Thursday, 16 August 2012

My LLL Rejection Letter


UPDATE! LLL International has announced they will reconsider their policies.
Please support an inclusive vision of breastfeeding families by sending the Board a message!



(If the button doesn't work, please try another browser, or cut and paste the letter found here).

Following my previous post, many people have asked to read what La Leche League actually wrote to me and their reasons for stating that I cannot become a leader. After some careful thought, I've decided to post the full text of LLL's response, as well as the letter I'd written hoping to convince them. In reading, please remember this: I LOVE La Leche League. Its books, meetings and online resources made breastfeeding possible for me. My experiences with my local LLL chapter have been fantastic and I am extremely grateful for this.

It seems that the decision regarding my leadership application comes down to policy: "Since an LLLC leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC Leader." I understand that I don't fit into LLL's definition here, I just think that their definition is poor. I believe that the point of the above statement is that in order to be a leader, you must have breastfed a baby for a certain length of time. It is your experience that counts in peer-to-peer support. At the time the policy was written, the authors assumed that men wouldn't/couldn't breastfeed, so they defined a leader as a woman. I kinda doubt that many people envisioned my own scenario. I think that the interpretation of the policy should evolve.

If you believe that LLL needs to change its policies in order to become more inclusive, please consider writing to the LLL board with your concerns. Don't simply withdraw your support from the organization – there are TONS of amazing, forward-thinking Leaders. Let's not forget about them and the great work they do!

Here is the first response LLL sent to me:
Dear Trevor,

Firstly I want to thank you for your interest in leadership, in sharing your experience with mothers and in expanding the reach of LLL in the community. Your contribution to the Group is clearly greatly valued. Thank you also for your patience while I consulted with members of the Boards of La Leche League Canada (LLLC) and La Leche League International (LLLI).

Our policies do preclude men from becoming Leaders. LLLC Policy states:

4.14 MEN AS LEADERS

Since an LLLC Leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC Leader. (March 1994)

The wording echoes LLLI policy:

Leader Eligibility - (second paragraph) Since an LLL Leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLL Leader.

LLLI's policies and mission statement consistently speak of Leaders as mothers, giving mother-to-mother support.

There are also Concept Policy Statements which include the mother/baby relationship and the father's role. The Concept Policy Statement on the father's role speaks of "... understanding of the father's role, not as a mother substitute, but as a unique figure in the baby's life."

You told me that you do not identify as a mother. You are your baby's father. According to LLL philosophy the roles of mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. I think that this would make it difficult for you to represent LLL philosophy. You acknowledge that some women may not be comfortable working with a male 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.

I'd also like to share with you some of the wording of LLLI's policy on donated milk:

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.

This would mean that a La Leche League Leader would be able to share information about your experience with another mother, but as a Leader you would not be free to initiate or recommend this suggestion. If you wanted to share this experience with others, another way of helping, other than LLL leadership could be a better fit for you.

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. 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. Other topics may come up at meetings as they relate to breastfeeding, but we do not, for example, recommend any particular method of or setting for childbirth, sleeping arrangements, diet or educational philosophy and (as noted above) we could not recommend using donated milk. There is definitely a place for groups with a different focus, such as attachment parenting groups, but these are not LLL Groups. Thanks for sharing information on your Facebook group. This is the kind of thing that would definitely work better not as an LLL affiliated Group, since there are guidelines on how LLL Facebook groups can be run.

One thing you said which I must respond to is that "LLL now supports working mothers, women breastfeeding after reduction surgery, women who are inducing lactation, single mothers, and lesbian families". I wondered if you think that this is new - that we did not support them before. In fact we have always supported all of these mothers. We support all women interested in breastfeeding. I think there may be confusion between whom we support and who can be a Leader. You mention "LLL's conservative, Christian roots" as if LLL has moved away from its roots. In my view LLL's roots are in our philosophy which has not changed and has not needed to change in order for us to accept and help all mothers, irrespective of their background. ALthough LLL was founded by seven women who attended the same Roman Catholic group and hatched the idea that became LLLI at a church picnic, they never ascribed a religious sponsorship to LLLI, never required any religious affiliation, whether Catholic, Christian or other. The mission, the philosophy, the concepts - those are the roots of LLLI and they are what you and I value so much about LLL.

I would welcome your comments or any questions you might have.

Thank you again for your interest in LLL and in helping others. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

And here's my original letter:

Through communication with my local LLL leader, I understand that you have some concerns over my potential leader application. It is true that I do not identify as a mother. I am a transgender man – I birthed my baby and have been breastfeeding him for 13 months, but I am a father. However, I certainly "mother" my baby by caring for him in all the traditional ways that a mother would. I have benefited tremendously from my participation in La Leche League, and I would love to be able to give back as a leader as well.

Without the support and information provided to me by LLL, I doubt that I would be breastfeeding today. During my pregnancy, a leader told me about Diana West's Defining Your Own Success: Breastfeeding After Reduction Surgery. I learned that despite my own dramatic chest surgery, it might be possible for me to produce some milk, and to have a satisfying breastfeeding relationship by using an SNS. I attended LLL meetings at ------------, where I received a warm welcome both from leaders and other breastfeeding parents. After the birth of my baby, I gratefully accepted intensive one-on-one help from a leader to ensure a good latch even with my meagre chest tissue.

