Last year, the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) conducted a politically correct purge of their guidelines, removing any reference to fact that mothers are women, for fear of offending the transgendered. But now, an alliance of midwifes, mothers and experts have began to fight back, insisting that it is “dangerous” and “harmful” to deny the “biological reality” of motherhood.
In 2014, with little consultation, MANA decided that being a woman was not a necessary or relevant factor for being a mother. They edited their core competencies document, and in effect ordered practitioners to stop referring to clients as “women” and “mothers” demanding they say “pregnant people” and “birthing individuals” instead.
The change did not go unnoticed. At the end of last month a group calling themselves “Woman-Centred Midwifery” (WCM) published an open letter addressed to MANA, signed by hundreds of respected Midwifery experts including the revered “mother of authentic midwifery” Ina May Gaskin.
They wrote, very politely, that: “MANA’s attempts at inclusivity are commendable in today’s complex world. We are concerned, however, by accelerating trends in our culture to deny material biological reality and further disconnect ourselves from nature and the body.”
Referring to the edited core competencies document, they protested that, “women are now all but missing from the language, as if we can separate woman from mother from baby. Woman is recognized now only in relation to her baby. This is harmful to female adult humans; we women have fought long and hard to be recognized as autonomous beings.”
The MANA case is not an isolated one. The American College of Nurse-Midwives and the Canadian Association of Midwives have also began to recognise “transsexual” and “gender variant” mothers. However, they are yet to bow to the perpetually offended by following MANA’s lead in denying the right of non-transgendered mothers to be recognised as women.
Did you know? We recently released a position statement on transgender, transsexual, and gender variant health… http://t.co/kTzlDL0u
— ACNM Midwives (@ACNMmidwives) January 29, 2013
If you’re wondering how someone who is not considered a woman could even have a baby, such that MANA might want to make the “progressive” move of severing the concept from that of mother, then here is a case study.
Trevor MacDonald is a self identified female-to-male transgendered gay man whose been campaigning against WCM, accusing them of “transphobia” in The Huffington Post. It seems that no amount of cosmetic surgery could allow him to escape the innate instincts latent in his biology, and MacDonald has given birth to two children since he transitioned. In 2012, he explain in a blog post how this is so:
“My name is Trevor and I am able to be pregnant because I am transgender. This means that I was born female but transitioned to male by taking hormones and having chest surgery.
“When my partner and I decided to start a family, we got advice from my doctors and I stopped taking my testosterone. My baby is due in April. Because my surgery removed most of my breast tissue, I don’t know how much I’ll be able to breastfeed, but I really want to try.”
MacDonald feels that, “the signatures [on the WCM letter] of midwives held in high esteem in the birthing community are especially hurtful,” and argues that, “trans, genderqueer and intersex people have been giving birth for as long as women-identified people have and we have also encountered oppression.”
MacDonald believes that the people who signed the letter merely, “fear a future where they will not be allowed to write or speak about women in their own practices,” and that, “we do not need to choose between celebrating women and including people of all genders.”
The consequences of disagreeing with the likes of MacDonald and the Trans lobby are very real. A petition has already been started to censor Ina May Gaskin from speaking at events, for “marginaliz[ing] people from midwifery” by signing the “transmisogynistic open letter.”
However, far from suffering from some “phobia” or irrational fear, WCM explain their quite rational reservations in the letter. “We know as midwives that biological sex occurs at the level of our DNA and the gametes we produce, and is immutable,” they write.
They acknowledge that “gender is cultural and gender norms vary across the globe,” but state that, “Sex is natural, biological and objectively factual,” and “Human beings, like the majority of other mammals, are sexually dimorphic. i.e. there are two distinct biological sexes.”
Arguing that, “by embracing the idea that any human other than those in a class called women carry offspring to term, give birth to them and nurse them, we are prioritizing gender identity over biological reality,” and that, “We are allowing gender identity to be the primary way that we refer to one another, even for a biological process like birth.”
There's a midwife who specialises in transgender pregnancies. So far, there have only been two of these pregnancies. Wow, she must be busy.
— Lucy Browett (@lucybrowett) April 7, 2011
“The very few gender-identified males that have given birth or accessed an abortion have only done so because they are female-bodied people, and that scientific fact cannot be erased,” they add.
MANA even appeal to the arguments of second wave feminists (or trans exclusionary radical feminists / TERFS) to make their point, who have long argued that, “female liberation from patriarchal oppression, including brutal and demeaning birth practices, cannot be achieved if we are forbidden from mentioning female biology.”
Even some transgendered people have taken issue with delusional stance of MANA (see the Tweet below.)
Trans activist writes hitpiece on HuffPo against prominent midwife bc she says “female bodied”. Aoife responds. pic.twitter.com/wchYnheYX2
— aoife assumpta hart (@AoifeLovesOwls) September 23, 2015
Leading midwife and the first signatory on the open letter, MaryLou Singleton, went further still, defending those who believe the concept of gender does not exist as a separate entity to biological sex, who are so often accused of hatred. “By saying that we do not believe in gender, we are not ‘erasing’ the existence of people who strongly identify with gender any more that by saying we don’t believe in Catholicism erases the existence of Catholics,” she wrote on Facebook.
MacDonald accused her of “bizarre and hostile” “Trans hatred.”
It must be remembered, however, that this seemingly petty conflict within midwifery is not just an intellectual question of biology and social theory. It’s certainly not merely the continuation of the long running squabble between old order feminism and gender theory feminists (who deny that female biology has anything to do with women, and so feminism).
This is, primarily, about the children involved. It is a final, humiliating assault on the tradition family, and the attempt to removed the notion of women from motherhood should terrify us all – even those who support same-sex marriage.
As WCM conclude in their letter: “We must fight the forces destroying the living material world and telling us that cultural distractions are more real than life itself. There is life-giving power in female biology. As midwives we protect the lives of the life-givers: women, mothers, females, and their offsping. We must not become blinded to the biological material reality that connects us.”