Alyssa Texeira. she/her. @AlyssaTex and www.alyssateixeira.com
Emma: Alright! Well thank you so much for joining me today, I am excited to hear more about your practice and so why don’t we start there. Tell me about you and the work that you’re already doing, and, yeah, projects you’ve got going on.
Alyssa: So, like I kind of mentioned earlier, I started off doing sex education work, and I still do sex education work but it’s always been a passion and a dream of mine to kind of work in birth spaces. The weird thing about my life is I end up watching a documentary and it changes the course of my life, and I remember watching the documentary about birth monopolies and I was really taken aback by the fact that in our society today, there’s so much that falls through the cracks. So many people who fall through the cracks of birth work and there’s no need for that if we can support our own communities. The center of what I do is supporting my community. I love the community that I was raised in, it taught me everything that I know, and I just feel like it’s really important to give back to it. I think that something that I live by is: sexuality is everywhere. It’s in everything we do. No matter what you can think about, at the end of the day, it kind of ties back to sexuality somehow. Which is kind of a weird philosophy, which most people don’t necessarily identify with – like, what? I don’t understand. But sex and sexuality… sex isn’t just like, ‘doin’ the dirty’ y’know – it’s in lots of part of our lives. I think specifically, with my doula practice, as a queer person, I know people who had these really awful birth experiences. Something I always want to do is take the ‘othering’ effect out of healthcare and health education for queer people. Those are the two things that are my biggest goals for my doula practice – just center it around a community of folks who were able to share information, and then also take the othering factor out of care for queer people. We’re just like everyone else – we don’t need you to make it seem like, “ok, there’s this healthcare and then there’s your healthcare. There’s this birth experience, and then there’s your birth experience.” It’s kind of a long rambling rant, but those are two things that are important to me in my practice.
Emma: That’s awesome, yeah, thanks for sharing that. I love hearing about being really rooted in a local community and at the same time reaching a larger audience online. I’ll ask you where people can find you later on. So on that note – uhh, what are you queering right now?
Alyssa: What am I queering right now? Well, let’s see… what am I not queering right now… I feel like every day of my life I’m just a big ole queer. One thing I’ve been really trying to do in my local community around some advocacy for healthcare in the queer community is trying to make a standardization across our local community clinics. Basically, when you have a chart, you typically have someone’s dead name, and their incorrect pronouns, right? Something I’ve been trying to work on with our county resources is creating some sort of system in our current systems where we can have on someone’s chart their correct name and their correct pronouns. Which is something that I feel very passionate about – making sure, at the basic level of care that you give someone is calling them by their right name and their right pronouns. In so many medical spaces, it’s traumatizing. It’s traumatizing to be in a medical space and just constantly have people get it wrong, y’know? At the end of the day, I think that no one should have to deal with that and no one should have to be their own advocate for that. That should be some behind the scenes stuff that someone else is doing or figuring out. You shouldn’t have to know about all the crazy BS that has taken to get there, but yeah. I’m currently trying to queer my community health clinics, is what I’m doing.
Emma: That’s awesome. Queering institutional paperwork is necessary work, but obviously not everyone wants to do that. So that’s amazing – thank you. I hope that it can work out – let us know. If you figure out how to make that happen, and that’s just some kind of system we can put in place in all of the other counties…
Alyssa: Yeah! I’m working on trying to figure out a way to standardize it. Mainly, I have this issue where I constantly — it’s not an issue, it’s just me as a person — where I just knock on people’s doors and show up to people’s offices and cold call them all the time and they’re like, “Who are you?” and I’m like, I need to find a way to make sure I can standardize it so it’s not just a back door that I was able to get through, y’know?
Emma: Sure, yeah. But that’s… any way to get in. That’s really awesome. So I know we talked a little about this earlier, but what originally inspired you to do the work that you do today?
