5 Aug 2014

Not Your Average Birth Conference

Speaking at YoniFest to a tent full of midwives and doulas!

This past weekend my family and I attended YoniFest, a wildly successful birth conferencein beautiful rural Quebec. This was the first ever YoniFest, but I’m sure it will not be the last. Every aspect of the festival came off without a hitch. I was invited there to speak about trans* pregnancy, birth, and infant feeding. The conference organizers were clear from the beginning that they wanted the gathering to be welcoming and inclusive, and it truly was.

The day before the opening ceremony, the person who was in charge of interpreting the proceedings into English approached me to talk about the best language to use –‘ parents’ as well as ‘moms,’ and ‘people’ in addition to ‘women’. At the ceremony, my partner turned to me wide-eyed when he heard her say ‘parents’. We’d never been included like that in a birthy setting before. There were beautiful and empowering statements about the strength and oneness of women, as well as plenty of space for our family and others to be celebrated, too.

On Friday I presented a 15 minute personal talk on a panel alongside Ina May Gaskin, Betty-Anne Davis, and Whapio Diane Bartlett. I tried to give the attendees an idea of what it is like to access health care when you are trans* and pregnant. Everyone seemed absolutely ready to listen and learn, and I believe the message got through. Many people thanked me afterwards, but one woman’s comments stand out in particular. She said I “changed her world” ­– she used to be a missionary and comes from a traditional background. She told me that the discomfort she had previously around the concept of trans* pregnancy was erased.

The following day I gave a two hour workshop on how health care providers and birth workers can assist trans* clients. Again, the response was awesome! Participants asked important questions and we had a great discussion. Michel Odent made me super nervous by sitting in for part of the session! Thankfully, a dear friend provided a familiar smiling face near the front of the room.

A few conference participants mentioned to me that they have friends or friends of friends that are trans* men who have given birth. I noted that one woman used the wrong pronouns when she initially mentioned her trans* acquaintance to me (I inwardly cringed but didn’t manage to say anything in the moment), but she used the correct ones *after* she attended my workshop. She always knew what the right language should be, and said as much to me, but somehow “got it” in a deeper way.

CBCRadio-Canada came to do a piece on YoniFest and asked to interview me, which was fine, but also hilarious... The very first question for me: “Do you know what you’re having?” (Meaning, does baby have a penis or a vagina?) I explained to the interviewer that I had opened my talk the previous day by discussing this exact question. She smiled and seemed to think that was nice.  

Workshop highlights for me included learning from Kathleen Fahy of Australia about postpartum hemorrhage (active vs. physiological management of the 3rd and 4th stages of labour) and Whapio Diane Bartlett on the holistic stages of labour.

Possibly the most impressive sight of the whole weekend was all the partners racing around watching kids so that others could attend workshops. As we attendees sat in open tents, we saw families zooming by, dads running back to the car to get a new pair of pants, down to the river to cool off, back to the hill to play soccer, scooping up the toddler who fell on the play ramp, wearing baby on the back while carrying toddler on the shoulders and holding hands with the pre-schooler... Others volunteered at the daycare, and stayed there the whole weekend instead of trading off so that the littles would have the best possible continuity of care.

I can't wait for the next YoniFest! 

Closing circle of Yonifest, and a shot of the kids' play structure.


  1. Thank you so much for coming to YoniFest Trevor!! Your presence was INTEGRAL to our festival, which aimed to explore further how we can respect and honor everyone's birth and the formation of families everywhere. Merci encore!

  2. Thank you Trevor! See you at next YoniFest :)

  3. Trevor, thank you so much for your open-hearted participation. Thank you for your trust and confidence. While reading your account of the YoniFest, I cried and laughed deeply. It was wonderful meeting you, your partner, and child. I hope our paths cross again soon!

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