It is my hope that I could some day reciprocate the compassion, encouragement, and expertise that made such a difference to my personal breastfeeding experience. I overcame significant challenges in order to breastfeed and I believe that this background, combined with leader training, will enable me to effectively help others. I acknowledge that some women may not be comfortable working with a male leader. Nevertheless, I wonder if there may be a way to facilitate meetings with those who feel they could benefit. My local Leader suggested holding meetings oriented toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender parents interested in breastfeeding. I know that these individuals need support and that they do already turn to LLL to try to find it. For example, a transgender man reached out to me via my blog and mentioned that he had attended LLL meetings where he lives in California. He was sadly unable to latch his baby. I'm sure that my situation and his, although very unique today, will become increasingly common in the future. Queer-positive meetings that include the possibility of Skype access could provide meaningful assistance to parents in need around the world.

I understand that LLL's current philosophy emphasizes mother-to-mother support, and that the idea of a breastfeeding dad is entirely new territory. In recent articles as well as her new book, Elisabeth Badinter has emphasized LLL's conservative, Christian roots. However, I was disappointed that she doesn't recognize the ways in which the organization has grown. In fact, LLL now supports working mothers, women breastfeeding after reduction surgery, women who are inducing lactation, single mothers, and lesbian families, even though these situations were controversial as little as a few decades ago. I very much hope that LLL will continue to evolve and meet the needs of today's families – including any breastfeeding dyad wishing to find support and information.

Please let me know if you have any further questions about my situation. Also, feel free to read my blog and published articles. I consider them available for anyone to read, but I have changed my name and my child's name in these materials in order to protect my family's privacy. I look forward to your response.

62 comments:

  1. The only reason I found the gender role language in the LLLI Ten Concepts tolerable, both as a new mother and in my 12 years as a Leader, is because it *only* had to do with my role as the breastfeeding parent. I believe that was the spirit. The Founders were Catholics but not conservative. In fact they met in a somewhat left wing Catholic service organization.

    My ability to bring breastfeeding to my relationship with my children was about my breasts - not my gender identity or gender expression.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Trevor, I am so sorry that your pre application was rejected. Last Tuesday I mentioned you in a workshop on gender issues we are having at the company I work for (in Argentina) as an example of the fact that you could be a man and breastfeed, since being a man has everything to do with your gender identity while the ability to feed a child at the breast has to do with your hormonal and glandular makeup.
    I am glad that your local group has been supportive. I hope that you can find a way to support mothers and fathers, maybe outside of LLL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As I understand Trevor had, as I did, his breast tissue removed so he uses a SNS to feed his baby. I feel he would be a great advocate and is uniquely qualified to lead a Trans* parent support group as he shares the same experiences and challenges they do.

      Delete
  3. I am an LLL Leader, and I can definitely see how this can be a confusing and challenging situation for all involved. In Trevor's defense, I have to note that he certainly qualifies biologically as a mother, as he gave birth to his baby. And surely mothers have been accredited as Leaders whose only breastfeeding experience has been through an SNS, the use of certainly included reasons of surgical reconstruction of breast tissue.

    Also, the 2001 change in the definition of an LLL Leader does not include the requirement to help *all* mothers; in fact it doesn't include a requirement to help *any* mothers. This change was made, I understood, as a way to allow Leaders to help LLL in ways other than mother to mother support. So saying that he would need to be able to help *all* (or any) mothers would not seem to be supported by the LLLI PSR.

    That said, it is definitely true, and I have always understood, that LLL holds Leaders to a very different standard than the mothers we help because we expect them to model LLL Philosophy. LLL has always tried to avoid the appearance of judgment, but matching mothers to LLL Philosophy is, and has always been, just that: judgment. We have tried to temper the fact by spreading judgment out over several members of the LAD, but we really do need to face the fact that we *are* judging mothers, and find a way to be honest and comfortable with this fact, if we intend to hold LLL Philosophy at the center of qualifying for LLL leadership.

    And within the confines of LLL Philosophy, I am still not sure where Trevor's experience falls short of that, although I'm certainly not familiar with the entire case as presented to the LAD. But as I've argued above, the reasons expressed in the rejection letter seem a bit thin. I would very much agree that LLL is neither conservative nor Christian within LLL Philosophy, and that Leaders run the gamut of political and religious views. But apparently the comfort level at our core hasn't spread quite far enough along the continuum. I guess that's just a fact as well, although a sad one. My husband has a similar issue because of his involvement with the Boy Scouts. We continue to work with each organization because of the value we see in the work being done, but it's definitely a challenge we have yet to work out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You say "And surely mothers have been accredited as Leaders whose only breastfeeding experience has been through and SNS" Meaning you don't know if any have. It is about helping through shared experience and if you haven't dealt with milks supply, engorgement, nipple problems, infections and the like you don't fit the Leader model but you are welcome to all the support and information you need.

      Delete
  4. And all of this is why I hate the words "Motherhood" and "Fatherhood" (though the M word seems to be more of a problem). It traps women into being the primary caregiver by default and locks men out of the opportunity. (And FTR this is coming from a cis-hetero SAHM)

    What it sounds like to me is that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what LLL is. We, the public, and every local chapter leader see it as a breastfeeding resource. I love my local meetings, where we talk about breastfeeding and not much else.

    The leadership clearly sees it as a mother's group that deals with breastfeeding as a component of mothering. And you know what, if that's what it is, if it's about Mothering then fine you don't qualify because you're a man (and yay for having your identity recognized!). But then they need to let their leaders, members and the public know that that's what it is. It's just another big mom's group and not a BREASTFEEDING PEER support group. Because that's how portray themselves, and as far as a breastfeeding peers go, you TOTALLY qualify.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Normally in La Leche League we do not discuss any application for leadership outside the Applicant/Leader/Leader Accreditation Department triad in order to maintain confidentiality for the parents and family. In this case, because Trevor has chosen to make both his letter to La Leche League and our response public, sharing some information is reasonable.

