright, well, I’d love to know if you have a favorite thing about being a queer sex educator and pelvic health professional and working with queer/trans people. I mean you’ve touched on a little bit, but if you have a specific thing.

Alex: I think my favorite things are the sense of relief from patients that I get sometimes. Just “ugh, you get it” or “ugh, it feels so nice” and whether or not this has been verbalized or just getting the sense of it – the comfort that comes with that. Just getting to know patients in general, building a relationship with them. Feeling like they’re like, “Oh, I can actually talk about these things and I can bring up these nuances of my sex life or my kink life or if folks mention they have multiple partners and that’s something that you don’t necessarily get to share with a healthcare provider. But it can be really important, and it just feels nice when patients feel comfortable enough to start to say those things. To earn that level of trust and comfort is really huge for me, and also for anybody – but particularly for queer and trans folks to trust a healthcare provider. It’s an honor, and it’s also heavy cause it’s like, I’m frequently told I’m one of the few for folks, oftentimes. Which is horrible and also relatable. 

Emma: Definitely. 

Alex: Honestly one of the things that I really, really love a lot. Especially with how much time I get to spend with my patients. 

Emma: Especially doing pelvic floor PT – it’s not like 5 minute in and out kind of work. Thanks for sharing that. That’s really sweet. So, in terms of pregnancy care, I know you mentioned that you would see pregnant clients and thinking of sex education in pregnancy, too. Is there something that you hope to improve about the experience of the perinatal period – postpartum, pregnancy, whatever, for queer and trans patients. 

Alex: Oh my god. Yes. Something in particular would be the hope that pelvic floor PT in general can be affirming and accessible for pregnant folks or their families. In any span of the pregnancy timeline – pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, post pregnancy. Any of those times, I think, can be really valuable to have access to a pelvic PT even if it’s just for one session of being able to come in and learn a bit more about your body, or learn about your pelvic floor in general, or get a sense of what your pelvic floor is doing before you get pregnant or right in the beginning or whatever it looks like. To be able to have that baseline for when someone is going through a pregnancy, if things come up – low back pain starts up, if there’s pelvic floor pain or pretty much anything. Questions about how to have sex, all of those kinds of things. I would love for that to just be more available and I think a lot of folks that I work, with especially pregnant folks or postpartum folks, are things like “Oh, I wish I knew about you a year ago or five years ago. That this was even an option or that I could have told my friends or my whoever.” I’m always wishing this was more accessible. I wish people were told by other providers that we exist and that we can also exist in your corner for your care, especially during this really life changing time. 

Emma: Absolutely, I totally understand wanting to have that earlier touchpoint before things have to get really bad. Ideally. But yeah, that’s a great thing to work toward. Do you have a nugget of advice for any aspiring queer and trans pelvic floor PTs, sex educators out there?

Alex: I think my advice would be (for the pelvic PT side of it). If you ever find a PT that does the things that you want to do or has an approach that you want to create / make your own, in your own way or whatever it is. Basically, reach out to them. I think that being a student or being an aspiring PT, it can be really intimidating to see the people who “are doing it,” and feel like there’s a huge gap – which is because of our education system and healthcare system of creating this hierarchy. We’re somehow inaccessible. Especially for queer and trans folks, if you find someone who’s doing what you want to do – please reach out to them, myself included. If any of this resonates – I LOVE to talk to people who are thinking about or are interested in it. I can’t speak for everybody, but generally I think we’ve all been students and felt like no one is doing what we’re doing, especially queer and trans providers. I don’t want to be one of the few, I want to be one of the many. Trying to get other people there, I think. If you find anybody you resonate with, please reach out to them. In the sex ed side of things, I think something that’s really helpful for me is that (and same thing with PT) you’ll never know everything. At all. And you’re gonna know some things and once you get comfortable with what you know, push it more. And there will always be people who know something different than you and know something more than you, or have seen and experienced different things. Especially in sex ed, just cause someone has a degree doesn’t make them more knowledgeable than people …. Also because the sex ed world is so un… like anyone can call themselves a sex educator. Just be careful of that – be aware of that. Not to say that people who call themselves a sex educator and don’t have credentials (which is also an issue – the fact that people think you need credentials about sex). Just be aware of where you’re getting your information from, what you’re reading. Making sure you’re getting the viewpoints of marginalized folks, especially in sex ed. Cause sex ed is already hard to access for everybody. On top of that… just make sure you’re not getting all your information from a cis het white man please. Please. Which is hard to do sometimes in sex ed, which is frustrating. Find the educators who are not any of those things. 

