Queer period - what you need to know
by Parmi Savla on Sep 12, 2021
In a country like India, the human gender is still limited to the usual binary genders of male and female. Our television commercials on menstrual hygiene still show girls and women being unable to deal with regular life challenges due to their period and then can miraculously deal with them because they start using a certain brand’s sanitary hygiene products. While these commercials are done to death, there is a deeper problem that they do not address. The fact that these commercials only target the female gender. But do you think it's only girls or women who bleed?
A while ago, English writer JK Rowling was widely criticized on Twitter and other social media for her rather conservative views on gender being binary. Let's clear something for starters. Menstruation is not a ‘womanly’ thing, it is a biological function and can occur in any human being with a working set of (forgive the nonchalant use of the term) lady parts.
People are assigned a gender at birth and might not associate or relate with that gender as they mature. Imagine, not relating to the cisgender assigned to you and still menstruating each month. It must be traumatising and not a single television commercial, community or media outreach program talks to people who identify as queer or trans men or nonbinary or gender fluid or even intersex.
For people who identifiy with being queer or transgender, the pain of a menstrual cycle is not limited to physical cramps. These people might not even have come out as transgender and suddenly their bodies are undergoing a massive change - a change that they might not fully understand.
As a woman writing this article, I remember how awkward it was buying sanitary hygiene products at the supermarket or the store. I always felt judged for some reason. Imagine what a trangender person might feel like. They might suffer from stigma while trying to access menstrual hygiene products. If you are someone who identifies as a woman or a girl , you can relate with how awkward it is to change your pad or tampon in a public bathroom - even the sound of ripping the packet open is embarrassing. Now imagine what that’s like for a trans-man - opening a pad or a tampon in a public bathroom marked for men.
If you identify as a woman or a girl, you are already aware of the mood swings, the discomfort and that feeling of fragility. Does this mean that people who are trans-men cannot be just as fragile? Just because they have a masculine exterior they aren't allowed to feel the same discomfort felt by ladies?
To top it all, their feeling of gender dysphoria is heightened during their time of the month. These people might identify as trans-men or gender fluid or even non binary and still have to deal with blood dripping out of their vagina or even clots pushing their way out of their bodies everytime they cough or sneeze or laugh out loud.
When they experience the exact same levels of discomfort felt by a woman or a girl on her period, why can't the communication and packaging promoted by menstrual hygiene brands include them as their target audience? Why can't men’s bathrooms also have a tampon or sanitary pad disbursal and disposal machine? Why can't there be gender neutral bathrooms?
There are so many unanswered questions around queer periods and the only way these will be answered is by changing our perspective.
There is an urgent need to bring about a positive shift and create an inclusive community of menstruators irrespective of their gender. Like they say, charity begins at home. So if a family member or a friend has come out to you as transgender or if you are aware that a colleague, friend or a loved one is a transgender person, make sure you treat them with the same dignity and integrity that you would bestow upon a person who identifies as a woman. It's time to make a difference for the people who identify as different.