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The Office’s Rainn Wilson apologises for ‘mean crack’ about ‘chestfeeding’

Danai Nesta Kupemba June 17, 2022
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Rainn Wilson has apologised for a trans joke he made. (Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Rainn Wilson has apologised for taking a “mean crack” about “chestfeeding” after taking some time to “educate” himself.

The Office actor was criticised for posting a tweet that parroted a common anti-trans refrain.

“TIL [today I learned] you can no longer say ‘nursing or breastfeeding mother’ you have to say chest feeding person,” Rainn Wilson wrote on Wednesday (15 June).

Chest-feeding is a gender-neutral term that some health bodies, including the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the NHS, encourage healthcare professionals to use where appropriate, for example when working with trans fathers and non-binary parents.

None of these bodies advocate for the elimination of terms such as breastfeeding or mother, rather, it is about respecting parents who prefer gender-neutral language.

However, misinformation has been propagated by anti-trans voices and media outlets, including The Times newspaper, which in 2021 wrongly claimed an English NHS trust was telling staff to “replace” the terms breastfeeding and mother. It took the newspaper a year to issue a correction.

After Rainn Wilson was criticised for fuelling such misinformation, the 56-year-old actor returned to Twitter with an apology.

He wrote on Thursday (16 June): “Yesterday I tweeted a mean crack about breastfeeding vs chestfeeding.

“After speaking with some trans friends and educating myself a bit more I want to apologise for the tweet. It was adding to misinformation and meanness. I’m sorry.”

Many welcomed Rainn Wilson’s apology, noting that he had said sorry without qualifying or making excuses for his actions.

Some, however, wanted him to go further. One user wrote: “This guy has 4.4m followers and contributed to misinformation and transphobia. Words are one thing, but it’s really important to follow them up with action. If he can’t donate, i’m sure he can use his platform towards aiding and supporting trans ppl.”

Another user urged people to think about the impact their words could have, writing: “It’s not my place to accept or refuse your apology, but as an ally, I will say: please, consider in the future that almost any joke you could make about trans people can potentially hurt actual trans people in this current climate.”

In 2021, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust launched the UK’s first clinical and language guidelines to support trans and non-binary birthing people, the culmination of many years’ work.

The trust said that it “recognises the vast majority of midwifery service users are women and already has language in place women are comfortable with. This is not changing. For example, we will continue to call them pregnant women and talk about breastfeeding”.

A policy document released by BSUH said staff should not stop using gendered words like “woman” or “motherhood”, but should consciously start adding more inclusive language into their lexicon.

It said: “Gender identity can be a source of oppression and health inequality. We are consciously using the worlds ‘women’ and ‘people’ together to make it clear that we are committed to working on addressing health inequalities for all of those who use our services. …

“Women are frequently disadvantaged in healthcare, as are trans and non-binary people. “

More: the office, trans-inclusive language

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