„People are constantly becoming pregnant and are having abortions and they have the need to do it safely so that this is an experience that doesn’t create more trauma. Because Black and Brown folks and especially queer people already are having enough trauma and we don’t have to have this constantly reiterated every single experience that we have especially with doctors. Not making this an important and urgent issue is an act of violence."
"Casa Kuà is organised by trans* and non binary BIPoCs to make health more accessible to other trans, inter, non binary and queer people, and especially for those affected by racism.The aim of the centre is to bring alternative, traditional, and conventional medical treatments together. We also want to bring communities together, centring the needs and wishes of BIPoC (Black, Indigenous & People of Colour) trans* people, because for us, communities and health are inseparable."
Casa Kuà is a new place in Berlin that has opened recently. How is Casa Kuà working and what is your personal engagement in it?
Casa Kuà is basically a community space for holistic health care focusing on the support of Black and Brown queer, trans* and inter* individuals here in Berlin. It is located in Kreuzberg and has been just recently founded. I am a full-spectrum Doula  but I am focusing mainly on abortion Doula work as well as postpartum care. The main purpose of my connection to Casa Kuà is creating a community space for reproductive justice for people that have had a pregnancy, because I feel that especially Black and Brown queer folks are not really seen in the western eye’s medicine structures. Having a space were you can be seen and heard from people that look like you and people that can understand your experience is really important, especially when you are having a child or you are terminating a fetus. It is an experience that is not supposed to be made alone and needs to be supported by a community in a lot of ways. And oftentimes especially queer BIPoC (Black, Indigenous & People of Color) are not necessarily accepted or close with their biological family, and so having a chosen family is really essential. What I am hoping to create at Casa Kuà in the future is a space for community meetings like peace circles or support groups for folks that are either in the postpartum stage so that they can have a safe space to speak to each other about this new chapter that they are engaging on, as well as offering post-abortion ceremonies at this space. Oftentimes there is a sense of shame when it comes to abortion and my theory and mission as an abortion Doula is to take that shame away from this process and create a space where you can share all the emotions, the good and the bad. Abortion does not have to be the shameful and sad thing, it can also be the joy that you are creating something that is beautiful for yourself. And having an abortion is giving you autonomy to have control over your life decisions. There should be no feeling of guilt. People can sit down and speak with somebody about this decision which is sometimes hard but also right for a lot of individuals.
Are you offering services that are paid or how do you do this financially?
So, these community services within Casa Kuà I would hope to do donation based when it comes to these services. Still, Casa Kuà is in its beginning stages and Corona is slowing this process down. Moreover for my postpartum care work I have a separate firm; because most of the postpartum care work it is not in Casa Kuà, it is mainly in the homes of the people. It is essentially being a kind of supportive friend for folks that just gave birth, so helping them in their transition to feeding if they decided to breast feed as well as doing little tasks around the house, making sure that you have enough groceries or enough diapers. It is being a helper for these folks that are really transitioning to a stage they never even experienced before, or they have already a child that is now all bewildered. So I would say Casa Kuà is more like a community space to meet other folks that have also that experience, while I do another kind of paid Doula work that is at the home of the individual people.
You already mentioned the concept of reproductive justice, so if you work with it how do you understand this concept and how do you integrate it into your work in Casa Kuà?
My basic understanding of reproductive justice is access to reproductive health for everyone no matter their identity, or gender, or race. Reproductive justice is about that my body should not be controlled by others so that I have autonomy to make my own decisions that are good and safe for me. Sometimes people think that queer people and reproductive justice don’t really go hand in hand. Queer folks are often imagined as same sex relationships who do not have the same experiences as cis or straight hetero people, like abortion or birth, but this is so false! A lot of folks can experience having to go through these experiences, no matter your sexuality or your gender identity. Reproductive justice means to have a voice and say: We are also here, we also deserve to be seen and taken care of. Just because our community does not fit the mold in mainstream medicine does not mean that our needs should not be met. So that is why spaces like Casa Kuà are so important, because you know a lot of us don’t want to have to be traumatized within the health care system. As a Black queer woman, I have the experience that my identity tends not to be seen, especially in the medical field, and our voices are often not listened to. Doctors often think that we are lying when we talk about our pains. They don’t take us serious in our suffering because we are supposed to be strong individuals. When our physical pain as being a Black or PoC person is not seen, it is dangerous. When you are going through birth or an abortion process it is painful in a lot of ways and you need to have a space where you can say I have a pain and they are listening to you. That it is why reproductive justice is so important, because it is dangerous and violent in a lot of ways not to have the same resources of care as other people. Because when you bring a fetus earthside it is a very strenuous process on your body - so essentially when you are giving birth you really need to have a space that is calm and that is safe.
