Menstruation is one of the biggest taboos of our time. As a cis-gender woman, periods are still an awkward conversation. To even ask someone for a tampon or pad in public is more like an illegal drug deal than a basic human necessity. Everyone hides the fact that they experience this basic human function. For me, it’s something that I have to deal with once a month. But for some people it is a way of reinforcing dysphoria, and even a way of putting an individual in harms way. Women aren’t the only ones who get periods.
Many Trans* people experience dysphoria. Dysphoria is a disconnection between the mind and the body and is most commonly experienced around the chest, genitals and secondary sex characteristics. Basically, for some individuals getting their period is a reminder that their body did not match their gender identity. The sense of disconnection between body and mind could lead to depression, mood swings and negative coping mechanisms, like self-harm. Very few companies that profit off of menstruation even think about an entire population of people that they could be reaching.
Sawyer DeVuyst, an actor and model is teaming up with THINX* a underwear company that is starting the conversation around men and periods. DeVuyst in an interview said, “There’s lack of trans male visibility and within that visibility, nobody is talking about periods or menstruation because it is a source of shame. It strips away masculinity because it’s viewed as a very feminine thing.” The stigma surrounding periods needs to come to an end. Transgender men who menstruate exist. There are many people similar to DeVuyst, “We often forget that in the case of a female to male transition, periods don’t stop coming every month. For the trans* community, the cycle isn’t just a petty inconvenience as it is for so many of us, but rather a frequent, discomforting reminder of an ongoing battle.”
The only way to break the sigma is to start talking about it. This conversation needs to continue. It needs to start in health classes when children are young. We need to stop gendering health topics and stop splitting children up. People shouldn’t be designated into the binary that is male and female. Men have periods too.
Rebecca Panarello is an undergraduate student in the Women’s and Gender Studies department at Stony Brook University. She works at the Long Island GLBTQ Center in Bay Shore, with a focus on homeless kids.