Breastfeeding While Butch: Navigating the Hyper-Feminine Discourses Surrounding Breastfeeding, 1956 to the Present

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 11:10 AM
Regent Room (New York Hilton)
Emily E. Skidmore, Texas Tech University
Virtually all the support material available to pregnant people and new parents makes an assumption: the connection between pregnancy/breastfeeding and femininity. However, since the second half of the twentieth century, there have been an increasing number of individuals who have given birth and sought to breastfeed who do not identify as conventionally female—a group including butch women, genderqueer folks, and trans men. Indeed, the rise of sperm banks and other advances in reproductive technologies have made birthing a child possible for a larger range of couples and individuals than ever before, yet support for gender nonconforming parents has not kept pace. Often, this leaves butch, trans, and genderqueer individuals to navigate a system that ignores their needs and negates a core part of their identity. This paper, “Breastfeeding While Butch,” will explore the impact of the hyper-femininity present within discourses around breastfeeding (within both medical literature and popular media) upon breastfeeding individuals who were not conventionally feminine. “Breastfeeding While Butch” will analyze a few of the most widely-circulating support materials for breastfeeding parents, including the classic bestselling guide The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, originally published by La Leche League in 1956 and now in its eighth edition. Against this backdrop, this paper will utilize oral histories with birth parents, as well as doulas and lactation consultants trained to support butch, trans, and genderqueer parents as they navigate pregnancy and infant feeding.
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