Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Queer Breastfeeding Support via Skype!


UPDATE ... LLL International has announced they will reconsider their policies. 
Please support an inclusive vision of breastfeeding families by sending a letter to the board!
(If the button doesn't work, please try another browser, or cut and paste the letter found here).

We returned from an amazing, beautiful trip to Toronto and rural Nova Scotia with only ten ounces of donated milk to spare! We were away for over three weeks. The dry ice worked its magic and protected our precious supply for 24 hours while we made our way to a 100-acre farm that was a long, fussy drive from Halifax.

Dr. Newman, wearing a stethoscope, sits beside me on a couch as I nurse Jacob.
With Dr. Newman, author of Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding
Mostly we visited family on this expedition, but we also met Dr. Jack Newman and lactation consultant Mary Lynne Biener at the International Breastfeeding Centre in Toronto.

Mary Lynne and I have decided to start a queer-friendly breastfeeding group with access by Skype! The idea originally came to me from a La Leche League Leader friend of mine. She thought it would be fantastic for me to lead LLL meetings to help support trans guys, queer folks, and allies in their breastfeeding endeavours. Her brilliant thought to include Skype access means that people would be able to connect to such a group from all over the world. I have heard from a number of trans men who badly wanted to breastfeed but didn't manage to do it, and I am convinced that there is real need for this kind of resource.

I was very excited to begin leader training, but unfortunately, my application was rejected. Men cannot become La Leche League Leaders. I was told that LLL is all about mothering through breastfeeding, not simply supporting anyone who wishes to breastfeed. This is certainly different from what I've experienced with my local LLL group – I've always felt fully welcome at meetings (and am grateful to have learned a TON). The leaders here were encouraging of my application. I believed that what would qualify me for training would be my experience of breastfeeding my baby for the past 16 months, regardless of my gender, since LLL is a peer-to-peer breastfeeding support group. However, the LLL Canada and International boards disagreed. On the bright side, they did recognize me as male despite the fact that the Canadian government doesn't.

Instead, I'm starting my own breastfeeding support group with Mary Lynne, a passionate ally, mother and lactation consultant. Skype allows up to ten participants in a video conference, although quality is best with fewer than that. Please send me an email at milkjunkies(at)ymail.com if you're interested, or reply in the comments section here so I can let you know when the first meeting will occur!

I've also started a Facebook group called Birthing and Breastfeeding Transmen and Allies. Check it out!

15 comments:

  1. So sorry your application was rejected. What a missed opportunity for LLL. Such a great idea to start a queer bf support group. If there's anything I can do to help, count me in!

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  2. Awesome! You have so much to offer and go you for getting to meet Jack Newman! So glad you had a good trip and pfffttt to LLL!

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    1. Infuriating but not surprising. LLLI can't seem to leave the '50s.

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  3. Congrats and good luck! A parent is a parent! Anyone who judges you for wanting to love your child is a simple jealous hater. I am a woman who was born a woman, but have never felt like a "mother" despite 5 years of nursing 2 kids. I feel like a loving parent and screw the traditional roles. We are what we are and we are ALL BEAUTIFUL.

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  4. Trevor, I'm sorry--that just sucks, and it's not acceptable at all. A number of my friends have recently become involved with Breastfeeding USA, in large part because of unhappiness with the upper leadership of LLLI. You might want to contact them; I suspect they will be a lot more supportive.

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  5. On the individual group level LLL is the best thing ever. Love it. You'd have found just as much support from me. On the global level its like trying to keep some sort of common thread going between a zillion different people! No easy task. Its harder to have that personal feel on that higher level. Its that face to face, one on one interaction that makes such a difference and the reason you are accepted at group meetings. Looks like you're in a special place to help other trans. What seems like a sort of rejection could turn into a great blessing. Kudos to you!

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  6. No wonder the world is so confused.

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  7. Agree with the rest that LLL local groups can be fantastic, but the organization as a whole is...stuck. I very rarely refer them to any of the parents I work with because of their ingrained heterosexism. I think striking out on your own to create a support group is absolutely brilliant - congratulations, and good luck!

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  8. Trevor - great job! I would love to support what you are doing.

    As an out Lesbian Lactation Consultant who is very aware of the different needs of the LGBT community when it comes to breastfeeding, I have developed a database on my website for the LGBT community to find LGBT friendly LC's and breastfeeding support. www.breastfeedingnetwork.net

    I think the skype aspect if a fabulous idea. Please let me know if I can be of any service...

    Warmly,
    Jaye Simpson, CLE, IBCLC, CIIM, BC (Breastfeeding Counselor with Breastfeeding USA)

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  9. Thumbs down to La Leche League -- lucky you had a good local experience, but LLLI is no good for queer parents. When my wife was pregnant and I wrote to them asking about induced lactation, the volunteer who wrote me back gave me her awful, uninformed opinion, pretending it was actual medical information -- telling me I could never breastfeed because my breasts are not properly formed and are incapable of producing milk. She assumed this purely on the basis that I'm a transsexual woman. I wrote to let LLLI know their volunteer was giving out bad information and they never bothered to write back. That's how much LLLI cares about trans people's breastfeeding relationships with our children.

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    1. I should add that my induced lactation was a complete success and I have been breastfeeding my son for eight months.

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  10. Congratulations on starting up your own group. Too bad you could not do so within the remit of LLLC/LLLI; though I can understand, they'd likely have to change policies, philosophy and standing rules to do so (as would BF USA I would think, both organizations say "women helping women" on their websites - but BF USA is much smaller so could likely get this change/adaptation through more quickly!).

    Good luck with your group! I hope you write a book (and perhaps LLLI could publish it!)

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  11. As a cisgender budding birth professional (I want to teach childbirth classes and doula, then maybe expand to teaching young women about Fertility Awareness and sexuality), I will keep you as a resource in my address book. Would you be willing to post meeting minutes AFTER meetings or topics covered? A Facebook Group or Yahoo!Group or even Google Plus circle (I know there are ways to do large "parties on G+, but I've never done it myself) might be a place to keep the parents you work with informed AS WELL as a treasury of resources for people who are interested in connecting with other parents in your situation.

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  12. Hi Trevor,

    Good for you for recognizing the importance of breastfeeding your son. You should be celebrated - not made to feel "other than". I am glad to hear that you have started a group on facebook. I am sure that many people will find that group helpful and affirming.

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