Tag Archives: intolerance

Maybe You Dance

3 Jun

I spend a lot of time thinking about intolerance and the various things that I do to combat it. I mean, that’s what a lot of this blog is supposed to be, right? I’m trying, in my own small way, to fight against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other isms and phobias that people, even nice people, even good people, throw at each other. And I think that I do an okay job for the most part, but it’s easy to fight this battle online, isn’t it? I mean, comparatively. Sure, the relative anonymity of the internet tends to bring out the absolute worst in people, and I’ve been told all kinds of awful things, some of which have hurt pretty badly. I’ve been told that I’m a waste of oxygen, that I should kill myself, and there have been a whole litany of comments, tweets and even entire blog posts by other people dedicated to what a terrible mother I am, and yeah, that sucks, but still.

Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate on the internet very rarely results in physical violence.

Being a loudmouth who speaks out against hate in the real world is much more likely to result in broken bones, a smashed up face or even worse.

And I’m not saying that online threats or mean comments aren’t scary, because they definitely are, but also when it all gets to be too overwhelming I can just shut off my computer and walk away. But raising my voice publicly, in the middle of, say, a crowded bar full of drunken bigots, doesn’t afford me that same luxury.

There was, in fact, a crowded bar full of drunken bigots last night. And maybe this is a fairly normal occurrence – what do I know, I’m in bed by ten most nights, and when I do go out it’s to one of the genteel pubs in my genteel neighbourhood. And probably these guys are really super nice guys in real life, not the kind of guys to yell “faggots!” at a bunch of guys just because their band isn’t playing whatever kind of music it is they want to hear. I mean, unless they’re out late at night and it’s someone’s birthday and they’re all drunk, belligerent and three seconds away from a brawl with any given person that they encounter on the cramped dance floor.

So what do you do? What exactly do you do if you’re in this bar, and you hear people yelling the word faggot, and you’re sure that saying something, anything will result in getting punched in the face? What do you do if that’s your friend, or at the very least the friend of your friend, on stage, playing his bespectacled, skinny jean-clad heart out? Seriously, what the fuck do you do?

If you’re me, apparently you sit there grimacing and whispering to the girl next to you, demanding to know where the fuck all these terrible drunk dudes came from. If you’re me, you hunker down in your seat, and hope they don’t come anywhere near you. If you’re me, you hope that if they do make their way over to you, they somehow manage to keep their hands to themselves.

If you’re me, you die a little inside when you think about how you’re totally not standing up for what you believe in, and you hate yourself for being a coward.

And if you’re my friend Nathan, you get up and dance.

You get up, you stand dead centre in front of the stage, and you fucking dance to the spastic beat of the music.

For reasons that I can’t fully articulate, what happened last night was one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen. There was just something really lovely about seeing my friend standing there, trying to figure out how to move to the pseudo-eighties synthesizer amazingness coming from the stage. And as weird as this sounds, there was something both aggressive and earnestly affectionate about his body language as he danced – aggressive towards all the assholes behind him who were now demanding that the band play Wonderwall, and affectionate towards his friends onstage, who were trying their best to ignore what was going on. And Nathan just stood there, as steady and unmovable as a rock. And it was really, really nice.

And I got up and joined him, and so did a few other people, and the drunk assholes slowly backed off.

Afterwards, Nathan said to me, “I just didn’t want Drew to have to look out and have to see all those douchebags. I wanted there to be at least one friendly face out there.”

I’m glad he had the instinct to get up and dance, because I definitely didn’t. Maybe I only know how to fight with words, and when I feel like I can’t do that, I’m at a total loss. Or maybe I should be more willing to risk my personal safety for the stuff that I believe in. Regardless, I’m glad that he got up, because I think that it was the best thing that anyone could have done in that situation.

And, in the future, I really want to be able to remember that there are other ways of fighting intolerance besides my usual bag of tricks. Sometimes you can do it by standing there alone and, with great purpose and love, just fucking dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

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The Manly Art of Breastfeeding (or, hey, LLLC, I think maybe you need to be less transphobic)

20 Aug

Full disclosure: for the first year following my son’s birth, I was a member of the La Leche League Canada, and I still occasionally attend meetings. Back in the dark ages when Theo was an itty-bitty newborn, we had a hell of a time breastfeeding, and without the help of an awesome support system which included LLLC, I doubt we would have been able to persevere. So first off, thanks LLLC, for all the amazing work you do. My personal experience with you has mostly been nothing but positive.

Given the fact that I owe the LLLC a huge debt of thanks for my (still ongoing) breastfeeding relationship, it was with a great deal of surprise and dismay that I read about their rejection of Trevor MacDonald’s application to become a leader.

Trevor is a transgender father who gave birth to a son 13 months ago and has been breastfeeding him ever since. Due to past chest-reduction surgery, Trevor has issues with milk production, and uses what sounds like an SNS to supplement with donated milk. Because of this, Trevor initially struggled with breastfeeding, and credits the LLL with providing him with the help and resources he needed. Like me, Trevor would likely have been unable to breastfeed without the help of LLLC. Unlike me, the LLLC will not consider him as a potential leader. Why? Because he self-identifies as a man.

So, let’s break this down: here we have someone who brings a wealth of breastfeeding knowledge, has personal experience with milk production problems and supplementation systems, has navigated the tricky world of milk donation, and wants to share all of this with others who are in need. So what is LLLC’s problem? Well, according to a spokesperson for LLLC:

“[T]he roles of mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Since an LLLC Leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC Leader.”

and

[Trevor] acknowledge[s] that some women may not be comfortable working with a male Leader. A Leader needs to be able to help all women interested in breastfeeding.”

Er, what? So because of some outdated wording in LLLC policy that doesn’t reflect the current gender landscape we inhabit, Trevor can’t be a leader because he doesn’t identify as a mother. Oh, okay. That makes sense. No wait, it doesn’t. Why can’t they just change the wording to say that an LLLC leader must be a parent who has breastfed? Surely it’s the breastfeeding experience that’s the most important qualification?

Next, what’s up with that thing about the roles of mothers and fathers not being interchangeable? What does that even mean? Hey, LLLC, if you’re listening, I’d really like some clarification about that! Do you mean that biologically, fathers are far less likely to become pregnant, give birth and then breastfeed a child? Because less likely does not equal totally never happens. Or do you mean there’s something inherently different about the way that mothers and fathers parent, and therefore a father could never dispense parenting advice to a mother? If so, I, and a lot of people, have a bone to pick with you.

And then there’s that second quote, about the fact that Trevor, as a transgender male leader, would women uncomfortable – that quote actually makes my skin crawl. Know why? Re-read it, but substitute something about race or religion or sexual orientation in place of male. Now do you see it? Transphobia is just as awful as racism, or religious intolerance or homophobia, but because society is really only just starting to deal with the idea of trans men and women, it is tolerated way, way more frequently.

And finally, Fiona Audy, chair of the organization’s board of directors, said the following:

“La Leche League is about supporting parents who wish to breastfeed their babies, and we don’t want to get drawn into a discussion about gender issues, which is not our focus.”

I hate to tell you this, Fiona, but your organization’s ignorance and intolerance has already drawn you into this discussion. It’s what your organization chooses to do now that will define how you will be seen by me and millions of other people.

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Trevor MacDonald with breastfeeding guru Dr. Jack Newman

Trevor has a blog, Milk Junkies, in case you’re interested in checking it out. He has also started a Facebook group called Birthing and Breastfeeding Transmen and Allies.