      Trevor had not formally applied for LLL leadership but rather had sent a query because some of the pre-requisites do not, as he recognizes, fit the particular circumstances of being biologically female and self-identified as male and a breastfeeding father. Pre-application queries are not unusual for La Leche League and this one was considered carefully, and without judgement regarding his gender or life choices, by a number of people both within LLL Canada and the greater LLL International community.

      What all those who considered this query felt is that Trevor's breastfeeding experience and enthusiasm will make him a great supporter of other breastfeeding families. However, his particular set of circumstances, how he sees his role in their family, and how he wants to share his experience would be constrained if he had to work within the present guidelines of what LLL Leaders do and the information and resources they can share. He was encouraged to go forward and do exactly what he plans to do, set up a support group where he can share breastfeeding information and support in a way that suits him and those who choose to contact him. We wish him well in his endeavor.

      LLL has leadership pre-requisites and these were the only things that were considered in this situation. Obviously gender had to be discussed but only in the context of how it impacted the pre-requisites. Many mothers over the years have considered LLL leadership and have come to realize that how they wanted to support breastfeeding families or their particular passion about breastfeeding was not a good fit with the realities of being an LLL Leader. Within the Canadian and world community we need many kinds of breastfeeding support to create a breastfeeding friendly society. LLL is one of those supports and, for those of us who have chosen this way to support mothers it is a good fit. Trevor will provide another avenue of support and we hope that there can be a mutual referral of parents when the specific support and/or information needed may reside with the other.

      We think one of the things that Trevor and others may find difficult to separate is that the pre-requisites for LLL leadership do not define who LLL can and does support as a breastfeeding parent. Clearly he was supported and encouraged by the LLL Leaders and Group members in his community and this is what needs to be acknowledged along with celebrating his incredible commitment to succeed at breastfeeding his son.

      We have encouraged Trevor to continue to correspond privately with the LLL Canada Leader Accreditation Department to help clarify any questions or concerns he may have regarding his query about leadership. LLL, as it does with any of its correspondence with Leaders and/or potential Leaders, respects the confidential and private nature of those conversations. LLL will continue discussion with Trevor as long as Trevor can respect this as well. If there is any further release to the public of correspondence between LLL and Trevor then we will need to discontinue the discussion altogether as this serves only to detract from the mission of LLL, which is to support all breastfeeding families.

      With respect,
      Fiona Audy
      For La Leche League Canada

      Delete
    2. As a La Leche League leader, I have had very interesting discussions with the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) and leader applicants in my country. These pre-application dialogues have always been very interesting, and what is more important, very respectful. Nobody is judging Trevor's lifestyle, the LAD is merely questioning the suitability of Trevor as a La Leche League leader. As far as I can see, it was not supposed to be the end of the discussion. An open discussion about potential issues can only serve to keep an organisation going that will fit into today's society. Policies CAN be changed, but they will only be changed if people like Trevor are willing to have the discussion, to clarify roles, to open eyes, to make people see beyond religious boundaries etc. I hope you can see beyond the feeling of rejection, Trevor, and keep having an open-minded discussion with the LAD. I'm sure it will benefit you and La Leche League in the long run to keep discussing this. And I'm sure you can be a great support to breastfeeding people, in whichever way you can.

      Delete
    3. Fiona, while I respect LLL as an organization, I find it frustrating that you choose, as an LLL representative, to attempt to "shut down" the conversation, instead of requesting more feedback. This post is about encouraging LLL to take a look at their definitions and recognize that they are limited and not inclusive. The idea that somebody "mothers" or "fathers" is incredibly antiquated - LLL is a breastfeeding support organization, and as such should be focused on said support, regardless of the gender identity of the person behind the breasts. The idea that only "true mothers" can lead LLL is incredibly bigoted and needs to be reconsidered, period. Even if Trevor continues to apply and is accepted as an LLL leader, that doesn't change the fact that the verbiage within LLL's policy needs to be changed.

      Delete
    4. It is important that people in leadership positions qualify for the position period. Standards are set and they are important for the survival of the organization. Yes the leaders are held to a higher standard it is not bigotry.

      Delete
  5. I think you would be a fantastic resource for all nursing parents, and you could pursue that in the form of becoming an IBCLC. However, I agree with LLLI's stance. I don't necessarily agree with their primary reason, which seems like incidental wording. But I think it makes sense in many ways. My experience with LLL meetings and groups has been positive, accepting, and warm. However, I would have felt very uncomfortable at my first meeting if I had met you there. I would never have gone back, frankly. I was not very comfortable nursing openly in public. My son was only a few weeks old and have only been actually nursing for a few days. We went through almost 2 weeks of finger feeding, pumping, and frustration to get there. Seeing a man in a place where I expected to be surrounded only by other women would have been unnerving. Now, with 2 nurslings under my belt and the sure knowledge that anyone who frequents Target the same time I do has likely seen at least one if not both of my breasts, I wouldn't care. I'd be intrigued by your story, as I am when I read your blog, and I'd be offering to pump milk for you if I could. I'd love the opportunity to hear your journey and support you, and receive support from you. But at my first meeting? Like I said, I would not have gone back. Maybe that isn't fair. I like to think it isn't intolerant or ignorant so much as simply a matter of personal comfort levels. But I have also met women at LLL meetings who were unable to nurse in the group without facing away and using a cover. So I can see how, in the eyes of LLL, having a father present would be counter productive at times. I also know that, at the meetings I attended when my son was born, fathers were not invited to attend.
    Just a few thoughts on the other perspective. I do think there is a place for your passion and support for other nursing parents in other venues, and perhaps a group for responsive parenting can be founded by yourself and your partner to meet that need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, your reaction was exactly what I was thinking as I was reading Trevor's blog post. LLLC is right in their position.