Alyssa: Like I mentioned before, documentaries have been a very persistent thing in my life. I watch a documentary, I get really upset, and I’m like, how can I change this? Birth work specifically – what called me to get involved is I’ve always been interested in care work. I think femme people are kind of always, even if they don’t want to be, called to do a lot of care work. Unfortunately, a lot of times, for free or low cost – right? Something that I was really really passionate about was providing care work in the realm of a reproductive sphere. That is something I was really passionate about, and something I felt was lacking in a lot of reproductive health outcomes. Whether that’s birth – whether thats abortion, whether that’s miscarriage. Whether that’s taking a pregnancy test, right? Something that was really a call to action for me was when I learned about the crazy disparity of maternal mortality rate in this country. Realizing that there’s no need for that, kind of was like, I have to be a part of the solution somehow. Combining my desire to be there and support people through whatever reproductive decision and also wanting to be a solution to the problem of maternal mortality rates kind of called me together, I think. It’s a combination of my own wanting to hold people’s hands and my own desire to be involved in some sort of activism. Something that is cool, but also sometimes a little disappointing, about working in reproductive health spaces is that – at the end of the day, it’s all kind of tied to activism. People with uteruses have for the longest time, been under the control of whoever wants to decide how your reproductive system is used. That is something that calls me to do the work.
Emma: That’s awesome. And I know you touched on this a little earlier, thinking about the sex in everything – but what’s your support philosophy, that aside. Worldview, philosophy that’s included… y’know, what kind of lens do you bring to that support work?
Alyssa: The first and foremost philosophy I have for support work is that support work should be given to anyone and everyone who asks for it or needs it. If I’m not particularly the doula for you, or there’s someone who can advocate for you better, I will definitely help you figure that out. At the end of the day, I don’t ever want to turn someone away because they can’t pay for it or because they are in a situation where maybe their family doesn’t support their decisions. Whatever it might be. I think care work is a human right. Having someone to advocate for you and having someone to hold space for you is a human right, I feel like. Even though, it’s not really … people will argue with that, but I think it is. Having someone to just hold your hand through things is just something that humans need. So that’s at the base of everything, I’m like – no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter how things turn out for this pregnancy or for whatever reproductive decision you’re making – I wanna support you. I wanna be here for you. The other lens of that is, like I mentioned, the whole politicising of reproductive justice. What’s really important to me is bringing back the autonomy of a person in my practice. Making sure that I have the tools to support someone through understanding our own autonomy. Like I said, we live in a world where there’s a lot of situations where femmes or people with uteruses don’t have autonomy over their bodies or over their decisions in life. That’s the second tenant of my sort of practice philosophy – I really want to be able to give people the tools they need to … I don’t like the word empower, because I feel like “empower” kind of implies that I’m giving you the power, when you already have the power. This is a whole ‘nother rant, but something that’s damaging and I don’t really like, is when specifically white women tend to try to say “I’m going to empower you” or “We’re going to empower you to do this this or that” to People of Color. Whatever it might be – I think what’s important is that you have a set of tools, let’s share a set of tools, and then let’s figure out how we can make the best outcome. I think, sharing knowledge is the other part there. I don’t ever feel like, we should protect a secret of like, “Oh, well this provider, y’know, said this this or this…” I just feel like sharing knowledge is really, really important. I think if we did more of that, you know what I mean, then some of the problems we have in the reproductive health sphere wouldn’t be so bad. There’s a lot of gatekeeping. I feel like this is a little rambly. (laughs)
Emma: Great! You covered so many good things! I think it’s great to have the breakdown “empowerment” conversation – what does it mean? What does it mean when you’re doing it for someone? And that gatekeeping of information – it’s so interesting to toe that line when chatting with clients about, “Oh, well do you know that hospital you’re choosing has xyz statistics of this.” or “I’ve seen that provider xyz.” It can be hard to share that stuff, but it is also life saving. And trauma preventing, and all that. So it’s just so important to bring those things up in these worlds.
Alyssa: Especially when it’s like, the “mystery” around birth has forever been — ever since it got really medicalized, back in the 1900s, there’s this idea that birth is a secret and what happens in birth, no one really knows. You see this picture of it on TV where a woman is screaming, and she gets into the labor room and the baby pops out, right? I’ve met so many people who come to birth or come to their experiences like, “I’m just scared. I don’t know what happens. I don’t know what the process is.” Demystifying that is really important to just let people be able to support themselves best by having that information.
