Canadian Leaders Demand LLLC Reconsider Its Decision Regarding the Application of Trevor MacDonald
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Dear LLLC Board,
We are writing you this letter to ask you to reconsider your denial of Trevor MacDonald’s leadership application. After speaking with and hearing from many Canadian leaders, we feel that this decision is short-sighted and not sensitive to the changing familial structure in relation to nursing and parenting through the nursing relationship. Nursing is about much more than rigid, antiquated familial structure. Individuals (such as adoptive parents) who twenty years ago would not have breastfed are now doing so, due in part to the support of La Leche League Canada.
The shape of families is changing, and as such, our acceptance and encouragement of those families needs to change with it. When La Leche League was first founded in 1956, support of same-sex couples was not part of the dialogue. However, with the latest Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the language has changed to integrate and accept families which do not fit into the heterosexual family dynamic which largely existed with La Leche League was founded. This is a wonderful, much needed step forward by La Leche League, one which helped to move the organization as a whole into being a leader when it comes to ensuring that human babies, regardless of familial structure, receive human milk.
Now we are faced with another challenge – those who don’t self-identify as mothers, yet nurse their babies.
It is our understanding that LLLC does not accredit Leaders based on their appeal to the public at large, but based on the applicant’s passion, qualifications, and experiences with nursing and raising their child within LLLC’s philosophies. Based on this, discrimination based on race or sexual orientation is not, and should not be, a concern (we surely wouldn’t deny a lesbian mother the opportunity to apply for leadership because she is a member of a family which doesn’t fit with LLL’s original focus). Clearly, Trevor has the desire and experience needed to be a successful Leader – in fact he has more experience than most Leaders do. Many Leaders have the theoretical knowledge of what it means to use a SNS, or how to deal with low supply, nursing post-reduction etc., but when it comes down to the experiential knowledge Trevor has many of us beat. Why wouldn’t we want a valuable asset such as him as part of our team?
We understand that this is a major transition for LLLC, an organization whose Board is short-staffed, however this is not an issue about whether Trevor identifies as a “mother” or “father”, but whether he meets the requirements of what we deem to be a qualified leader: parenting through nursing; nursing until the child outgrows the need; loving guidance through acceptance of the child’s needs and capabilities, etc. This is not an issue about labels, or previously made decisions. One Canadian Leader has eloquently written, “When I first became a Leader, there were very strict rules about the amount of separation from her baby that a mother could have and still be considered to meet the prerequisites. It was basically no separation in the first year, occasional separation in the second year for short periods of time, then a bit more separation in the third year if the child was comfortable with it. This was clearly set out. Then those rules were quietly dropped, and today Leaders (in the US anyway) are accredited who are away from their babies 40 hours a week and more from six weeks or earlier. And that's without changing the philosophy statements at all.”
We are finding ourselves in a situation which is new to LLLC as an organization, and which is new(er) to Canada, and we need to approach this with compassion and an attitude which promotes Canadian values of acceptance and non-judgment. In the past LLLI has made decisions which have caused Canadian Leaders to resign their posts, and now we’re in this situation again. If the current decision is not reversed, we are confident that LLLC will lose valued Leaders over this issue. Previously, LLLC has been quick to point out to Canadian Leaders that we’re not LLLI, and perhaps this is a situation in which we need to distinguish ourselves again. It seems contrary to the values we hold as Canadians to reject Trevor’s bid for Leadership simply based on the fact that he identifies as a father, rather than a mother, while he meets all other LLL criteria, at a time when these gender lines are blurring in society and, for many of us, in our own families.
This is an issue of recognizing the importance of nourishing and parenting our children, not of gender politics. As a result of the decision made by the Board, Leaders are becoming disillusioned , many are feeling embarrassed by LLLC’s decision, believing it is inconsistent with their belief systems, and are considering whether or not they can continue to work with LLLC if LLLC is an organization which will discriminate against nursing parents’ ability to support other nursing parents because they identify as a nursing father rather than a nursing mother.
I think the time has come to reconsider these definitions and see what we need to do in order to continue to do what LLLC does best - to be there for the baby, to provide their nursing parent with the support needed so that the parent can meet their goals and nurse their baby. We Leaders are calling on LLLC to interpret the existing policies in such a way that Trevor’s application is supported by LLLC, and then “let the chips fall where they may” with LLLI. Please, reach out to Trevor. Say that we will support his application and work with him. Announce our turn-around to the press with apologies (and perhaps a joint-press statement with Trevor), and let’s get on with the business of feeding babies.
We appreciate your attention on this matter, and look forward to hearing from you.
We, the undersigned,