No, That British Hospital Didn’t Ban the Word ‘Breastfeeding’
The ultra-viral story is an outright fabrication made by the institutionally transphobic British press. It worked.
A story originating from the Times of London claims that a UK hospital, the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, has banned the use of words like “breastfeeding,” instead using gender-neutral terms like “chest feeding.” Additionally, the Times reports the hospital has allegedly banned the use of gendered terms throughout its maternity ward.
The story quickly went viral, hitting the American conservative press. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted his own outrage. A wave of transphobia poured over social media, even among some liberals who thought the hospital “went too far” in supporting trans people.
But the story is a fabrication. And it had its intended effect.
According to the hospital’s guidelines, the gender-neutral language is meant to be “additive,” and not a replacement for traditional terms. The guidelines stress that some people may react negatively to gender-neutral language, and so it’s important to consider broader sensitivities in language usage.
“Please note that these language changes do not apply when discussing or caring for individuals in a one-on-one capacity where language and documentation should reflect the gender identity of the individual,” reads the guidelines. “When caring for cis women it is good practice to use terminology that is meaningful and appropriate to the individual; this may include terms such as woman, mother or breastfeeding.”
In other words, “breastfeeding” isn’t a banned term, and the viral story is false.
The policy was meant to make the hospital’s maternity ward slightly more trans-inclusive, while still servicing the vast majority of new birthing parents who are cis women, and even this was too much for Britain’s transphobic (and the US conservative) press.
And now trans people across the English-speaking world are having to deal with the fallout and harassment campaigns for something that we barely even asked for in the first place.
I suggest that we all need to stop and take a breath when these stories start to go viral, inevitably there’s more to the story than is usually being told. It’s a sad state of affairs when so many press outlets need to (but won’t) issue a broad correction on a viral story, but it’s hardly surprising.
There’s been a long-running media anti-trans media campaign across the pond designed to stoke outrage at the mere existence of trans people and it’s largely worked. The stories generate a lot of clicks and little introspection as they often stroke the readers’ basest bigotries. I’d ask you all to start taking deeper looks at the facts behind these outrageous stories, but I know most of you won’t.