Emma: Awe, I love that. That’s great advice. We’re big on… this keeps coming up with all the folks we’re chatting with – that, there’s many pathways to doing this work, you don’t have to have all of the exact credentials all the time if you are in these communities. 

Alex: Yeah. Do not, and especially for queer and trans folks, do not gaslight yourself about what you know. And your experiences. And your value in either world of healthcare, of PT, of sex ed. Just try. It’s hard, and I do it all the time, but try not to (laughs). Which is like, impossible, but… worth saying. 

Emma: Totally worth saying! And that’s real. Awesome, well are there any projects you have going on or things you wanna drop seeds, spread pollen on that we can put out there for you?

Alex: I’m working on, since I have more time available, working on trying to not gaslight myself and my worth and just working on my website and things like that. Just having a platform kind of. I’m always looking for people to collaborate on any realm of workshop. I love teaching. Any realm of workshop of anything I’ve said – anything that might be of value or interest. I love to do it. Love collaborating very much, so if anybody’s trying to do that. Just creating networks. I have a running list of anybody that reaches out that’s like “Hey, I’m queer or trans or kink-friendly or xyz and I resonate with what you’re doing.” I want to have referrals for people, so I’m always working on that. If anybody wants to let me know who you are, please do that. 

Emma: That’s awesome. Yeah. More overlap in any of those ways is welcome. 

Alex: Please. Please reach out, love it!

Emma: Beautiful, well is there anything not sex-ed related or not pelvic floor related about your life that you wanna share? 


Alex: Ooh, I’m sitting in my room right now and I’m looking at the amount of plants that I have. I’m one of those queers (laughs), I am a plant queer. So that’s a fun. You can see my palm. 

Emma: Plant parent, that’s awesome. 

Alex: Also a snake parent as of this quarantine


Emma: Fun! Oh new quarantine snake!

Alex: Yeah, I have a 4 foot quarantine snake named honey

Emma: Oh my god, that’s amazing! What kind of snake?

Alex: She’s a corn snake, love of my life, like – it’s great. I call her my primary partner (laughs).

Emma: That’s so sweet! Aw (laughs).

Alex: Truly. I’m like, “Oh, is this what this feels like? To love another being more than yourself?”

Emma: Ohhhh, that’s hilarious. I’m so glad you said that.

Alex: So I guess those are fun things to know! You can’t have a conversation with me and have me not be like, “and my snake!”

Emma: Well, I get it now. That’s amazing. Well where can people connect with you if someone is an aspiring trans PT or looking for pelvic floor stuff in the Boston area or even tele-health. Where do people find you?

Alex: I have a not-super-active instagram page, but it does exist! And I am on it. I check it, but I’m not great at telling myself I can take up space on social media….. Unpack that at another point. It’s @thesexpositivePT if you’re just trying to keep up with general things. Flourish Physical Therapy is where I work, so I am on Google there. I have an email address, if that’s helpful. I can send that to you…

Emma: I could plug that in.. yeah, we could do email (laughs) (It’s alex.papalePT@gmail.com)

Alex: Yeah! And please anyone literally feel free to just email me anytime. I do check it somewhat regularly. Please feel free to. I’m not the quickest email replier, but I will eventually and, yeah.

Emma: Thank you so much, Alex for hanging out today and talking about yourself. I really enjoyed it, thoroughly. So (laughs)

Alex: Thanks for the invite, thanks for having me.

Emma: No problem. Take care!

Categories
interviews

Luar Wolf

Luar Adonis Wolf, they/she, ella/elle, Little Moonlight Doula

Katie: Alright, thank you so much. It’s so exciting to talk to you. To just get right into it, could you tell us a little bit about you and your practice?

Luar: Sure. So, my name is Luar Adonis Wolf, my pronouns are they/them, she/hers, and in Spanish I also go by ella and elle – the feminine and gender neutral pronouns in Spanish. I’m 29 years old, and I live in New York City on occupied Lenape Haki-nk land, and I’m also intersex, queer, nonbinary. Also identify as trans, and I am a non-Black person of color, specifically Dominican and Puerto Rican. Wooh! A multitude of identities that are just part of my every day my lived experience.

