Staff at a maternity department are being encouraged to use phrases such as ‘human milk’ and ‘chestfeeding’ as part of a new trans-friendly policy.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) NHS Trust has become the first in the country to adopt a ‘gender inclusive language policy’ where ‘gender-neutral language’ will be used alongside the ‘language of womanhood.’
Those behind the change say they hope it will ‘rapidly redress the historic exclusion of trans and non-binary service users, whilst honouring and representing all who use our services.’
The department in Brighton – which has one of the highest proportions of LGBTQ+ people in the country – has been renamed ‘Perinatal Services.’
Under the changes, staff are being encouraged to use terms like ‘woman or person’ and ‘mother or birthing parent’ instead of just ‘woman’ or ‘mother.’
Rather than ‘breastfeeding’, staff are recommended to use the word ‘chestfeeding’ and instead of ‘breastmilk’, staff should say ‘human milk’, ‘breast/chest milk’ or ‘milk from the feeding mother or parent.’ ‘Parent or co parent’ is preferred to ‘father’.
Changes will be made to the trust’s leaflets, letters and emails to reflect the new language. Staff are also being told to use the terms at antenatal classes and other meetings where several parents are present.
When addressing cis women individually, they can use ‘terminology that is meaningful and appropriate to the individual’ so the more traditional terms are not being banned outright.
A document which outlines the new policy said: ‘Gender identity can be a source of oppression and health inequality. We are consciously using the words “women” and “people” together to make it clear that we are committed to working on addressing health inequalities for all those who use our services.’
It added: ‘We also recognise that there is currently biological essentialism and transphobia present within elements of mainstream birth narratives and discourse.
‘We strive to protect our trans and non-binary service users and healthcare professionals from additional persecution as a consequence of terminology changes, recognising the significant impact this can have on psychological and emotional wellbeing.’
The changes have been based on extensive consultation with trans non-binary parents who use the services and in the wider community.
One of the authors of the policy, Helen Green, wrote on social media: ‘The work is for us and by us, developed from grassroots research and lived experiences in the trans and non-binary community.’
Changes to language around pregnancy and child birth have proven controversial in the past.
The author JK Rowling prompted a fierce backlash on social media when she questioned the use of the phrase ‘people who menstruate’ last year.
Those behind the BSUH document have stressed that the language of womanhood is not being phased out, but being used alongside more inclusive terminology.
BSUH Chief Nurse Carolyn Morrice said: ‘We know the vast majority of our midwifery service users are women and we are not changing the language we know they are comfortable with. For example, we will continue to call them pregnant woman and talk about breast feeding.
‘What we are doing is adding to the language we use to make it as inclusive as possible and to ensure that people who may identify in a different way feel our services are accessible.
‘Adding to the language we use is something people who use our services have been asking for, for some time. Our aim will always be to treat everyone who uses our services as an individual, providing care that is personal to them, that meets their needs and uses language they are comfortable with.’
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