Can you tell us a little bit more about the reproductive injustices and oppressions you are experiencing as queer Black people or PoCs within reproductive health care?
The doctors here in Berlin treat me and my partner and our son oftentimes like that our family constellation makes no sense to them. There are so many boundaries and barriers we have to break every moment in the medical-industrial complex, because doctors in Berlin are not trained to pass this binary idea of gender and traditional family norms. So you have to always sit there and again and again explain what your family is – and these people actually don’t support you, and you feel like a burden.
I have been raised in the United States and there the mortality rate of Black femmes and women from birth is extreme, in a country that sees itself as “we are the number one” but is not able to treat the people that are giving birth with respect but lets us die and is not doing anything to change this system.
Racism is also a big factor for queer and trans BIPoC folks in Berlin when they are getting care. We are often seen as uneducated within our own bodies, because we don’t speak German fluently. We are not taken seriously, they make us feel like being a burden and think that we cannot explain ourselves. People tell me that they often do not use pronouns correctly or are saying someone’s dead names. They are just not being aware of the differences that people have, that not all are straight, and if you bring that up like: I am uncomfortable with that - then there is a pushback like: What do you mean? Why this is such a deal? I am just doing my job, I am not a racist… but no, this is not ok!
There is also a disproportionate amount of people that have induced labor, meaning that they make labor happen before it is necessary as well as having a caesarian section. This is violent because it is a not necessary process for a lot of people. But if you are not speaking German and you don’t fully understand the structures they can get away with doing a lot of things because you are not fully aware. Of cause you are allowed to have a translator and it is legal and you are supposed to, but not everybody adheres to that. From administrators’ offices up to every part of the structure a lot of us face these boundaries, so for sure in the birth field there is a lot of difference how people are treated. Unlike the US, in Berlin there are a lot of spaces for different types of births, like birthing centers, which is great because it takes the hierarchical structure of a hospital away. But the access to these things is still a privilege. Racism in reproductive health care has various forms of shape from the micro-aggressions of your doctor saying something that is problematic or the fat phobia of your doctor which is inherently antiblack. So there are so many different layers and structures which are also specific for Berlin and Germany.
We were talking until now about your professional area of reproductive health care; would you like also to say something beyond it about the experiences of queer, inter* and trans* BIPoC parents in Berlin, which might be also important issues for reproductive justice?
For sure, I have a lot to say about this. I have a three year old son who is a PoC and whose biological father is from Cameroon. He has two mums, me, and I have a non binary partner who is mostly femme presenting and is from the Lebanon. So we as a family we have to face a lot, and the way how this plays out in Kita is very interesting: We are seen to be aggressive or the ones who are doing too much and are overbearing when we just want to make sure that our child is in a safe environment. We had to involve the antidiscrimination organization KIDs because there have been many instances of violence and racism towards our child. This organization helps us in contacts with the Kita. Because oftentimes when you are pressuring yourself they don’t take this seriously and we are just seen as annoying them. But if you have an organization coming and revealing that this is an issue, I think this changes their mentality. There is a ridiculous lack of education of educators within Kitas. Because we are BIPoC and also queer, they are presuming that, wow, this alternative family is just trying to change everything at once, but no: We just want to make sure that our child is in a safe environment and that he doesn’t have to leave the Kita, because - as already happened - someone calls him “eklig” or “like Kaka” because of the color of his skin. It is really unfortunate that in Berlin the access to the Kita system is so hard and there are not a lot of Kitas that are for queer families or for Black and Brown people, so we have to try to make it work in that Kita. But I would really prefer to be in a space where my son says: Oh, my best friend also has same sex, or non binary, or trans parents. Or that he is not the only Black child in the Kita out of 30 children.
There are always these looks of traditional German and also traditional Muslim families when he says this is Mama and Mummy, and they show in the way they look how strange they find it. So as a queer presenting couple with a child you have these interactions on a daily basis. It just breaks their mind und does not make sense to them. So that you have to really push to get what you need; especially as a BIPoC queer family with a child you have to reach out to extra help resources and do this extra work, go this extra step and extra miles for your basic rights as they will not give it to you themselves.