In terms of my practice, my practice/my business, whatever I’m gonna call it – is called Little Moonlight Doula and the reason why it’s called Little Moonlight Doula, is because it’s actually named after my first name. My first name means Luar, which is Portuguese for moonlight. So, in Portuguese, little moonlight would be luarzinho – it was a nickname given to me by some of my Brazilian friends. And my first birth is actually a moon-named baby, after Jupiter’s moon Isle. SO, putting those one and one together, I have Little Moonlight Doula, so a moon helping bring a moon earthside (laughs). What also makes the name unique is that my first birth was a Black nonbinary person, giving birth to a moon-named baby. So, that is where the name of my practice comes from, and I think I’m just gonna keep it forever cause it literally marks who I am.

My practice is basically a full-spectrum reproductive service. I do birth and postpartum, I also do the full-spectrum of doula services. I’m also a reproductive care worker, aka “essential healthcare worker.” I work with Planned Parenthood currently, and I also am part of other full-spectrum doula collectives. And my practice is very rooted in being gender inclusive and queer/trans, gender non-conforming and nonbinary affirming, especially for queer/trans BIPOC people. It’s also rooted in reproductive justice, in decolonization, and so many different types of frameworks that I try to continue striving, not only in my work, but in myself and in my communities. I think that can sum the logistics of my practice. Oh- and I’m also a Certified Bodyfeeding Counselor and a Certified Childbirth Educator. That’s it! (laughs) It’s really hard to name every specific of what you do, because you’re like, “Oh, I gotta throw this, I gotta throw this…” so, I’m just a multitude of things that I can actually use to give back to my community and uplift my community and give my community access to specific things that they don’t generally get access to. 

Katie: Yeah, absolutely, I totally hear how tricky it is to try to put all of the things you do into boxes, when you are someone who is serving your community in ways that may not actually fit into any those roles, or exclusively into any of those roles. 

Luar: Yes, I’d rather put it on paper rather than speaking about it because I’m like, “Oh! I forgot about pointing out that specific thing and that identity” so I try to put it all out there. But yeah, that’s what my practice does. My practice is just me, myself and I, so it’s just very solo work, and doing everything (laughs)

Katie: The little moon helping other moons!!!

Luar: Yes!

Katie: I love it so much. It’s also one of the queerest things I’ve ever heard. 

Luar: I had to. I had to do it. I had to make it queer as fuck. 

Katie: You did, and it is! Ughhh, and on that note, what are you queering right now? Or what are some of the things you’re queering right now?

Luar: So, in general I queer everything that I touch, and step on. Whether it was the spaces that were designed for me, I’m going to queer it and (trans)cend it. Putting the parentheses around (trans) around transcending, with a little wordplay there. I touch everything and my intention is to make sure that queer people and trans people and trans people and everyone with a gender expansive identity can exist in spaces safely. And specifically now, I am queering what doula means, in terms of the full-spectrum to include and re-define the doula role to do gender affirming support. Specifically, gender affirming surgeries and hormone care and how we can be a doula for that. Especially for a community that goes through these things alone and have no support and no care and very isolated. And the support that they technically do get is literally the closest other trans friends and chosen family. I think those types of surgeries, especially in the recovery period, they need a lot of support. They need support that is intimate, they need support that comes from loved ones and chosen family, and they also need support that comes from a professional role. In terms of like, “What can I do for you? How can I help in your recovery? How can I show up for you to make sure you’re being advocated for and taken care of in the hospital, during the surgery and after surgery?” How do we turn this role to show up for members of our community that literally go through these things the majority of the time alone?

Katie: Fuck yeah, oh that’s so important. What inspired you to get into reproductive support work?

