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Entries in breastfeeding advocacy (3)

Friday
Sep142012

Trevor & the La Leche League Battle

This is getting out of hand. I cannot believe the hoopla Trevor has created regarding his desire to be a LLL leader in Canada. For those who don’t even know who or what I’m talking about, I’ll start at the beginning, but I’m going to give the short version.

My own prejudice first. I was a LLL leader for ten years. I also happen to be lesbian married to a transman. I had three children I breastfed for years and my partner, then presenting as a woman, had a baby that he also breastfed for 2.5 years. This topic isn’t foreign to us.

Trevor came out as a man and had his breasts removed (Top Surgery… Bilateral Mastectomy). Then a few years later, with his genitals and female insides intact, decided to birth a baby. Once the son was born, he wanted to breastfeed. Trevor says he has milk, but it’s hard to say how much since he uses an enormous amount of donor milk (16 different donors by the time his son was 7 months old, so he says in his blog Milk Junkies) and from what I know of Top Surgery, most, if not all (female) breast tissue is removed and the nipple is (usually) completely removed and replaced (women’s nipples are very different than men’s, even if women are AA sized), making the milk ducts all but inaccessible. If he has any milk at all, it would almost be a miracle of science and possibly a malpractice of his plastic surgeon. To feed his son, he uses a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to give the donated breast milk. Trevor started going to LLL meetings and eventually, a LLL leader friend thought it’d be good for him to lead support meetings which led to his wanting to be a LLL leader and his applying. Because he is a man, he was turned down. LLL is a mother to mother organization and Trevor identifies as a man.

Question: If Trevor was born a man and was “breastfeeding”, would he be as welcome at meetings as Trevor? Or is Trevor really being seen as a woman and that is why he is so accepted? I believe it’s the latter.

Trevor’s invading women-only space does an enormous disservice to both transmen and LLL alike. Why is it so important to have every. single. place. be both male and female? Why can’t there be male-only and female-only spaces? Is being politically correct really that important? Still?  

You can read LLL’s requirements for becoming a leader here. It’s clear the roles of mother and father are delineated. Some might find this sexist and that it’s just not keeping up with the times of the science of possibilities, but can’t there be a place where mothers are permitted to just be mothers? Is it gender bias to request that women have a space where men aren’t looking at intimate areas of women’s bodies? While Trevor says he has had no problems at his group, I know there are plenty of women who would never attend meetings if he was a leader (or any other man for that matter). As it is, when guys hear that Zack and I got together at a LLL meeting they are not happy, thinking that they never had to worry about the meetings being pick up spots (not kidding; we’ve been told this on a number of occasions). Men can become Lactation Consultants or Peer Counselors and hired on a one-on-one basis, but can’t LLL just be a place for mothers to come in a group setting?

But, there are other issues that come into play that disqualify Trevor from being a LLL leader. LLL is extremely clear about not mixing causes and it doesn’t take two seconds on Trevor’s blog to see that two of his causes are milk sharing and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex (LGBTQI) issues. LLL has very strict limits on milk sharing and wrote Trevor about it, which he published here. They say:

A Leader shall never initiate the suggestion of an informal milk-donation arrangement or act as an intermediary in such a situation. If a mother wishes to discuss these options – which may include donating expressed milk, wet-nursing or cross-nursing – the Leader’s role is to provide information about the benefits and risks, as mentioned above, including the limitations of home sterilization of expressed breast milk.

Regarding being a specialty leader such as an LGBTQI leader, they say:

I would also like to address your interest in leading an LGBT LLL meeting. I think that it is important for you to know that we do not accredit specialty Leaders. So for example Leaders often say that they need a working mother as a Leader for their Group because she can relate to the mothers in the population the Group serves - I would disagree - what qualifies a Leader to relate to those mothers is her experience of mothering, not her experience of separation. Similarly in this case it is the experience of mothering through breastfeeding which qualifies a Leader to help others. Any Leader can help anyone who is interested in breastfeeding. LLL has accredited a number of lesbian mothers as Leaders. They lead Groups for all mothers.

While LLL initially turned Trevor down (in the letter above, they have since written a statement saying they will look at the issue that has never been presented to them before. This is where I get testy.

A letter of “support” was written that could be cut & pasted or signed and sent to LLL and that letter began:

As the world's most important breastfeeding support organization, it is vital that you include all kinds of breastfeeding families. Regardless of any other issues, LLL should support breastfeeding relationships. I was very disappointed to hear that a transgender dad in Canada was told not to apply for leadership because of his gender identity.

Excuse me? LLL supports ALL families. LLL does not exclude any families from their support, knowledge or information. LLL also did NOT tell Trevor not to apply for leadership. It explained to Trevor why he was not a good fit for leadership, the same way they tell women every single day why they are also not a good fit, either. Some who apply are; most who apply are not. And this is just how the letter began! In this angry tone. What the heck?! This makes it sound like LLL is a vile organization that has unreasonable concerns about trans issues, namely transphobia when, by every bit of correspondence that Trevor shared (without LLL’s permission, I might add), you can see that LLL is extremely respectful and kind. Why Trevor and his spouse decided to write the letter in this tone is beyond me, but it has pissed me off more than any other aspects of the whole topic.

I’ve said in various threads around the Net that if Trevor wants to lead the specialty breastfeeding groups, he will be amazing at it! No, he doesn’t just need to limit himself to LGBTQI groups or milk sharing or SNS groups, but those can definitely be his focus and forte just as each of us midwives also tend to have specialties, too.

Trevor is definitely traversing new ground and it’s awesome that he is. It needs to be tread, but I don’t believe it needs to be tromped on through LLL’s land. I would love to see him start his own organization and I would be one of the greatest supporters. I am all for trans procreation and breast supplementation… fabulous! Zack and I are both on the same page with this issue.

Leave LLL alone, Trevor and others; find another avenue for your energies… something positive and joyful. We have enough fighting in our lives. I don’t believe we always have to shove ourselves into middle of the road organizations, especially ones that are single sex only spaces.  Let’s create something for us… just for us… and show the world how great we are and how strong we can be. There’s more than enough to go around.

Tuesday
Jun102008

LLL Founder Gone

La Leche League has had such a positive influence in my life. I changed my parenting style because of the books I was loaned through LLL. I found life-long friends through League. My partner and I met at a LLL meeting and my apprentice and I also met at a LLL meeting.

The Founding Mothers, in 1956, had no idea what they were doing when they gathered together to support each other as they struggled to breastfeed in a world that idolized bottles. But, their meeting has forever changed the breastfeeding terrain.

Edwina Froehlich died at 93 on Sunday, June 8, 2008.

Only 6 Founding Mothers remain.

Join and support LLL when and where you can.

Saturday
Feb162008

To Give the "Teta" is to Give Life

Dar La TeTA es dar ViDA

(To Give Ninny/Boob/Tit/Side/Pecho/Na Na/etc. Is to Give Life!) is a wonderful video on You Tube.

The video, in black and white, shows babies, toddlers and children nursing with a bouncy song in Spanish playing along.

Thanks to midwife Dagmar for the complete translation!

Sleep, sleep, little black one,
because your mother is in the field, little black one,
sleep, sleep, my life,
because your mother is in the field, my life.

She's going to bring you quails for you
She's going to bring delicious fruits for you
She's going to bring pork for you
She's going to bring many things for you

And if the little black one doesn't sleep
the white devil comes and zas!
eats his little leg - chicapumba!

Sleep, sleep, little black one,
because your mother is in the field, little black one

ENJOY the video! It's a gem... and your nurslings will make you watch it a thousand times - I just bet!