Dr. Meghan Lewis manages to keep busy.
She’s a professional counselor, a doula, a former apprentice midwife and the founder of the LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Center in Oakland. And she’s also the curator of the Third Annual LGBTQ Perinatal Wellness Queer Family Portrait Exhibit, now showing at Natural Resources, a nonprofit center at Valencia and 25th that provides prenatal and perinatal care and supplies for birth and non-birth parents.
The M.O. of Natural Resources is to guide parents — of all identities — through parenthood and provide resources that address difficulties that can come up pre- and post-pregnancy, like pregnancy loss and lactation counseling.
The purpose of the photo exhibit is to provide images of queer families whose paths to parenthood aren’t widely documented or understood, even in our inclusive pocket of San Francisco. In a phone interview, Lewis said, “What’s also very, very critical, particularly with the LGBTQIA community, is feeling the strength in numbers. We don’t see queer families on a daily basis. I do, but a lot of people don’t.”
She went on to say, “This exhibit is a reflection of that desire to highlight and draw attention to the beauty of queer families — the beauty, the strength, the power, the endurance, the integrity, the diversity.”
Upon visiting Natural Resources, it became clear why she chose this place as the stage for the portraits. Nestled cozily along a residential area of Valencia Street, inside it’s a safe haven for new parents in need of community, support and a place to get their bearings.
“Sometimes wandering around with a baby, it does feel like there’s not a place to land,” says Alice Light, Natural Resources’ executive director. “Especially around here it can feel like you have another limb or something, if you have a kid.”
The center operates as a retail store selling holistic baby items from local mothers and other national suppliers. There’s a casual hangout area, with couches, and an offering of tea and snacks. They also offer inclusive classes and support groups for parents, and doula training. In January, classes were offered for Spanish-speaking doulas.
Serving on the board of Natural Resources for two years prior to attaining her current position, Light stresses the importance of having professionally taken portraits of queer families lining the walls of the center.
“Some,” she says, “are like family photos. And then some are really more like this artistic exploration of what is it to be parenting and giving birth, when that’s not like the expected gender identity of what that should look like.”
And, “I think in our country, and in our culture, we just have such a narrow view of what parenting should be, and this is a place that is welcoming. And for us, to have it actually be shown on the walls, feels really appropriate, and that feels good to me.”
Light wants some of the portraits from the exhibit to stay up year-round, and not just for Pride month. “Pride is this month, which is great. But it’s not just one month. Families are, you know, the way they are. So having that those on the walls just to be here, and be a part of what you see on a daily basis, I think is really important,” she said.
One of the four photographers whose portraits are featured at the center, is epli. Her specialization as a photographer is to capture nurturing moments, especially those that give visibility to queer families, and to those who aren’t conventionally expected to be mothers, like herself.
As a masculine-of-center-identifying individual, she hopes that through projects like this, the need for more queer familial representation becomes clear.
Lewis selected epli’s work, along with the three other artists, including Sarah Deragon, Meg Allen and Jamie Thrower. She noted, “They are my top favorites. I really just wanted to bring more attention to their work and expertise.”
For Lewis, who’s also a member of the LGBTQ community and an intentional solo parent, the exhibit and its continued existence is paramount.
As a wellness professional that spends a lot of time with queer families, she said, “Queer people have been having kids since the beginning of time — since we became land-dwelling.”
The Queer Family Portrait Exhibit is showcased at Natural Resources until June 30, at 1367 Valencia Street. It is free.