Luar: So before I even knew the word existed, it’s always been there in my heart and in my waves and in my mind. I can trace it all the way back to when I was a little adolescent. I was spending a week with my aunt and she was actually going through a divorce and she also had gotten pregnant at that time. It was a very complicated situation without going into much detail. And for some reason, my aunt was going into the hospital really late at night, trying to evade the family from knowing so she was just making sure that me, my brother, my little cousins were all in bed and we were taken care of, so that she could sneak out and go to the hospital. But I was up, and I was hyper-aware, I was like a little adult. I was like, “Where are you going?” and she was like, “I’m going to the hospital” and I was like, “Nobody should go to the hospital by themselves!” So even as a little kid, I was already speaking from a doula intentions and doula heart. I was like, “you shouldn’t go to the hospital by yourself, let me come with you” she said, no, and I said, “Nobody should have to go to the hospital by themselves, you need someone to be with you.” I was very adamant that she ended up taking me. And the memories that I have are very vivid and clear, which was just me being there with her, when we got called into the OR she was just lying in this weird examination room and we were literally in there for hours. Hours. And it was overnight, so I told my aunt, “I’m going to turn off the light and you just get some sleep that you can,” and I just stayed vigil(?) over her until the doctors came so she could get some rest. And then there was a part where I couldn’t go with her. Then, hours later, by myself I was in the waiting room, she finally comes back and she had her own room and they had put a bed for me. And years later, when I have a conversation with her about that, especially getting into this role, and learning about miscarriages and abortions, I have a conversation with her, I’m like, “Did I support… did I help you? Did I give you support through something no one else knew at the time?” and she said, “Yes, I was having a miscarriage, I had to do a D&C.” and that just blew my mind, I was like, “oh my god I’ve been an abortion doula all my life.” So, when I look back at that memory, everything just touches, like, oh my gosh, she was going through an abortion and she was going to do that with the intention of doing that by herself. I was just like, “No, you shouldn’t go by yourself, you need help, you need support, let me go with you.” So that was my first memory of getting into this work and beyond that, I was present for many of my cousins’ births or postpartum. Watching bodyfeeding and pumping and all this stuff, so I’ve been around all this, especially in a family that’s majority single mothers and just women, women of colors, so I was very raised around that matriarch energy. And witnessing the matriarch give birth to the next generation of me and my cousins and witnessing that as an older person compared to the other cousins. Then, fast forwarding, just specifically the actions brought me to work is.. I got into doula work in an “nontraditional” “nontypical” way which is through abortion. Most of the doulas I meet usually do birth and postpartum certifications first, and that’s usually what you hear the doula role for. I actually started as an abortion doula, leading into the rest. I remember my first day of being accepted into The Doula Project, and being trained and I was like, “This is amazing, this is so needed” and also in collaboration with actually starting to work for Planned Parenthood. Just exposing myself to the reproductive healthcare space and how important it is to have access to abrotions. Making sure that everybody, and not just ciswomen, but everybody across the gender expansive identities have that same access to these services. So that’s what brought me to my journey today!

Kaite: I love little baby Luar as an abortion support person, this is – ohh its so beautiful! I also got my start in doing support work in abortion support…

Luar: Yes. You did the backward route.

Katie: I feel like, I honestly forget that’s not how a lot of people do it. (laughs) It just made a lot of sense to me at the time. And maybe you’ve already answered this question in your story of like no one should have to go to the hospital alone, but um – How do you describe your support philosophy?

Luar: It’s weird, because I don’t ascribe to forming core values, or missions and stuff like that because I see that a lot with nonprofits and a lot with capitalist spaces where they just make these philosophies and missions and values and it’s just for marketing and branding and there’s not acutely heart to it. My support philosophy is simple, everybody needs support. Everybody across the gender spectrum needs support. Everybody in a violent oppressive marginalized system needs support. So, just give it. Give it freely, openly, and make sure everyone has access to support. So that’s why a lot of my work, as much as I want to create something that’s “profitable” or sustainable – that’s the better way, sustainable. I was raised in and come from a background and a culture that is very community centered, and if I go back into that: we were not really concerned about “how much money I can make by supporting you as a community member?” Yes, be sustainable for yourself, but at the end of the day: one of the ways we dismantle white supremacy is by returning back to our communities and uplifting and centering our communities and giving them access to things that they typically don’t get, which is support. So that is literally my philosophy if you want to call it that, but it’s just like.. Give support. Don’t try to commercialize support. Don’t try to commodify support. Don’t try to capitalize support. Support is something that we as human beings should be doing for other human beings, and showing up for other human beings. And that is the way we are allies, essentially to other community members.

Katie: Yeah, ugh! The privatization of care just feels like one of the biggest scams to communities from the settler colonial state.

