As someone who has pretty much worked in bureaucracies her whole career I’m fairly patient with protocols and administrative processes, but every now and then I see people stumbling around in ‘red tape’ that has ceased to fulfill a purpose and which is now actively working against the original ideas behind the system, and it makes me feel very exasperated. Because, you know, we can actually change rules and regulations. If it makes sense to change it, and you have the power to change it, then fricking change it.
This is one of those times. La Leche League (LLL) is an amazing organisation and they do terribly vital work but this needs to change.
Milk Junkies is a breastfeeding and attachment parenting blog written by a transgendered dad in a gay relationship who is breastfeeding his baby son. (You should read it, he’s a great writer). On his blog he has been writing about his experiences as a new dad, and particularly, about breastfeeding after having had chest surgery. The writer of this blog, Trevor has had a strong relationship with LLL and now wants to train to become a group leader with the organisation but this is what happened:
In reading, please remember this: I LOVE La Leche League. Its books, meetings and online resources made breastfeeding possible for me. My experiences with my local LLL chapter have been fantastic and I am extremely grateful for this.
It seems that the decision regarding my leadership application comes down to policy: “Since an LLLC leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC Leader.” I understand that I don’t fit into LLL’s definition here, I just think that their definition is poor. I believe that the point of the above statement is that in order to be a leader, you must have breastfed a baby for a certain length of time. It is your experience that counts in peer-to-peer support. At the time the policy was written, the authors assumed that men wouldn’t/couldn’t breastfeed, so they defined a leader as a woman. I kinda doubt that many people envisioned my own scenario. I think that the interpretation of the policy should evolve.
Advice to all organisations seeking social change: whenever you come across someone who faces enormous obstacles of exclusion and yet finds the stamina to pursue a particular interest in being involved with what you’re doing, and what you’re doing is about social change, then you welcome them with open fricking arms. This is someone who brings invaluable drive, perspective and experience to your organisation, and your organisation needs that – because social change is hard work and to be effective it needs to be meaningful. You will not ever get there while excluding those who believe in and share your purpose. If you’re about social change, and this includes governments, then you need to be especially open to adaptation.
If you have to change rules to include them, you change them. This is why I hate Australia’s refugee policy, it’s why I hate the way some states in the US puts homeless, single black mothers in jail for sending their kids to good schools, it’s why I hate certain branches of feminism for persisting with transphobia and it’s why I hate the fact that LLL is excluding a transgendered breastfeeding dad from becoming a group leader.
(I welcome comments on this post but here are two important guidelines.. we will not let this discussion become an anti-LLL thread and nor will we let it become transphobic. As I suggested in my first post at Feministe – we tread lightly in any discussions of mothering/fathering and care work because we need to recognise that we are all walking about on the unpaid toil of others. Further, this particular topic involves an individual family and their lives and they need to be treated with respect).