Methods: A purposive sample of lesbian, genderqueer, and nonbinary people who had experienced pregnancy were recruited from LGBTQ organizations. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, in which participants were asked to describe their experiences related to both gender identity and pregnancy. NVivo9 was utilized for data management and storage. The heuristic process of phenomenological inquiry guided analysis. The final sample included 6 individuals who had experienced pregnancy. Participants identified their gender as: nonbinary (2), butch (3), or bigender (1). Five of the participants identified as white, one identified as Black. Their ages ranged from 25-43.
Results: Key findings from this pilot study include their purposeful choice to be pregnant, usually with an awareness of the transgression of social norms. All but one participant chose to get pregnant, knowing it was something they wanted to do. Further, some participants expressed pride in achieving their goal, in having “made it happen” despite social and psychological obstacles to pregnancy. Interestingly, this notion of “making it happen” felt in alignment with their butch identity. Participants expressed it this way “we just do what needs to be done to make things happen.”
Although participants chose to be pregnant and experienced pride in achieving their goal, several kept their pregnancy hidden and did not seek supports specifically for queer pregnant people. They expressed a sense of waiting it out related to their experience of discordance between their outward appearance and their inner identity. This discordance between the physical self and psychological, social, and emotional self was expressed in different ways by different participants. One noted that their physical body did “not match their mind.” Additionally, they described experiences of gender policing that increased as their pregnancy progressed.
Conclusions and Implications: Butch-identified lesbians and nonbinary individuals are opting to get pregnant despite heteronormative and cisnormative scripts to the contrary. Developing an understanding of their lived experience can inform affirming service provision for often multiply marginalized individuals.