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Stillbirth charity ‘bullied’ into apology after using trans inclusive language to support birthing parents

Patrick Kelleher October 26, 2020
Sands UK stillbirth transgender birthing parent

Sands UK, a charity that supports parents through stillbirth and neonatal death, faced a torrent of abuse from anti-trans activists for using the term "birthing partner" (Envato Elements)

Sands UK, a charity that supports parents through stillbirth and neonatal death, has been “bullied” into apologising for using inclusive language on social media.

On Saturday (10 October), charity Sands UK shared details of its support channels on Twitter, writing: “Often the focus of support and comfort is on the birthing parent, which can leave partners or non-birthing parents feeling isolated and alone. Sands is here for you.”

Two full weeks passed before a large group of anti-trans activists dog-piled the post, flooding it with furious comments demanding that the charity use the word “mother” instead of “birthing parent”.

The backlash began on Saturday (24 October), with various “gender critical feminist” Twitter accounts – many of them anonymous – tearing into the charity for using language that was inclusive of same-sex couples, trans, non-binary and gender diverse people.

Sands UK was accused of trying to “rewrite language”, while some Twitter users said they would feel unable to turn to the charity for support because it had used language that was inclusive of LGBT+ people.

Following hours of sustained abuse from anti-trans activists, the charity issued an apology, writing: “We are so sorry that this tweet has upset some people. Our tweet should have included the word ‘mothers’.

“It was an error and we apologise from the bottom of our hearts. Sands is here for everyone.”

Sands UK has faced criticism from members of the LGBT+ community for apologising, with trans man and father Freddy McConnell urging the charity to “stand up to these bullies”.

“‘Birthing parent’ includes everyone – mothers, trans fathers and non-binary parents,” McConnell tweeted.

He continued: “Transphobes are expert at organising pile-ons. Please don’t use inclusive language and then backtrack. Progress takes courage and we have to stand together.”

In a second tweet, McConnell wrote: “The backlash to this isn’t a fear of cis women being excluded. It’s a cynical attempt to erase trans and [non-binary] birth. And to essentialise/police womanhood in a way that hurts all women.”

Journalist Elle Hunt said the backlash against Sands UK for using inclusive language was “disgraceful” and noted that the term “birthing parent” doesn’t deny anyone’s experience – it simply includes more experiences of parenthood.

“This row over the phrasing of a tweet risks jeopardising Sands’ important work,” Hunt added.

Meanwhile, various anti-trans Twitter accounts demanded that Sands UK delete the original tweet referring to “birthing parents” and issue a second apology for including LGBT+ people in its work.

In a statement released to PinkNews, Sands UK said the original tweet was shared as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week and was “written to help raise awareness of the fact that anyone can be affected by baby loss”.

“This tweet was aiming to raise awareness of the grief felt by bereaved parents who use surrogacy specifically,” a spokesperson said.

“To be clear, we are not and never have intended to remove the word mother or father from the language that Sands uses; we know that using the words mother and father is so important,” they added.

The use of inclusive language around menstruation and child birth has been hijacked in recent times by a well-organised group of anti-trans activists.

“Gender critical feminists” routinely attack organisations on social media for using terms like “people”, “menstruators” or “birthing parents”.

The issue has become one of the central tenets of the ongoing “debate” around trans lives, with many anti-trans activists insisting that inclusive language erases cisgender women.

The backlash against Sands UK comes just weeks after Superdrug was hounded by anti-trans activists for launching a range of inclusive sanitary products for people who menstruate.

Later in September, an Irish maternity advocacy organisation faced a sustained online attack from anti-trans activists on Twitter for using inclusive language.

The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services Ireland (AIMS Ireland) referred to “pregnant people” in a tweet, prompting a torrent of abuse from mostly anonymous “gender critical feminist” Twitter accounts scattered across the world.

 

More: Freddy McConnell, neonatal death, Sands UK, stillbirth, trans parents, transphobia

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