breast-feeding

Transgender dad pushes for right to lead breast-feeding group

Aug. 29, 2012 at 8:03 AM ET

A transgender man who gave birth to his first child last year is so grateful to La Leche League for helping him breast-feed that he hoped to become a group leader.

But Trevor, a stay-at-home dad in Canada who asked that his last name not be used to protect his family's privacy, became enmeshed in a debate when the breast-feeding advocacy organization told him that according to their policy only "a mother who has breast-fed a baby” is allowed to become a La Leche League leader, according to a letter he posted on his blog, milkjunkies.net. So, no men allowed.

“I’ve become really passionate about breast-feeding since breast-feeding my own son and it’s something I’d love to be able to share with others,” says Trevor, 27, of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “[La Leche League] just helped me so much and I would really like to give back to the organization and the community.”

Now, his case has sparked debate throughout the La Leche League community about who is qualified to help other women -- and the occasional man -- with breast-feeding. La Leche League International said last week that while the issue of a transgender man becoming a leader had never arisen in its 56-year history, it was taking at look at unique case.

“It is important that La Leche League International and its community thoughtfully consider the issues that are being raised and carefully examine its policies applicable to this matter. We are committed to considering all points of view,” the Schaumburg, Ill.-based international group said in a statement released on La Leche League Canada’s website. “To that end, the La Leche League International Board of Directors will carefully review all facts and implications of this unprecedented subject.”

“They’re taking all the comments, looking at it and figuring out what the next step is,” said Fiona Audy, La Leche League Canada’s Board Chair, in a brief interview with TODAY Moms, adding that her group follows the policies of the international organization.

Trevor said he hopes that the worldwide group will “evolve” its policy to include people like him, saying: “I think it’s outdated and maybe old-fashioned.”

“They talk about that you have to mother through breast-feeding, and really I am ‘mothering’ through breast-feeding in all the traditional ways that anybody would,” Trevor said. “I don’t identify as a mother. A term I would prefer is ‘parenting through breast-feeding.’”

Despite the controversy, he is thankful to La Leche and holds the organization in high regard. “I love La Leche League - that’s why I want to volunteer with them,” Trevor said.

Trevor, who has used the last name "MacDonald" as a pseudonym in other news reports, was born with female anatomy. In his early 20s, he began taking appearance-altering testosterone. A year later, he underwent chest contouring surgery to remove most of his breast tissue, and he retained his female reproductive system. He married a man -- he identifies as a homosexual -- and in April 2011, gave birth to their son.

He nursed him exclusively for four days and then continued breast-feeding and using a supplemental feeding system with donated breast milk. Trevor still nurses his son today for the emotional and nutritional benefits, an experience he says he brought them closer. 

A new policy by the international La Leche League, which claims a presence in 68 countries, would be a big deal, Trevor said.

“It would send this amazing message of inclusion and encouragement,” he said.

As a high-profile example of the changing face of modern parenthood, Trevor knows his case is unusual but says he is not alone: He's heard from other “transguys” like himself about their desire to breast-feed.

“We’re in a place and time of huge learning and growing awareness of the diversity of families out there,” he said. “People are raising their kids in all kinds of ways and taking up parenting roles to meet the needs of their kids and that can take all kinds of different forms.”

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