      Had my very first LLL meeting been led by a man, it would have been my last - as Trevor himself implied when he wrote: "I acknowledge that some women may not be comfortable working with a male leader." Precisely correct. It's a mother's group - Trevor self-identifies as "a father", which is also why Dads (no matter how supportive, caring or helpful they may well be) don't attend LLL meetings - and certainly don't lead them.

      Love the idea of starting up your own support group. Good luck, Trevor!

      Delete
    2. You say you would have been uncomfortable if, at your first meeting, you had met him there. Does that mean that you would advocate he not be able to attend meetings at all?

      I have do doubt there would be women out there who would feel the same way if they met a lesbian at their first LLL meeting. Does this mean we should exclude lesbians? I'm sure there are people who would be uncomfortable and cease to attend a LLL meeting lead by a woman of colour. Does that mean we ought to prevent women of colour from being leaders? What is it that makes those situations different from Trevor's, that you can prohibit one and not the others?

      Delete
    3. It is important and okay for there to be safe women only space for things that are unique to them. I gave birth and nursed my children. I was a member of LLL back then. I have since medically transitioned from female to male and when I made that decision to transition I gave up the right to occupy women only space. I respect women and their right to their space. I am also glad I can have my men only space as well.

      Delete
    4. TransZack, in a different comment you acknowledge and seem to applaud that LLL welcomed and supported me as a member even though I am male. You said my rejection had nothing to do with my gender. Here you say LLL should be a woman-only space (it is not - LLL has confirmed that trans men are welcome as members at meetings). How contradictory... Shouldn't all this simply be about helping babies, no matter who their parents are, be breastfed?

      Delete
  6. when i applied for LLL leadership, I went in with a lot of ideas about what i wanted to do. I went through a lot of challenges, and it felt like i moved mountains to overcome them, and thought that this gave me a special insight into the struggles of other breastfeeding parents. I thought about having a group that was geared towards my situation, and how i could talk to them about he things that i did that got me through. But as I worked through my leadership, I found that an important part of becoming a leader is letting go of your story. In the end, the details of my experience don't matter, if I talked about all i did, it puts me in a position of an example of what you can do, if you work hard enough, or give moms the impression that LLL supports or suggests all i did, and that's not ok. what worked for me, isn't what would work for everyone, and I'm not a picture of what anyone should do, even if that's just a perception. I need to be a resource that can be accessed by anyone who wants information or support regarding breastfeeding. it's my experience gives me an understanding, but as a LLL leader, I support with the tried and true LLL information and methods. It is a breastfeeding focused organization, and after a lot of soul searching, I decided that I could best be of service by representing a larger organization.

    I've had some people who have been interested in leadership, and are passionate about breastfeeding, but how they want to promote breastfeeding just doesn't fit into the model of what makes LLL what it is. Many of them found that pursuing other avenues of support were a better fit, like in strong advocacy groups, or attachment parenting groups. If I had decided not to put my story away and still felt like my voice was of best use added to a broader cause, I would have gone that route, and not felt less for it. I think a LGBT group that has the freedom to talk about milk sharing, and other issues that are outside of LLL's scope is a fabulous thing and hope that you go ahead with this. I've been following your blog for some time, and it's obvious what passion and support you have to give. I think it would be a shame for you to let go of your story when telling your story is the very thing that is helping to spread the word about the wide and varied picture of what families look like, and how breastfeeding can be a part of that picture. I'm not sure that broadening the scope of LLL or making changes to the organization is the answer. I think that adding to the resources that are out there would be wonderful. I think that it's more than just the semantics, I hear that it is a hurtful thing when it appears that you were denied based on your gender, not based on your experience, but I think it's bigger than that. I don't think that LLL is rejecting you. It sounds like you found support and inclusion in your group, and I hope that you continue to find that support, and find a way to share your expertese in a way that works for you.
    All the best

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said it is about breastfeeding support and information in the style and way that has survived the acid test of time, not our personal stories or activism.

      Delete
  7. As part of the LGBT community myself, I couldn't agree with you more that the policies of the La Leche League need changing. I am appalled at the prejudice against transgender and against working mothers. As the LLLC wrote to you, it is about our experience of mothering through breastfeeding. My mother was a LLLL and I have been heavily involved with their organisation, including several submissions into LLLI publications. To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. The La Leche League is a wonderful organisation without which, I too, may have been unsuccessful at breastfeeding. I went from formula feeding to relactation and relatching my son whom I exclusively breastfed for over a year and am still nursing strong at 21 months of age. The involvement of the La Leche League in my journey has not been minimal and I am known widely for my involvement in this community. To have my involvement, my association, affiliated with such prejudice however appals me. I am also of the opinion that the La Leche League's stance on milksharing is extremely outdated. The organisation was founded for getting breastmilk into babies, something so vital for the health of a baby or child, and the current stance implies that when a mother cannot breastfeed, formula may be a more viable option than informed milksharing. Absolutely not, I say. Formula feeding has humongous risks-risks which are currently being ignored by La Leche League policy.
    You may not identify as a mother in gender but as you are putting your baby to your breast, you are mothering through breastfeeding. I believe your experience is invaluable and I do hope that you set up a group of your own to reach out to others. It is unfortunate that the La Leche League cannot see the tremendous value that diversity could bring to the community of mothers breastfeeding or wanting to breastfeed.
    Thank you for your contribution to the community of breastfeeding families-it is highly valued!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a baby and nursed and my wife had 3 babies one of which I also nursed. My wife and I were welcome, my wife even became a Leader. I have since transitioned to male and understand both sides. He is not being discriminated against he was welcomed and supported. It is about breastfeeding support and information. Not milksharing and SNS and LGBTQI issues.