Luar: Exactly! Honestly, like, in a better and more perfect world we wouldn’t need doulas. If medical racism didn’t exist, or the violation of so many peoples’ bodies and consent and bodily autonomy didn’t exist, doulas wouldn’t be here. Because of what they have done to support and what they have done to care. 

Katie: Yeah, oh, preach it, oh! So, I’ve asked you about your natal work, I also need to know about your natal chart. What’s your sun/moon/rising, and whatever else I need to know? 

Luar: The number one queer question, it’s like the first date question when you date other queers and trans folks, right? My sun is in Aries, I was born on April 7th. My rising is Leo, and my moon is in Capricorn. I (laughs), so everybody’s always asking me, “Oh my god” because of me being a doula, “I need to know your chart so I can know what made you a doula!” It’s more like the fiery, passionate, impulsive nature of showing up for people from my Aries and my Leo. There’s a reason why I became a doula, and that’s my activism energy which pours down into my doula. I think, what maybe essentially touches my doula in my chart is my Venus is in Taurus cause a lot of people that I have in my life that are Taurus, they are very caregiving, loving, showing up for everyone around them (besides themselves). So I would give credit to the Venus in Taurus for being the reason why I’m a doula. 

Katie: Oh, love, I love that. And, not to turn this into an astrology interview, but I feel like that Venus/Taurus energy’s so beautiful, when I think about both that very giving, very caring but like, it’s an earth sign, it’s a very grounded, – it’s not just a like “I’m just giving of myself without knowing who I am or what I’m doing” It’s not that savior complex mindset, there is that real groundedness of “this is coming from who I am.” 

Luar: So many of my – one of my best friends is a Taurus. Even a lot of Taurus like a call, so they’re like “What do you need, Luar? You want something? What can I do for you?” Like, y’all just live for caring! 

Katie: And what’s your favorite thing about being a queer support person or about working with queer and trans folks and families?

Luar: There’s so many things. The one thing I can really touch upon is being in space with  people like me, or people that belong in the same spectrum of gender expansive identities like me. We don’t get that. When you talk to a lot of queer/trans or gender non-conforming and nonbinary people, we’re very isolated. Or we’re in very small communities that for me is not enough. Ideally, I want a community in terms of- arms distance, the way we can touch things. But one of my favorite things about doing this work, in terms of me being a queer, nonbinary femme, is showing up for others that are like me. It’s such a different feeling because we can actually take a lot of burden off our shoulders. We can take down that thick skin that we put up to protect ourselves in a lot of cis spaces. Seeing that easy breath, that fresh air that goes into our lungs when we’re in good space and community with others like ourselves is one of those things that just brings me joy. Even outside of reproductive spaces, when I show up in very sacred safe space with my trans besties or other trans kin, it’s just amazing, being in community. Actual, authentic community. Not just a community that is just built on trauma bonding– yes, cause it’s a lot of that! As a community, I don’t want that. I don’t want our community to be built on trauma bonding or oppression olympics and titles and this and that. When we get together and find others like ourselves, it’s just the authentic and unconditional love and support that we give to each other is just amazing. That is just one of my favorite things, seeing, when I as a full-spectrum worker show up with somebody or a client that has those same identities, they’re like “Oh my god, I don’t have to educate you. I don’t have to explain what a pronoun is. I don’t have to do this free labor. I can just exist and be me and I don’t have to explain myself.” That’s just one of the most beautiful things to see, because I can take that off your shoulder and do that for you. I think that’s one of the things that keeps me going – just the amount of queer/trans, gender nonconforming, gender non-binary people that exist that are giving birth, that are just getting surgeries, or doing hormone support just need community members to show up for them for care. It’s just beautiful to witness and experience and be able to offer that so that is one of my favorite things –  among so many reasons.

Katie: That good queer and trans magic. 

Luar: Yes. Hella. Queer. Trans magic.

Katie: If you could improve one thing about the experience of pregnancy and birth for queer and trans folks, what’s one thing that you would want to see?

Luar: Sigh. Everything, everything! I just want to see us enter medical spaces or healthcare spaces and not having to experience transphobia from its individual to its systemic levels. Seeing that, for our communities – for them to just enter healthcare and not worry about being misgendered or using the wrong pronouns or being dead-named. Actually just giving them care that they have a right to and deserve and is centered in their identities is something that I wish to see. If that answers the question. 

Katie: Oh, yeah, it sure does. Yeah.

