Canadian breastfeeding advocates and parenting experts are showing support for a transgender man who was refused a leadership role at a motherhood support group.
Trevor MacDonald (MacDonald is a pseudonym), 27, from Winnipeg, has been nursing his infant son for 16 months, but was told by La Leche League Canada (LLLC) that he cannot lead support circles or serve as a breastfeeding coach because he identifies as a man, which goes against the organization’s definition of motherhood.
LLLC is an international organization that encourages and provides mother-to-mother breastfeeding support and educational opportunities. According to their policy, only women can serve as leaders.
‘La Leche League Canada’s decision is discriminatory,’ said Annie Urban, who writes the popular parenting blog PhD in Parenting.
‘It is time for La Leche League to update its guidelines and recognize that breastfeeding is not exclusively a mother’s domain.’
While LLLC has publicly supported Trevor’s right to breastfeed and acknowledges his extensive experience nursing his 16-month-old son, the group has no plans to change its policy.
‘It would take a lot of discussion over probably a long period of time before anybody was ready to even consider changing policies that would be in the best interests of La Leche League’s mission,’ Fiona Audy, chair of the group’s board of directors, told the Canadian Star on Monday (20 August).
Experts have also question LLLC’s binary understanding of ‘motherhood’ and ‘fatherhood,’ terms that are increasingly interchangeable in a world with a growing number of gay and transgender parents.
‘I think La Leche League is holding on to some very traditional definitions of motherhood and fatherhood,’ said Andrea Doucet, Canada Research Chair in Gender Work and Care at Brock University in Ontario.
‘What this case shows is that we really have to see these (roles) as fluid activities. If a man is breastfeeding, he’s breastfeeding.’
Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommend infant breastfeeding for at least six months. In addition to nutritional benefits, experts say breastfeeding helps tighten the emotional bond between child and parent, be it a man or woman.
‘It’s not so much about the man and the woman or the mother and father, said Dawn Hanes of Baby Friendly Initiative Ontario.
‘It’s the relationship that goes on between the parent and the child.’