Emma: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing that. Well, we’ve heard a little bit about your natal work and your sex education work, I’m curious about your natal chart. So tell me your sun/moon and rising?
Alyssa: OK. So. If I tell everyone my sun, you guys have to promise not to think I’m the worst person ever. Because I am a Gemini.
Emma: That’s alright- I’m a Gemini rising! It’s fine.
Alyssa: You’re a Gemini rising? Okay.. Well, I am a Gemini. And everyone hates us. But I promise I’m not the worst. I am a Gemini sun, but my moon is Pisces, so I’m very emotional. I feel my feels. And my ascendent is a Capricorn, which I don’t really identify with particularly. That’s the one part of… My chart, every time I look at it, I’m like, “Yes. That’s it. That’s me.” But my ascendent? I just don’t relate with Capricorn vibes at all.
Emma: Give it some time, we’ve had some lovely Capricorns, actually, that we’ve chatted with. Maybe you’ll get it through the queer realm.
Alyssa: I’ll be able to figure out the Capricorn vibe a little better.
Emma: Note on Geminis though, I had a client once who was a Gemini, and was also a twin. And her baby was a Gemini also, due around that time. It was a single baby, but when the baby was born, her placenta had – it was two lobed, she had this beautiful, like the letter B or a heart, very much two placentas. She was like, “It’s my Gemini placenta.” and I was like, “You’re blowing my miiiiind.”
Alyssa: (laughs) The power of the Gemini, man.
Emma: On all levels that day, for sure.
Alyssa: I have a theory… people seem to think that Geminis are two faced, My theory is Geminis aren’t two-faced. Geminis are socially and emotionally intelligent, so they can adapt to different social situations. So that’s when people think, “Oh you’re one person with this person and you’re another person with this person.” No Karen, I’m just socially, emotionally, adept, alright??
Emma: I get it! You gotta read your audience, I gotta say.. Perfect. I love that. Thanks so much for going there with me. What is your favorite thing about being a queer support person and/or working with LGBTQ++ families?
Alyssa: Maybe it’s because I am queer, and I just have this bias… Queer people.. They genuinely, just 100% full humans. They just embody what being a human is like, cause there’s so many varied… people say, “the LGBTQ rainbow,” but I get why we call it a rainbow! When you look at the queer community, there are just so many beautiful colors. I think my favorite part about working with LGBTQ folks or queer communities is .. at the end of the day, while we all have wildly different stories and wildly different experiences, and we come from different places, there’s always… every time I have a conversation with a queer person, there’s always that one thing that we can connect on. Whether it’s that we talk about astrology, or we talk about Queer Eye, whatever it might be, there’s one thing that I can always find with people in my queer community to talk about. There’s a safety being in these communities, knowing we’ve all faced something. Trying to support other people through a collective trauma that queer people have experienced, there’s a bonding part there. I also really love working with queer youth, cause they’re so smart. They know so much more than I did when I was their age. They come up with all these new words and they’re always innovating things. I’m just like, “Y’all are cool. Y’all are really awesome.” I love working with queer youth, specifically.
Emma: I love it. Thank you so much. Speaking of queer youth, maybe we can go there, I’m curious: If you could improve one thing about the conception, pregnancy, birthing, and postpartum process for queer and trans people, including maybe teens, what would it be?
Alyssa: OK, one of my pet projects, like I said, is to one day live in a world where no one gets dead named on their chart. It’s something that’s pretty simple, I think. I think we can solve that issue. My pet project, my pet peeve in the world is like, I think we can live in a world where that doesn’t have to happen. We need to try. Something that’s really important to be is normalizing the process of getting pregnant. The different processes of getting pregnant. Often, people think there’s one way to create a family. I think it’s really important for us to change our mindset about how families are created and to normalize that maybe I adopt a child, maybe I do in vitro fertilization. Whatever it is, to normalize that and make it more accessible so that people know what their options are. Support those different outcomes and options. Something that’s important to me is giving .. part of education for young people, talking about how hormones, how top surgery, bottom surgery, whatever kind of medical transition you might be going through might affect your fertility in the future. Something that I’ve been trying to navigate while also towing the line is: when you’re a young person, you’re probably not thinking about if you want to get pregnant 20 years down the line. Unfortunately, for young trans people, it’s kind of something that you gotta keep in mind when you’re doing transition, right? First off, I think there should be sex education and health education that’s incluisve of trans young people, to begin with. In those rare educations that do exist, I think what’s really important is to talk about the different options that people might have growing up to create families. Tying that back in to being able to create a more open conversation about how families are made and created.