Luar: Because it’s really hard to pinpoint one exact thing, when the future that most of us see for ourselves and for our community is EVERYTHING. Everything. If I have to do one specific thing: end all corrective surgeries for intersex children and babies. That its not the first thought for a medical doctor or MD to be like, “We need to correct this.” That would be one thing, as a start – end corrective surgeries for intersex babies.

Katie: Yes! And on the flip side of that, what’s a pice of advice you have for aspiring queer and trans birth workers?

Luar: I think you’ve heard this before, and a lot of others who know me have heard me say: Fuck imposter syndrome. Besdies dysphoria for those of us who expreiene dysphoria, the other next thing would be fuck imposter syndrome. Don’t doubt. Don’t question. It’s hard – but the moment we allow confidence to take hold of us in this specific work, in this specific space, by just repeating that mantra and having others who instill confidence into you and support and just inject that into you. That’s gonna be my mantra for new folks: fuck imposter syndrome. We can do this work, we have a right to do this work, we have the right to stand up for ourselves and others who are like us so we can show up for those people, too. Don’t question your ability. A certification or a training does not give you the doula title – that’s always been inside of us. As human beings, as people that have come from a community centered background and cultures and traditions (laughs) Nothing can give you the doula heart, nothing can give you the doula role. No training or certification is gonna give you that.  Because that’s not something they can instill, that’s something that’s always existed. It’s just being awakened through a training. And you can exist totally outside of that, but don’t expect that a training or certification is gonna give you what you’re looking for. It’s just going to give you the tools and the resources and the foundations for doing the work. The role and the work itself has always existed inside of you because it’s essentially and fundamentally: You as a human being showing up for another human being. 

Katie: Oh! So good. So good. I also, I want a classic looking cross stitch that I can frame somewhere that says, “Fuck imposter syndrome”

Luar: I need something like that, or I need a t-shirt. (laughs) With a big ole trans flag on it. 

Katie: Ahhh, I love, I love. Wow. Aside from making that t shirt, are there any projects that you want help cross pollinating with others in the community: stuff you’re thinking about stuff youre building?

Luar: Yes, so: one of the main things I haven’t announced yet… I’m working quietly behind the scenes on creating something, a support circle, called The Lavender Tent. It’s basically sacred safe space for queer, trans, gender nonconfirming, gender nonbinary people to come together to do sacred story telling. Basically share our lived experiences, like through different parts of our transition. Whether it’s just medically or non-medically. An example like that would be having one of those spaces, one of the modules or coming together or getting onto the Zoom call virtual space will be talking about metaphorical death. That’s an example, coming together as queer/trans people to talk about metaphorical death and the multiple metaphorical deaths we go through. What does honoring and grieving and mourning, individually and collectively, over our past self- our former selves, our former selves, our former dead names, look like? How do we give a personal eulogy for that? How do we just go through the process of grieving and mourning, that so we can make space for the new and affirming identities in order to root ourselves within ourselves? Honoring the decay. So that’s an example of one of the support circles – it’s going to be called The Lavender Tent and I’m going to announce, hopefully soon, in terms of getting sacred safe space for us as a community to come together as a community to talk about stuff like that, through sacred storytelling. 

Katie: Ohh, so amazing. So important. So needed. Ohh, I love that so much. And what’s something that’s not reproductive related about you and your life that you want to share?

Luar: One of the things about me is my practices in Afro-caribbean traditions that I’m a part of. I’m also a witch, I practice witchcraft so those are very fundamental in terms of medicine for being medicine for me, its also cultural and ancestral for me. Keeps me together and sane. Outside of that, I also do spoken word and I do a lot of writings and poems. I’m also an artist but I keep my artwork to myself because I’m very weird and sensitive with showing my artwork. Outside of reproductive healthcare spaces, those are a lot of the big parts of me that others might not know about. 

Katie: Finally, where can people find you on the internet?

Luar: Everywhere! (laughs) I’m on Facebook as Little Moonlight Doula, I’m also on Instagram as Little Moonlight Doula. I also have a website: Little Moonlight Doula dot com! I made sure that name was grabbed across the spectrum of social media platforms – so facebook, instagram and my website is literally just Little Moonlight Doula! 

Katie: Awesome, thank you so much, this has been a treat! 

Luar: Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity, I appreciate it!