Currently we are also confronting hindrances in the adoption process because my partner is the one who carried him. We are still at a very early stage of this process but we are already asked questions that are just very intrusive, and not necessary - questions you wouldn’t ask a hetero couple. I find it really hard that the image of Berlin is that we are an alternative city, which is very safe for all identities. But in the institutional structures this is so false! For sure there are a lot of communities and a lot of organizations that are creating space for people that are queer and that are PoC but it is not in the mainstream.
In times of pandemic we even have to interact more with these structures than we would have to do on a daily basis. There was an occasion when my son was sick, having symptoms of Corona, so we went to a hospital to get a Corona test and they let only one parent in. But when I was waiting outside I see one hetero couple after the next walking in with their child. And I thought that just because I am not straight I don’t have the same responsibility for my child and cannot support him? A Corona test is not easy for a three year old.
What do you think is important in the field of reproductive health from the perspective of Casa Kuà: which struggles are the important ones in the future for achieving reproductive justice?
That is a hard question: I think a basic foundational issue is fighting antiblackness. This has to be addressed first and foremost within the medical system; and it has to be understood how inherent it is in a lot of actions that people do. So for one, we need education for doctors and nurses – not only about how to use correct pronouns and address us, but also changing their mentality. Because currently if you bring up to the doctors that something was fatphobic or racist, they just reject it and say that this cannot be, because they are not racist. So trainings and workshops are of course important and impactful. However this is not enough, because a lot of people are not physically seen in these structures. So second we have to get more people that are queer, that are trans, that are Black and Brown into these structures. Because I would not even think to ask these white men to support my struggle, when they have no idea of the daily things I am going through. What we need is more true diversity, not just some droplets like a Black person here and an Arabic person there. We need true diversity within the healthcare system, so that it looks like the makeup of the population within the place where you are living. Then I would not anymore google search every time I need some basic health care in order to find a Black queer specialist, but I just would go to any office knowing that there will be a Black person or a queer person working there. Because always having to seek specialized care is really exhausting, having to do always this extra work just for basic health care. So one demand is: Addressing antiblackness within the structures and another demand: having true representation within health care systems. It is also important creating proper education about the holistic view of experiences that trans* and non-binary and queer folks that are also Black and Brown have to deal with. Our experiences are not the same as everyone else’s, but that does not make us strange and we have the same rights to care as other people.
For the reproductive justice network this would be good to integrate these demands into our agenda. Thank you! Is there anything you would like to add?
Sometimes people interpret my work as a Doula and these abortion and postpartum care services as a privilege. For me having access to good quality health care is not a privilege, but we all deserve it; it should be a standard. It is what we need for survival. And it should be financially taken care of, so that we are not in debt when we want to be healthy or whole. We suffer through so much and the little crumbs we get here and there are not enough. We have to face these structures of discrimination on a daily basis and they are especially exhausting within the birthing process. Because your body will be in a space where you feel unsafe, this can slow labor down and create anxiety within your body, which can go onto your baby and there are many kind of correlating effects. Being in a hospital is hard enough, and then you have a doctor that is not listening to you and then you are going through birth and it is stressful and all these different things can accumulate. It is already hard for the person that is giving birth but that trauma inherently goes to your baby and your fetus and then it is just transferred to the next generation within the body. There has to be a real change, otherwise this will continue. And this is also violence. Oftentimes people don’t like to say this because it appears too drastic to them. But this is also violence; it is not murder but it also creates deaths. We have to insist that this is urgent – it cannot wait for example to be fixed like in ten years or so, no! People are constantly becoming pregnant and are having abortions and they have the need to do it safely so that this is an experience that doesn’t create more trauma. Because Black and Brown folks and especially queer people already are having enough trauma and we don’t have to have this constantly reiterated every single experience that we have especially with doctors. Not making this an important and urgent issue is an act of violence. So this is an urgent call, this is not just something that can be taken lightly.
Das Interview führte Susanne Schultz, Dezember 2020
 A doula is someone who offers non-medical informational, emotional, and physical support to people during the conceiving process, throughout abortion, pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum period. A doula does not replace your primary care provider. Doulas are also advocates for their clients to ensure their wishes are being met when medically possible. Although many midwives offer similar support as a doula, they are focused on the physiological aspects of your experience- albeit using a holistic approach.