La Leche League Rejects Transgendered Man, So I Resigned
By DanielleBarnsley on October 01, 2012
When I began my journey to becoming a La Leche League Leader, if someone had told me I would send my resignation a few short years later, with a flourish over a transgendered man, I would have raised my eyebrows, and laughed.
Yet, here I am.
Image: St Petersburg Times/Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA Press.
First of all, yes, I am an accredited La Leche League Leader. Due to policies and situations in my community, I have kept that knowledge to myself on this blog, and even on my own Facebook in recent years. It's sort of part and parcel of the role, as a leader I don't want you think or compare your parenting to my own and think that LLL believes that too. This is my space, and my opinions.
Wholeheartedly, I am a breastfeeding advocate, I devour breastfeeding studies, articles, and information, and I have, myself breastfed both my children for a combined time of 4 years, and almost two months (we're still going). In 2008 I took it a step further and began the process to become a volunteer leader within what I believed to be a rather progressive organization. I got involved because I had women who had inspired me, who had supported me, and I knew the direct benefit of having a smiling face eager to support with helpful information.
I loved the process of becoming accredited. I loved stretching myself as a woman, and being able to refrain from judging others for their decisions as a mother or a parent. I loved it when I could help a mom come to her own conclusion on how to help her baby. I loved the ability to hear mom's support each other, and share their own experiences. I cried with them, for them, and I watched their babies grow as they nourished them through breastfeeding. I was proud of those who breastfed for 3 weeks, and those that went beyond even 3 years. I grew as a woman, and I was able to pull through my own sometimes complicated breastfeeding hurdles.
Today, I read about Trevor. He is a transgendered man, who has successfully breastfed his baby, through SNS for 15 months. He uses donor milk. By all intents and purposes, he is an amazing candidate for the role of an LLLC leader. However, the LLLC and LLLI policies, which are 55 years old, say quite clearly that in order to be a leader, you must be a woman, because the role of mothering is done by the mother. Essentially, they believe in a traditional family, and that is ideal in maintaining a breastfeeding relationship.
And this is where I began to wonder if this organization was sending out a resounding no to Trevor out of policy or out of sheer discrimination, which of course, is a heavy handed insult.
But consider this: If Trevor had not transitioned, meaning he remained female as he was born, nursed through an SNS and donor milk, there is a strong chance that he would have been welcomed into the accreditation process. Other than the normal set of questions they throw your way during the application process, he would have likely been pushed through, and been an excellent leader, no doubt.
But he's a man. Who carried his baby, then gave birth. Then, even with odds stacked against him, he's managed to maintain a breastfeeding relationship for 15 months through donor milk, and from what I understand, with much support from the LLLC leaders in his area. To me, that's an incredible, amazing feat, one that truly defies many odds. So really, when I break it down, policy or no policy, despite him meeting all the other requirements to become a leader, they have essentially refused him because of his gender.
Since becoming a leader, I have managed to find a balance between my Leader time, and who I am outside of LLLC. It's been a relatively easy balance because LLLC mostly does a decent job of staying out of controversial subjects. What I believe politically and ethically has never entered the realm of being a leader, save privacy and confidentiality when dealing with mothers, all of which I have never questioned or disagreed with.
Until now. I have a hard line when it comes to anything that looks, feels, or smells like discrimination, be it against women or men. I am a heterosexual woman in a "traditional" family, but I stand firmly beside those in my life that are part of the LGBT community. They are my equals, my friends, and my loved ones. I turn away from organizations that seek to ruin any opportunity for these fellow human beings to be equal in love and accepted in our society. I have no tolerance for intolerance.
Which is why I offered my resignation with La Leche League Canada, effective immediately. As an organization, they have shown that their resistance to the changing times, even the changing picture of what a family can and will look like, is going to set them back. Yes, I could stay in the trenches and fight the powers that be, but the bad taste in my mouth is unlikely to dissipate. This was a decision that both LLLC and LLLI made together, and I feel strongly that they made the wrong choice. So I will not allow them to make that choice for me. The negative press that they are receiving from this incident will not be one that will be forgotten. It will not be one that they will easily recover from, and most importantly, they are missing out an amazing opportunity to stretch their organization into this century and the next.
And quite frankly, I am ashamed to admit that I am a leader within an organization that seems determined to stay in the last century.
Embracing the unfamiliar and unknown is hard. I feel regret that I have had to walk away from LLLC on this sort of note, and I feel sorry knowing that I may be one of many that will follow suit. They will lose so much from such a decision that I feel strongly they will regret in the coming months. But, it is what it is. My integrity, my ethics, and my own personal beliefs ride on this decision, and I do not believe in standing by idly to wait this one out. This is my way of taking a stand against the ugly discrimination they have shown this past week.
I am a breastfeeding advocate through and through. But I am also a human rights advocate, an equal opportunity advocate. And I am a mother who understands that mothering takes on many forms, and looks different in every house, in every country. Trevor, in my opinion is just as much a mother as I am, and deserves to be treated as such.
If you are interested in letting LLLC or LLLI know how you feel about this decision, here are their respective emails. Dialogue must be started to move this change forward. Email them, share your stories, share your concerns, and let them know that they can change this policy to be inclusive of all those breastfeed successfully.
Danielle rants blogs about her life with her two parented children, and other issues surrounding modern day parenting at Tales From The Mamaside. You can find her sharing her experience as a Birthmother in a semi-open adoption at Another Version of Mother.
[Editor's Note: You can read about the LLL's response to the Trevor controversy here.)