In a Hidden Brain episode, the podcast’s guest talks about how people have a difficult time accepting rules that have a lot of exceptions. The last day of March marked International Transgender Day of Visibility and while exploring some of the celebratory work of trans individuals, it got me thinking about how part of the essence of being a human is breaking rules; we ourselves are a compilation of rules with exceptions.
As with any individual, birth and lactation support should be tailored to address our uniqueness, but this mindfulness is especially important for transgender parents.
Danielle Downs Spradlin of Oasis Lactation Services shared on her social media a photo of a pronoun pin that she sports during her visits.
“Look at this awesome pronoun pin…I share my pronouns so other[s] feel comfortable sharing theirs. I want to call all my patients and friends by the name they designate. That’s basic human to human respect. Trans parents feed their milk to their kids. We are mammals. It’s what we do. We can get those pronouns right too. #transparentsmatter #translivesmatter #pronouns #basicrespect #mammalsmakemilk #chestfeeding #breastfeeding,” Downs Spradlin writes.
This is such a simple but effective and visible gesture toward inclusivity!
U.S. Breastfeeding Committee’s (USBC) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page offers a compilation of gender and sexuality equity resources for those looking for ways to support the trans community:
- University of Milwaukee LGBT Resource Center: “Gender Pronouns” webpage
- Central Connecticut State University LGBT Center resource “Preferred Gender Pronouns: For Faculty (Or, How to Take Important Steps in Becoming a Trans Ally!)”
2019 NBCC Highlight:
- Supporting All Families During Lactation Presented by Stephanie Carroll, Appalachian Breastfeeding Network
La Leche League International ‘s Transgender and Non-Binary Parents
Several years ago, Nikki Lee RN, BSN, MS, IBCLC, CCE, CIMI, ANLC, CKC conducted an interview with Diana West, BA, IBCLC on becoming transliterate. It remains relevant in the spirit of identity, acceptance, inclusion, and progress. Find it here.
Anne Eglash’s MD, IBCLC, FABM The Institute for the Advancement of Breastfeeding and Lactation Education, a USBC member, offers special considerations for LBGTQ+ individuals who desire lactation summarizing The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) Clinical Protocol #33.
One should also note though that some trans parents desire to suppress lactation for various reasons. Those implications can be explored in one of Trevor MacDonald’s articles.
Lactation care provider Aiden Farrow presented All Families Welcome: What Do We Mean By That? Creating a Culture of Support for Diverse Families at the 2019 International Breastfeeding Conference. Their references from the presentation include:
- Lactation Matters (2017) Introducing the New ILCA Style Guidelines for Written Professional Resources
- Farrow, A (2014) Lactation Support and the LGTBTQI Community
- MacDonald, T et al. (2016) Transmasculine individuals’ experiences with lactation, chestfeeding, and gender identity: a qualitative study
Farrow also wrote for the former Language of Inclusion: Embracing diversity in birth and breastfeeding! where they questioned the widely-used term ‘biologically normal’ in Are some parents not biologically normal?
“The desire to parent appears to be universal across the heterosexual and LGTBQ communities. In nature, difference is normal. Diversity is desirable for the survival of the species. Diversity in parenting is however, frequently not considered normal, and therefore access to care, support and legal recognition is not equal,” Farrow writes.
In a recent article, Dr. Rachel Levine, the nation’s newly confirmed assistant secretary for health comments on care for transgender patients: “’I like to quote that sage Yoda from Star Wars. You know, ‘Fear is the path that leads to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.’ I think that people fear what they don’t understand,” she said.’”
The article also points out that “more Americans than ever oppose discrimination against transgender people.” Visibility leads to greater understanding, diminishing fear and hopefully halting suffering.
Birth and lactation care providers are situated in a role serving families of all kinds during a pivotal point in parents’ lives. We have the responsibility to uplift transgender and non-binary people, empowering them to live openly and authentically, ultimately helping sculpt a respectful, vibrantly diverse and beautiful future.