Emma: Similar to what you were saying before about birth, like, you don’t SEE it happening. People aren’t involved – it’s not a community event. With these conception stories, they very much ARE for queer and trans people, involving many friend families and different care prodivers, and approval with therapists, and a whole community of people involved. There’s still that air of mystery about it, so, yeah.
Alyssa: I think that’s a super important thing to note on. The idea of making, creating communities again. I think, especially in these corona times, the emphasis on individuality in America has always been super up there. We could learn a lot from cultures and communities that really focus on supporting their communities. I think it would help a lot of the things happening in the world (laughs).
Emma: I like your to do list, we’ll get on that this week. Get over our individualism. Love it. Well, for new or aspiring queer and trans sex educators, medical systems coordinators, birth doulas, do you have any advice?
Alyssa: Well, as a newer doula, I would say, something I’ve always tried my best to do is not be afraid of “doing the wrong thing.” Because you’re going to do the wrong thing. So just knowing, it’s OK to mess up because that’s how we learn. It’s OK to take things slow. It’s OK to figure it out on your own time. The great thing about birth work and work around how our bodies work and how we operate in the world is that no one owns that information. No one is the one authority who can tell you, “This is how you do this.” or “This is how you do that.” Just trusting your intuition as a person in the world, knowing, “what’s right for me, what’s right for my clients, what’s right for my community?” How can we all be more comfortable with that. I think, my ultimate lesson takeaway would be to trust your own intuition because intuition is powerful. We often get these messages like, “Ah don’t listen to this voice in your head.” NO! Listen to the voice in your head.
Emma: That’s awesome, thanks for that. I’d love to know something not necessarily sex or reproduction-related about you that you want to share.
Alyssa: Let’s see. You probably can deduct this from my spazzy personality.. Up until very recently, like my entire life, I’ve done musical theatre. I loved doing musical theatre, I definitely will still continue to do musical theatre til I’m old. I wanna be that crotchety old woman who’s like in your community theatre, you know what I mean?
Emma: (laughs) I do know what you mean.
Alyssa: That’s like, my goal. But yeah, I did musical theatre my whole life and I’m very passionate about singin’ songs and dancin’ dances. I actually originally went to college to do musical theater and was like, I’m gonna be on broadway and all that jazz. Then life took a very different turn, and I was like, “Okay! We’re gonna do this instead.” Ope – skirt! The great thing about theatre is that you don’t have to be on broadway to do it. You can literally just be in your neighborhood Nativity scene, y’know?
Emma: Absolutely. I’m totally a theatre kid. I never took it past high school, but very much have a lot of very close, very favorite, queer friends from musical theatre summer camp. So shout out. (laughs)
Alyssa: That’s my favorite thing about looking back at my high school theatre department – we were all so queer. We were all so gay. You know what I mean, we just didn’t all know it at the time.
Emma: Yeah, you knew it. Amazing. Well, awesome. Thanks so much for sharing all about you and your practice. If folks wanna follow you or learn more about you and your sex ed offerings and your doula offerings, where can they find you on the Internet?
Alyssa: Yeah! So my Instagram is kind of where I post daily stuff, and updates about what I’m doing. That is @AlyssaTex and I also have my fancy website that I’m really proud that I made, cause I’m really bad with technology. www.alyssateixeira.com – my last name is kind of complicated Teixeira, it’s Portuguese. I’m sure you can just pop it into Google.
Emma: We’ll make sure people have a real link, too! Awesome, thank you so much Alyssa.
Alyssa: Yeah! Thank you!