The Queer Birth Project banner with photos of Liss LaFleur and Katherine Sobering, smiling women looking at the camera

CVAD + CLASS faculty collaborate to research queer childbirth & family-building in America

Liss LaFleur, M.F.A., associate professor, New Media Art, and Katherine Sobering, Ph.D., assistant professor, sociology, have embarked on a five-year project to research queer childbirth and family building in the United States.

Inspired by and based on feminist artist Judy Chicago’s Birth Project (1980-85), The Queer Birth Project is a creative research project that seeks to document and share the childbirth experiences of queer (LGBTQ+) people in America.

Representation and inclusion around birth and family-building play a significant role in expanding cultural ideas, ensuring access to healthcare and building community. However, discussions of childbirth in Western art and culture have long excluded the lives of lesbian women and non-conforming bodies and families. From DIY to IVF, scholarly and artistic attention to queer (LGBTQ+) childbirth and same-sex parenting is still relatively new, and there are unique physical, emotional, legal and psychological challenges that are imposed by mainstream society.

In 1981, Chicago posed the question: how do women feel about all aspects of birth? To answer this question, she conducted an original survey and then collaborated with needleworkers in the U.S. to create a series of visual artworks that were displayed across the country. 

Using Chicago’s archives as a model, primary investigators LaFleur and Sobering ask: how do queer people feel about all aspects of birth?

At the heart of this project is original data collection that will be mobilized as a storytelling tool. The primary investigators' updated survey includes both Chicago’s original questions with updates for inclusive and affirmative language, e.g., changing the word father to partner/donor, in addition to new questions that explore the complex relationships that make up queer families. To the knowledge of the primary investigators, this is the first survey of its kind to ask and answer questions about queer birth. Informed by this research, a collection of visual artworks will be made that publicly share new language, ideas, and perspectives about birth and families with a wider public. This project directly recognizes the significance of visibility and seeks to promote an intersectional and radically inclusive view relating to childbirth in America.

The Queer Birth Project includes the following.

1) Original Data Collection: A mixed-methods social science research study that uses surveys and interviews to collect birth narratives and reflections on queer identities, bodies, and families. 

2) Art Production: A series of sculptures and installations based on survey responses and research. Works will be produced in collaboration with queer and feminist identifying neon/ glass artists. 

3) Lectures: A series of lectures that connect the installations to the archive, make the case for arts research as practice and share an urgent call for representation and inclusivity in childbirth and family building.

4) Publications: A series of scholarly and popular publications based on this collaborative research.

5) Archiving: A collection of our survey data and interview transcripts, along with manuscripts, images, and resources that document the birth stories of female, queer, and non-binary people in America.

News Release: Labor of Love: The Queer Birth Project


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