Winnipeg trans father denied leadership by breastfeeding group
Should a breastfeeding father be allowed to become a leader of a motherhood support group?
La Leche League Canada says no.
Transgender parent Trevor MacDonald, who lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and also identifies as a gay man, was told by LLLC that he cannot become a group leader of the national advocacy group (which is an affiliate of the international mother-to-mother breastfeeding non-profit organization) because he does not identify as a mother.
MacDonald applied to become a leader but was rejected. MacDonald posted both his request to become a leader as well as the letter of rejection on his blog, Milk Junkies.
MacDonald emphasized that he loves LLLC and that his concern regards their policy.
In fact, he credits LLLC with helping to make breastfeeding possible for him. The stay-at-home dad (who has an honours BA in political science from UBC) transitioned from female to male and then became pregnant. Due to surgery, MacDonald was unable to make all the milk that his son requires. He uses a supplemental nursing system to feed him donated breast milk through a feeding tube. The tube is attached by MacDonald's nipple; the baby latches on to both the tube and the nipple.
In an article published by Out Magazine in April, MacDonald wrote "Breastfeeding is the easiest way for me to comfort my child when he is upset, tired, hurt, or scared. But as a trans man, it also causes awkward moments when I nurse my son in public."
The LLC representative who wrote the rejection letter quoted an LLLC policy established in 1994 that states that "since an LLLC Leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC Leader".
The representative went on to suggest that MacDonald could still contribute without having to be a leader. "A Leader needs to be able to help all women interested in breastfeeding. Fathers are able to help in other ways, for example an informed LLL father who is supportive of LLL philosophy might present a fathers' meeting."
MacDonald had proposed holding meetings for queer parents (an idea suggested by his local leader). He pointed out that a California man had unsuccessfully attempted to breastfeed his baby, and MacDonald suggested Skype sessions with similar parents could provide support.
However, the LLLC representative discouraged such an idea.
"I think that the group that you envisage would work better not as an LLL Group because its scope is beyond breastfeeding and LLL is concerned specifically with breastfeeding." The LLLC representative added that "what qualifies a Leader to relate to those mothers is her experience of mothering, not her experience of separation."
The LLLC is open to queer members and has accredited a number of lesbian mothers as leaders.
Despite the rejection, MacDonald has created a Facebook group called Birthing and Breastfeeding Transmen and Allies to provide social support and exchange experiences.