      Delete
    2. TransZack, I wonder if you would still feel this way if you had transitioned and then birthed and breastfed your children. You have said in other comments that LLL should be a woman-only space. In this comment you seem pleased that I was welcomed as a member even though I am male. Which is it? A woman-only space that excludes trans-men, or an organization that supports any breastfeeding parent?

      Delete
  8. In reply to Fiona Audi. You stated "La Leche League and this one was considered carefully, and without judgement regarding his gender or life choices"

    Then in the next paragraph that is completely contradicted, when you said "However, his particular set of circumstances, how he sees his role in their family, and how he wants to share his experience would be constrained if he had to work within the present guidelines of what LLL Leaders do" which seems like a direct judgement of his life choices and how you perceive he would act based on his experiences.

    Also you stated "We think one of the things that Trevor and others may find difficult to separate is that the pre-requisites for LLL leadership do not define who LLL can and does support as a breastfeeding parent. Clearly he was supported and encouraged by the LLL Leaders and Group members in his community and this is what needs to be acknowledged along with celebrating his incredible commitment to succeed at breastfeeding his son."

    I thought Trevor did an excellent job of praising LLL and all the help he was given. He was inspired to help others because of the amazing experiences he had. I think it was acknowledged very clearly and eloquently. But that should not overshadow the fact your prerequisites are out of date and are alienating.

    Trevor felt safe enough to contact LLL, who provides support almost exclusively to females. I think it's obvious from the other responses here that there are members of the LGBT community that would be more comfortable with a leader that can relate to their lifestyle as well as help them accomplish their breastfeeding goals. I would not want someone I felt I had no connection with, no common bond, being my main support for something as intimate as breastfeeding. And the LCs I met (not affiliated with LLL) really didn't relate to me personally at all and I felt that hindered their ability to help me.


    ReplyDelete
  9. It is a complete fallacy to say that mothers do not need to see other mothers at LLL groups who have gone through the same problem, predicament, or complication. Whether that is a fussy baby, acid reflux, twins, low supply, over supply, pumping at work, staying home as a single parent, everything! There is a look of relief on a mom's face when she hears another mom or leader say 'I've been there, and that is SO hard, isn't it?' that cannot be duplicated by even the best of the non-violent communication efforts of the best leaders. While I agree with the previous poster who said that our personal stories, as leaders, have to be let go in order to be a leader to ALL mothers, it is equally true that we have to use our own stories as the foundation from which we lead. We cannot cut our roots in order to continue to grow.

    I have been a leader for 5 years, since shortly after my third daughter was born. I attended a few meetings after my first, but was so put off by the fact that there was no one like me (young, in school and working, attachment parenting) in the group or amongst the leaders that I stopped going to meetings. There was no one to offer me the support that I needed. I tried everything I could after my third daughter BEFORE calling LLL for help because of that bad experience. What I found the next time were many mothers, and both leaders (of the same group) who had faced the challenges I was facing. This allowed me to feel welcomed.

    It is in poor form for LLL to say that they do not train 'specialty' leaders, as well, because every leader who has had an experience that few mothers have is a specialist - whether that is as a bilingual mother, a supplementing mother, a lesbian mother, an adoptive mother, or a transgendered parent, etc. LLL fails to see that they have gendered the term 'mother', instead of allowing it to remain open in meaning to grow with our changing world. What Trevor has done is 'mother' his baby at the breast, even though he calls himself the child's father.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ms. Jihan, I absolutely agree with all of this. I think LLLC and LLLI are missing out on a huge opportunity here. Regardless of how Trevor identifies himself, he is "mothering" his child. This has very little to do with chromosomes or genitalia, and everything to do with how you interact with your child.

      Trevor, I truly hope they reconsider. You have so much to offer to new parents.

      Delete
  10. What irks me is that LLL makes breastfeeding out to be such an exclusive club. Breastfeeding isn't about gender ; breastfeeding is about being a mammal and providing milk to your young at your breast. My husband does not feed our children at his breast but he has been the core of my support while I learned to breastfeed a child who was not able to latch her first six weeks. We breastfeed as a family and the family supports the breastfeeding effort. Every person, everywhere needs to be valued as a support for breastfeeding. Having lived at various points on the 'sexuality spectrum, ' I have to say that I have been (and would be) put off of LLL meetings due to the overt feeling of alienation
    towards people who do not fit the mold of 'normal' as defined by LLL and it's representatives. The planet needs breastfeeding and EARTH doesn't make gender qualifications

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think that LLL need to consider whether their actions are legal in Canada given the antidiscrimination legislation that exists. Good on you Trevor! I wish you the very best in your parenting and breastfeeding support journey! Things may change with time. Once upon a time, I was considered "unsuitable" to be a breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Fortunately, things changed, policies became less restrictive and changed to focus only on whether the candidate was able to demonstrate the necessary skills (after appropriate training).
    I wonder too whether LLLI might change their policy on donor milk at some stage. The current policy is paternalistic and unethical since it breaches the ethical principles of autonomy and veracity (watch out for an upcoming paper on this topic in Clinical Lactation).
    Karleen Gribble
    School of Nursing and Midwifery
    University of Western Sydney
    Australia
    Australian Breastfeeding Association Community Educator

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who is going to be responsible for the issues that arise with milk sharing without testing when a baby has issues do to donated milk? Again the organization is about breastfeeding support and information not SNS and milk sharing. Everyone who believes LLL should change and add to encompass these things needs to start an international support group for the needs and direction they are in.

