TRANSparency is essential in the menstruation conversation
As any of you loyal blog followers will know, us BGP babes are workin' hard to be an organisation that's inclusive of all people who menstruate.
So we asked Frey, who identifies as non-binary, to share their voice in the menstruation conversation and highlight how we can all learn to include the experiences of trans and non-binary people when we talk about periods.
- - - -
Whilst the increasing media attention given to menstruation is something worth celebrating, it seems that there's one big issue that has been left out of the period debate. Society tells us every day that gender and biology are inextricably linked, an idea which is constantly reinforced by both the media and consumer goods.
For non-binary people life can be complicated, as according to society, we don’t exist.
Our right to define ourselves in our own language is questioned daily by many people, including well-meaning members of the political left, whose understanding of equality (rich/poor, white people/people of colour, able-bodied people/people with disabilities, men/women, etc.) is inherently binary.
As someone who falls between the poles of male and female, I constantly find myself being shoved into boxes by a society which refuses to accept that just because I have a vagina, that doesn’t mean that I’m a woman.
When I go into clothes shops I’m forced to choose between the designated ‘men’s’ section upstairs or the ‘women’s’ section downstairs, whilst feeling most comfortable half way up the escalator.
Nevertheless, I do ultimately have the freedom to present myself in a way which makes me feel happiest and most confident. However, what I still feel unable to do is to make my biological sex align itself with my gender identity.
Whilst I can choose not to wear women’s clothes on the days I feel more masculine, I can’t similarly decide not to use sanitary products. The result would be uncomfortable and humiliating.
It’s not that I have a fundamental problem with having periods -- I’m very lucky to be a trans person who doesn’t experience body dysphoria. What upsets me is the discourse surrounding menstruation, which labels it as innately and exclusively ‘female’.
Of course it’s great to celebrate women in the period debate. It is also true that I belong to a minority and use terminology to describe myself which might be baffling to people who already feel disillusioned by feminism.
However, I don’t believe that this warrants the complete erasure of a certain group of people for the sake of convenience.
What I would like is simply an acknowledgement that trans people have the right to access sanitary products too. Browsing the websites of Always and Tampax, it soon becomes apparent that trans people are invisible.
And whilst, in some ways, it's refreshing to see an online space dominated by female pronouns and the views of ‘women and girls’, it also feels isolating.
And this cis-sexism (the prejudice resulting from the assumption that a person identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth) extends to the way sanitary items are signposted in supermarkets, their packaging and even the products themselves.
Sanitary towels are often patterned with stereotypically feminine colours and shapes, reminding me every month of the label society falsely attributed to me at birth.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with pink, but it’s understandable, given its connotations, that it makes many trans people feel excluded.
Personally, I love flowers, but equally nothing would cheer me up more if I was suffering from period pain than the smiling face of a green stegosaurus staring cheekily up at me from a sanitary towel.
I’m not seriously suggesting we launch a campaign to introduce a new pre-historic themed line of tampons (although, were that to happen, I’d definitely be the first person in the queue the supermarket). But I am suggesting that we change the way we talk about periods.
Let’s be TRANSparent: trans people have been left out of the menstruation debate for long enough.
Non-binary person - Non-binary people are those who don't feel male or female. They may feel like both or like something in between. They may have a gender that changes over time or they may not relate to gender at all.
Transgender - An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from what is typically associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.
Cisgender - This describes someone who is not transgender. For instance, someone who is named a boy at birth and continues to live as a man would be cisgender.
Body/gender dysphoria - Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity. This mismatch between sex and gender identity can lead to distressing and uncomfortable feelings that are called gender dysphoria.
For more information - and support - visit the following organisations:
Action for Trans Health - an organisation seeking to improve trans people's access to healthcareThe Beaumont Society - the biggest transgender support group in the UKMermaids UK - who work to raise awareness about gender nonconformity in children and young people.
We are doing our utmost to be an inclusive period organisation but know we have far to go and we might not get it right first time - so please keep calling us out where necessary.