A new documentary series highlighting a queer couple’s journey to expand their family while navigating a health care system laden with discrimination will soon be unveiled at the University of Kansas.
KU graduate students Pere and Timmia DeRoy have woven into a docuseries their reflections and experiences with in vitro fertilization, pregnancy and childbirth, with the help of cinematographer and editor Max Jiang.
They’ll share the first five episodes of the series “Who Gets to Parent?” Thursday, Nov. 10. The couple spoke about the discrimination and health inequities they experienced during the three years from the start of their family-planning and IVF process through their child’s birth last year.
Those who expand their family with the help of assisted reproductive technologies can face challenges related to finances, travel, medical procedures, psychological and medical evaluations, timing, hormone supplements, emotions, and more. On top of issues such as these, Pere and Timmia said they encountered racism and discrimination.
Pere said the largely interview-based series would show viewers how LGBTQ and intersex people are treated in the health care system and how ideas about sex, gender and race compound. For Pere, being misgendered was a regular occurrence as was being subjected to health care workers’ racist beliefs about Black bodies.
At times, the negative treatment toward Pere led them to question their worthiness to parent a child.
“Within my power, I am constantly negotiating and asking for space,” Pere said. “And if I can’t do it for myself, how can I do that for a Black child that I want to bring into the world?”
The couple didn’t set out to document their journey to parenthood. After their first very active discrimination within the health care system, the academics decided to analyze and share.
“That’s one of the reasons why these early episodes are very much us talking about things and sharing information because at the early stages of our journey we actually weren’t filming because we didn’t think about filming,” Timmia said. “So later, when we got into the more active part of the IVF journey, we knew we were making a documentary, so we filmed ourselves a lot.”
Both Pere and Timmia took part in the medical process — Pere’s egg was extracted and fertilized, and Timmia carried and birthed their child — but they were treated very differently.
“I, as a white-presenting woman, was treated in one way with a great deal of respect, constantly asked what I wanted,” Timmia said. “And Pere — as a nonbinary, female-bodied person — I was the one asked consent about Pere’s practices. People refused to talk to Pere. People continually referred to Pere as a man because they thought that they were my husband, even though all the documents showed otherwise.”
They saw how dangerous misconceptions about Black bodies had propagated over time within the system, including Pere being told their Afro-Caribbean ancestry would allow them to “bear more pain” than Timmia.
The couple’s choices were questioned within their circle and by medical providers, even those familiar with their medical histories. Fortunately, the couple received consistent support from Timmia’s dad throughout their journey.
An October report to Congress showed Black women in 2018 and 2019 “experienced maternal death at a rate 2.5 times higher than white” women.
As researchers, Pere and Timmia already were familiar with health disparities among LGBTQ+ and Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC) in the health care system; they utilized a grant through Doulas of Douglas County during their pregnancy that aims to improve health outcomes among marginalized people giving birth by empowering them with doula care.
“Queer and trans BIPOC people are giving birth in a society that’s gonna discriminate against them on a structural, institutional and interpersonal level,” Pere said.
Still, as someone who researches those disparities, seeing structural racism played out in discriminatory scripts filled with biases scared Pere.
In the context of inequality tied to economics, sexuality, gender and race, the question “Who Gets to Parent?” kept surfacing during the editing process. “And not only that, who gets to parent in a sustainable way?” Pere asked.
Amid this reproductive justice era where access to parenthood is both restricted and forced, Timmia noted the significance of the word “get” in the docuseries title.
“It’s not who is forced to parent or who has parenthood thrust upon them but who gets to choose to parent,” Timmia said. “We talk a lot about choice in the series — about the choices to parent. So many people in marginalized spaces want to have a child and can’t. That’s not an option. But if they don’t want to have a child and they get pregnant through some circumstance, then they are forced to. Or they’ll take care of children of other people in their community who are unable to care for their children.”
Pere said the positives and negatives the docuseries captured would provide an opportunity for Lawrence and the campus community to consider how they could do better. They’re grateful to Ash Wilson, director of KU’s Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, and other campus sponsors for providing the forum.
“Who Gets to Parent?” will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10 at Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Memorial Union, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd. The event begins with the docuseries viewing at 6 p.m.
A panel discussion at 7:15 will address public health issues and perspectives among BIPOC and other marginalized people, assisted reproductive technologies, and the making of the docuseries. Panelists will include Giselle Anatol, KU professor of English; Max Jiang, the docuseries cinematographer and editor; as well as Pere, Timmia, and fellow graduate students.
A catered reception at 7:45 will provide refreshments for attendees.
Event organizers will collect donations for the Emily Taylor Center for Women and Gender Equity to benefit pregnant and parenting KU students. Suggested donations include diapers, formula, wipes, cleaning products and bottles. Scan the QR code in the brochure below or click here for an Amazon wishlist of items attendees are invited to bring to the event.
The art depicting Pere and Timmia in the brochure was created by Aubrey Lewis, formerly of Lawrence, who is now based in Oakland, California.Who-gets-to-parent-3