      Delete
    2. TransZack, just to clarify, I have never said that I would need or want to mention milksharing at LLL meetings. I am capable of not "mixing causes."

      Delete
  12. Hello Trevor I have never met you however when I read the news article in regards to your rejection by LLLC I felt outrage towards LLLC a organization that I hold close to my heart. I am disappointed in LLLC for not recognizing that times are changing and that the definition of breastfeeding parent is not always mother. Please stay strong continue your wonderful journey as a parent and breastfeeding advocate we need more breastfeeding parents that are comfortable enough to speak out about breastfeeding as a tans person as I have met so many people in my life that wanted to follow the same journey as you did but where to afraid to seek breastfeeding support.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Trevor did receive acceptance, support and information he just was not accepted as a leader do to current requirements he did not meet that have nothing to do with gender.

      Delete
  13. I found your blog through an article on the CBC, and I wrote a response to this whole issue over at my blog: http://bellejarblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/the-manly-art-of-breastfeeding-or-hey-lllc-i-think-maybe-you-need-to-be-less-transphobic/

    I hope you're okay with what I said! If you find any of it wrong or offensive, please let me know.

    p.s. I think you are super amazing

    ReplyDelete
  14. Trevor,
    I am a peer breastfeeding counselor in Northern California with Nursing Mothers Counsel. I just learned about your story and wanted to leave a quick note to say how amazing you are and what an inspiration it is to read your story. I hope that LLL reconsiders their decision because I believe you could offer incredible support and encouragement to members of the LGBTQ community. You are simply amazing!

    Stephanie

    ReplyDelete
  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was hoping, as a parent that had found support in his local group and as someone who has unique experiences to share with others, that a nudge in the right direction would help LLLC become a more inclusive organization. It's *because* he clearly loves this organization that he wants to assist and help LLLC fill a niche that's currently empty. If you read carefully you'll also see that his local leader encouraged him in his desire to become a leader (suggesting the idea of an LGBT chapter) - do you think that leader is also someone who doesn't like LLLC and is trying to stir up drama?

      Delete
  16. I just read the newspaper (internet) article about you and breastfeeding your son.

    I think what you're doing is amazing and wonderful! So sad that LLL has the problem with you being a leader. I don't think it should matter what gender you identify with, you are feeding your child the way nature intended.

    I am and always will identify as female, that's who I am, but I couldn't help but be supportive of a parent (male or female) who chooses to do such an amazing and wonderful thing for his/her child. I breastfed my two children and had/have wonderfully supportive spouses for each. Especially with my younger child I wouldn't have been able to breast feed as long as I did without the help of my husband (health issues on my part).

    Congratuations on the new addition to your family :-) And best wishes for you and your partner.

    A new fan and supporter :-)

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Trevor! I was very interested in your story when I recently heard about it on Lactnet. I have also breastfed babies under circumstances other than the usual ones. I have adopted six kids, born between 1983 and 1995. My success was limited with my first two, but my last four all nursed until they self-weaned, at between 20 months and 4 years old.

    In 1994, when I was nursing my fifth adopted baby, I applied for LLL leadership. Besides years of breastfeeding, under challenging circumstances, I had been very involved with LLL for several years, and been spending a great deal of time helping other mothers, both adoptive and bio. My local leader said she gave me the best recommendation she'd ever given anyone.

    It wasn't LLLI that was the problem, in my case. There were all ready a few mothers who had become leaders, whose nurslings had all been adopted. But it was obvious, right away, that the person I had to work with was prejudiced against adoptive mothers. No matter what I said, she had some kind of issue with it. After several weeks of that, I got a letter asking me if I had produced at least 50% of the milk my kids needed, while they were on nothing but my milk and supplement from the Lact-Aid. I felt like I may have gotten up to 45%, occasionally, but that, on average, it was probably more like 35%. I was told that, because of that, I was not qualified to counsel other moms. I wadded up the letter and threw it across the room and sat and cried while I nursed my healthy, happy, beautiful baby boy. I wrote back and told her that if she was ever asked to work with another adoptive mom who wanted to be a leader, she should just tell her, up front, that she didn't think adoptive mothers should be leaders.

    I left it at that. That baby will be 19 years old in a couple of months, so it is way too late to do anything about it, now, but I have always regretted that I didn't do more to demand my rights. I am glad that you aren't just giving up. I know that the transgendered community is growing and there will be more and more parents who will face the same issues you are. Those babies and parents deserve the same encouragement, respect, and opportunities as anyone else!

    Hang in there and happy parenting!

    Darillyn Starr
    Mom to six and Grandma to three

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hello Trevor,

    Being a lesbian LLL leader who since some years identifies as being transgender or genderfluid, (I'm a woman nor a man, or both) I am very interested as how this dicussion will come out.
    I cannot say if it will be good for you and the organisation if you will or will not become a leader. I can only see how important this discussion is. And how glad I am that you have shared it.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I had a breast reduction in my twenties and as a result had virtually no breastmilk but desperately wanted to nurse both my children. Luckily I connected with Jack Newman would taught me how to feed with a supplementary tube.

    I would have given ANYTHING to have someone, male or female who could've guided me through the process on a regular basis. My local LLL was supportive but had no experience in this area.

