This post was originally posted in 2017.
Trump’s recent announcement to reinstate the ban on transgender people joining the military has shocked communities the world over. His flimsy reasons included the medical costs of transgender people (despite only being a small percentage of all costs) and disruption (Donald, are you serious?). Whilst Trump continues to instate harmful policies and share his offensive views (many in tweeted form) the rest of us persevere in standing up for the equal treatment and acceptance of everyone.
You may have already clocked the un-gendered language that Every Month uses when discussing periods. We are committed to providing free sanitary products for everyone who needs them; not just cis women. Along with other organisations such as Lunapad and Pyramid Seven, we want to open up conversations about menstruation without gender, giving everyone the opportunity to access products and support. If we can encourage other companies and campaigns to do the same, things will change.
Theo shared their experience of identifying as non-binary and menstruating:
“I’m an enby, or a non-binary person, who bleeds once a month. I was a late-bloomer in discovering my identity, but not when it came to puberty. When I started my period aged 12 I didn’t know what to do. I think my mum had briefly mentioned it, but there was so much blood I was ashamed. I threw my underwear in the bin and when I’d bled only a little onto the next pair, I went to my mum. She told me about tampons and sanitary towels and that was the end of it. I was horrified by the idea of shoving a tampon up there. I felt ashamed every time I bled. Every time I had to change my sanitary towel, I felt horrible. In the back of my head there was a tiny voice telling me I shouldn’t be ashamed by this bodily function, but I felt ashamed anyway. I felt a lot of guilt about being a “bad woman” because I didn’t like having periods or hips or boobs, but especially the periods.
As I grew up and spent more and more time on the Internet reading articles and blogs, feeling like a hypocrite was added to the guilt and “bad woman” thoughts. I began to join in with comments about how periods are natural and okay and nothing to be ashamed of. I got mad when boys made jokes about periods and angry women or laughed at tampons. I got frustrated at sanitary towel adverts boasting discrete packaging, because God forbid someone heard you opening a sanitary towel in a public toilet. It’s not a secret – some people bleed once a month. I’d shout from the rooftops that periods were natural and not something to keep hushed up. Then I would have my own period and be ashamed and embarrassed and hate myself and my body for what was happening.
When I realised I was non-binary, the thing I felt most relieved about was that this meant I wasn’t a bad woman for hating my periods. I just wasn’t a woman. And I hated my periods because I associated them with women/being a woman. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, assessing my ideas and where they came from. The result is that I am now comfortable in declaring that I am a non-binary person who menstruates. I’m not a woman but I do have periods, and I’m allowed to dislike having my own period whilst simultaneously declaring that periods aren’t horrible or shameful.”
Menstruation should not be a stressful experience but for many it is because having periods is so heavily associated with being female. Not everyone who is a transgender or non binary person will menstruate. Not everyone who menstruates will feel affected by it in the same way or want to take hormones to stop them.Those who do menstruate and find it distressing, may experience Gender Dysphoria which occurs when a person’s gender identity and biological sex are mismatched. Culturally rooted perceptions of gendered periods is not only an internal battle. Visiting male toilets becomes more daunting without sanitary disposal bins in place and fewer cubicles. It makes many feel more inclined to use female toilets which could put them in a potentially dangerous or unpleasant situation.
“There’s nothing female about your body throwing out some unused baby juice. It’s merely society that’s long since confused menstruation with being somehow female or feminine”.
The packaging of sanitary products is ridiculously gendered too.
Pink and floral boxes are championed by sanitary product manufacturers along with names like ‘discreet’ ‘radiant’ and ‘pearl’ – Y’know all those super ‘feminine’ feels? Companies add scents to tampons and design the shape of their pads to fit perfectly into delicate female underwear.
Images and TV adverts portray a very specific two dimensional person on their period. Common themes include being perfectly made up, heterosexual, female and healthy. Even the supermarkets are buying into it by bunging all sanitary products in an aisle called ‘Feminine Products’.
“Sometimes I ask my girlfriend to buy them for me; sometimes I make a lot of jokes about it in my head. I remind myself that the cashier definitely does not care what I’m purchasing. If I’m feeling particularly fragile about it, I avoid stores where I might run into the same cashier again.”
Things are starting to change and the need to degender menstruation is slowly being addressed. Here are a couple of examples of great people doing great things.
Pyramid Seven make underwear ‘for periods not for gender’. Their range of boxer briefs offer inner support to attach a pad to – something that isn’t possible with normal boxers. Jarmon (they/them), co-creator of the company talked to Bustle about their personal and frustrating experience of having to switch to feminine underwear when menstruating.
MCalc started as an Indigogo campaign recognising the need for a gender neutral menstrual calculator app called adding an alternative to ‘the overly feminised market place’.
Cass Clemmer (they/them) is an Artist who identifies as non-binary. They posted this picture with the aim to raise awareness. Using their Instagram account @tonithetampon and #bleedingwhiletrans, Cass has created a space for people to discuss their own experiences and read about others .
Finally conversations are happening about menstruation without it being tangled in gender -although we still have a long way to go. No-one should feel excluded from conversations about bodily functions they experience and people can help by using ungendered language when discussing menstruation, speaking up when someone refers to periods as a ‘women’s issue’, sharing stories like Theo’s and Cass’ and campaigning against those TERRIBLE pink, discreet, ladylike, pearl adverts.