    I'm EXTREMELY disappointed that the LLL's position. It is incredibly short-sighted, potentially harmful.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'm a Leader in Toronto and mom of Storm, the inadvertently famous little one whose parents kept his/her biological sex private in order to protect her/his freedom to express gender how and when s(he) wants. Bravo, Trevor! There is no neutral parenting - every choice is a step toward a hope-for world of the future - thank you for offering LLL this chance to overcome hetero-normative barriers and give as many babies and children as possible the opportunity for a breastfeeding relationship. Thank you, and thanks Jacob too!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am a former LLL leader who received much wonderful support from LLL. I never found them a "niche" group; they were very inclusive. But I think they are making a big mistake here and I am very disappointed that they would reject Trevor's application on these grounds. My understanding was always that the rationale for the requirement for an LLL leader to be a "mother" was that she had had to have breastfed her own baby. Back in the days when it was not possible for a man to breastfeed, this was simply logic dictated by biology and did not appear discriminatory. Now if Trevor is being rejected on the grounds that he is not a "mother", this turns this rationale on its head - according to the reason given to Trevor by LLLC, it is not the breastfeeding that counts but the being a mother, i.e. a woman. I would consider this outright discrimination. I am from the UK and not familiar with Canadian law, but I too suspect it may be illegal. LLL should update its policies to keep up with good practice regarding equality/diversity and discrimination. Good luck to everyone! :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I have two issues with your attempt to become a LLL.
    1. Your situation is so unique, your experience would be of little use guiding average women who's problems are overwhelmingly never this complex. Most women can BF just fine and the issues are something more simple, such as latching. LL leaders need to be well versed in the broad aspects of BF....in fact, you can't even apply to be a leader until you have been breasfeeding for a year, minimum.

    2. Sometimes we just need women only spaces. You first and foremost identify as a man. This issue is particularly sensitive for those of us who are sexual abuse/assault/rape survivors. And the number of women who have has such things happen to them is VERY high in this country (here I'm actually referring to USA- don't know Canadian stats) Frankly, had I ever decided to call a LL leader for a home visit as a brand new mom, and a man showed up, breastfeeding or not, I would have been pissed off and felt very self-conscious..

    I'm just not seeing how this is an issue of discrimination. To me it is an issue of preserving a woman only space; if that makes me a bigoted asshole in the eyes of anyone, so be it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely agree with you, Unknown.

      While I applaud (loudly!) for Trevor's BFing his son and wanting to help others BF, I agree with LLL stance on women-only leaders. As a psychotherapist for sexual assault and abuse survivors (and you are correct, the numbers in the US are somewhere around 1 in 8 women), I could see how in a time of vulnerability (the postpartum period), a woman (an abuse survivor or not) would feel most comfortable in a woman-only space.

      For years, there were male-only spaces that women were not allowed into. It took us so long to have women-only spaces where we can feel safe as well as empowered. LLL is one of those safe spaces for many women, and the number of those who would feel uncomfortable with a male leader and never return for the wonderful support of LLL *far* outweighs the number who would be okay with it. LLL is not about you as leader & your need to help, it is about the mothers who come and need support.

      The fact is that LLL leadership is limited. I (a woman) wanted to be a leader 12 years ago and even completed 99% of the training process. I decided against becoming a leader b/c I wanted to be more political, more of an outspoken "lactavist" than LLL was comfortable. In the end, I have helped upwards of 25 friends and colleagues learn to BF, and I didn't have to be a LLL leader or IBCLC to do it. This seems the best path for Trevor to help as many people as he can successfully BF.

      Delete
    2. I appreciate your concern for vulnerable minorities. Do we agree trans people are in that category?

      Skepticism about Trevor's motives ("not all about you and your need to help") is unempathetic and plainly wrong. The local group requested his volunteerism based on community need. Why relegate Trevor to a "separate-but-equal" breastfeeding apartheid?

      You've suggested that dividing by gender creates safety, but aren't there endless possibilities to divide the breastfeeding community to create safety? Many of us have encountered racism, sexism, and social and personal struggles of all sorts. The more challenging question is "what brings us together", which I hope would also include GLBT breastfeeders.

      May I suggest that our discussions keep in mind, foremost, the needs of babies to breastfeed. The LLL has affirmed its "essential work of serving breastfeeding families wherever they are and whatever their needs".

      Delete
    3. I am a trans man that gave birth and breastfed with my wife before my transition. The people involved with the local group that requested can not speak for all of those to come that is why there are requirements to be a leader. everyone even those in the LGBTQI community are welcome to all of the support and information they need.(as Trevor and I have received)

      Delete
    4. TransZack, I wonder if you would feel the same way if you had transitioned *before* you gave birth and breastfed your kids.

      Delete
  23. I just remembered that many changes have been made in LLLI's requirements for leadership, over the decades of it's existence. I know that mothers who worked outside the home were not accepted, to start with. I have a friend who wanted to become a leader, back in the late 70s, who was rejected, because she had been divorced, and divorcees were excluded. She became a leader about 15 years later, when she learned that the policy had been changed. Mothers who weren't married didn't used to be accepted. So, LLLI has all ready made lots of changes to their requirements.

    ReplyDelete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Just as a matter of interest... I wonder if the outrage would have been the same if Trevor had not been a transgender man, but born as a male in a male body. I've heard of fathers inducing lactation and letting their child suckle. Or feeding their baby breastmilk with a supplementer. Would that father have the right to become a La Leche League leader? Because to me it doesn't matter at all whether Trevor is a transgender male. I think that is the perspective one needs to take here. Just a thought...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you see my comments above, I'm the unknown above, my problem IS a male presence around at all. And I think my reasons are reasonable.

      Delete
    2. I agree as a Trans* man I want trans men to be seen as men. I want to be welcome in men only spaces and not welcome in women only spaces.

      Delete
  26. Treavor, I think that you are a larger help to all families who breatfeed by NOT beacoming an LLL leader (although I do understand your desire to become a leader). I think this way after my own experience with persuing LLL leadership. Becoming a leader is not about you as a person or your story, it's about providing INFORMATION and GUIDANCE- and that is ALL you are restricted to give. You can not say anything about what you did and especially you CANNOT give advice. As a leader you are to hand out inforamtion to support the breastfeeder in their persuit to breastfeed. Many times, my leader would ask me to speak to a mother (by the mother phoning me) in regards to using nipple shields or working and pumping as I (a non-accredited person) could simply share my story and what worked for me and "how" I manged to accomplish this. My leader could only give information sheets and websites to the breastfeeder, and little else. Treavor, I see your role as a great supporter for anyone to call or Skype and that is where you can be most help instead of being "boxed in" by the burden of being a leader. And FYI-you can buy all the books for leaders on Amazon or the LLLI website, so you can be just as informed as a leader without the accreditation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. mmm, as a leader, I do much more than hand out information sheets and websites to people. I do sometimes refer to group moms who have dealt with similar situations, but not because i'm "boxed in by the burden of being a leader". There are many ways to share information...

      Delete
  27. "I could see how in a time of vulnerability (the postpartum period), a woman (an abuse survivor or not) would feel most comfortable in a woman-only space. "

    I can see how in a time of vulnerability (the postpartum period) a trans man (an abuse survivor or not) would feel most comfortable in a trans-only space.

    But no-one's advocating to ban cis people from staffing maternity wards and leading postpartum support groups, despite the incredibly high risk of bigotry and outright violence by cis people against trans people, and the percentage of trans people who have been victims/survivors of that violence.

    LLL meetings are clearly not designated a woman-only space across the board, as Trevor has been active in meetings for quite some time now. In addition, some meetings welcome non-breastfeeding male partners.

    - lauredhel

    ReplyDelete
  28. I am a La Leche League leader and I support Trevor's intention to apply for leadership. He hasn't even been allowed to apply. I believe that biologically and sociologically he fits the criteria and I know that he fits the philosophical qualifications. Many LLL leaders have specialties. For example, in the United States, there are pages that have asterisks next to the names of leaders who speak Spanish, so that women who prefer to discuss their issues in Spanish can call only that leader (LLL Canada may have something similar happening with French speaking leaders). Additionally, I know of a specific case of an honorary leader who was never a breastfeeding mother and she is on the regular list of leaders for one of the chapters. If LLL and its LAD department was able to make an exception for this woman, why can't they work with their criteria for Trevor? Why is it more acceptable to certify a woman who never breatfed than a man who breastfeeds? The working woman as leader is also a myth. LLL analyzed its philosophy and determined that women who work outside the home but treat the separation with respect for the child can be leaders, and I think rather than rewrite policies the Board can look at the statements and make them fit. Only if they want to. Instead he is being punished for acting on his gender in a way that pushes our social restraints. A leader who is genuine and true to his identity is irreplaceable and can only allow the organization to grow.

    Let it be clear that I speak only for myself, but I know that among many leaders there are many like me that support his intent to apply and want our organization to move forward into the current millennium. Trevor will be a wonderful asset to the organization.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Any breastfeeding dyad that wants support and information has always been welcome at LLLI, not every person can be a leader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. TransZack, you said above in a different comment that LLL should be a woman-only space. Does this mean that you think LLL should NOT support every breastfeeding dyad? In order to be a woman-only space, LLL could not welcome trans guys such as myself at meetings. If this were the case, I think that my baby would not have been breastfed at all. Going to LLL meetings was very important to my breastfeeding success.

      Delete
  30. Breastfeeding is a strictly biological advantage of the female mammal? This isn't a societal construct (like pink hair ribbons). I completely understand not identifying with the gender that aligns with your chromosomes and what your sex organs would suggest. I understand the need to live the life as the gender you identify with. If that gender is of "male," then you - probably more than most people - likely want to respect those strong identifying markers of being male. Otherwise, why not remain female, right? So to breastfeed as a man is akin to wearing dresses, make-up and a padded bra but maintaining that you identify as male.

    Do you get it? It simply makes zero sense to go so far out of your way to identify as male, succeed and then engage in behaviors that scream female.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, cisgender men fromvarious cultures around the world are known to breastfeed AND produce some milk. Breastfeeding is not stricly female (men have breasts and nipples, after all!!). Having a child and feeding that child is a human desire, not a gendered one. Carrying my own child enabled me to have a family, a basic human right that applies to everyone.

      Delete
    2. Breastfeeding is not about gender or sexual identity. It's about feeding your child the food that is their birthright, the best possible available, and if you're able to, whatever your gender, why wouldn't you? I commend Trevor for his unselfish commitment to parenting his son in the best possible way - I can only imagine the sacrifice it is for a trans man to ditch the hormones in order to breastfeed. Parental sacrifice is kind of a...human thing. I've made the sacrifice of getting my nipples near chewed off by two babies with lip and posterior tongue ties over the last year and a half. I'm choking a little on the 'biological advantage' aspect.

      Delete
  31. I used to be active in LLL, but I got exasperated at the judgment of families that didn't conform to their narrow "Philosophy." I wrote about it here: http://humanwithuterus.wordpress.com/2014/02/14/does-la-leche-leagues-philosophy-support-breastfeeding/

    ReplyDelete
  32. In this day and age they really need to update their definition.

    I also find it interesting that they firmly state "the roles of mothers and fathers are not interchangeable" yet clearly demonstrate they are by, in some instances, supporting mothers taking a more traditional 'male' role upon themselves when the need arises.

    They can't have their cake and eat it too. You can't say they are not interchangeable to deny the LGBT community, yet still support women attempting to do that very thing.

    ReplyDelete
  33. I'm sorry, but you should have been rejected. YOU are a man, not a woman. Unless it benefits you to be a woman, in which case you aren't a man.

    ReplyDelete