content warning: this post will cover menstruation and periods
Periods: gendered, associated with the ‘female sex’, surrounded by taboo and taxes. I got mine for the first time in months recently. I have a condition, PCOS, which means that I don’t ovulate regularly or get regular periods. Every time I get my period I am reminded of the expectations of being a person who has periods. When I first got my period, aged 11, I quickly felt the expectations pile onto me, I was supposed to be: mature, responsible, sexual, womanly, an adult, feminine. I mostly felt sad and in pain, and slightly like I was a walking Hammer horror movie. The medical profession continues to exacerbate many of these expectations and I am always presumed to be cisgender and straight (I’m trans NB and queer) whenever I have discussed periods or PCOS with my doctors. Due to these issues, periods have always made me feel dysphoric. I describe my personal sensation of dysphoria as: the feeling of being disconnected from my body in a way which makes me uncomfortable enough that I wish I could crawl out of my own skin.
I want to state very clearly: periods are not a ‘female’ issue. They affect intersex people, trans men and non-binary people alongside a multitude of other people with a variety of gender identities. I’m aware of the feminist concern over changing the status of periods to something more broad and complex than a ‘female’ issue. However, the simple fact is that periods never were purely a ‘female’ issue, they were simply assigned female (pun somewhat intended). In order to move away from trans exclusionary feminism and towards trans and non-binary inclusivity we must become a society which not only explores the complexity of menstruation but parallels this complexity in popular culture and advertising.
Some progress is being made to create more trans-inclusive products for periods. THINX may be the most well-known brand to have created a product which is inclusive of trans men. The THINX Boyshort underwear is a reusable alternative to pads and something which could lessen dysphoria for some trans and or non-binary people with periods. However, there are still some issues with this for me. If aimed at trans men, why not simply call it them ‘boxer shorts’, ‘trunks’ or ‘hipsters’; ‘Boyshort’ feels a little infantile and potentially feminising for me. There is also the issue that in the product photo, a cis woman is wearing the underwear- a detail which should have been given more thought when considering that the product was launched in association with transgender awareness week. (Prices also start at £30 a pair, meaning that these are not an option for many people with lower incomes!)
The company Lunapads makes a similar product, and while equally pricy, they do advertise the product with a trans male model and have labelled it a ‘Boxer brief’. This is an instant improvement on the THINX underwear, in my opinion, however, still doesn’t give much option for those who only have access to disposable pads and a low income.
The best brand I have seen by far is Pyramid Seven. Their company is not a gimmick created to sell more products to a broader consumer base at a higher cost. Their aim is simply to allow trans and or non-binary people to menstruate in peace, with underwear which allows for disposable or reusable pads to be worn while looking and feeling great. Currently their items are in the pre-order stage, however, they are due to begin shipping within the next ten weeks. The pricing is similar to those listed above but there is a good deal if you buy in bulk (10% off orders of 3, 15% off 5, 20% off 7). None of this is sponsored, I just think it’s great to finally see a product created for trans and or non-binary people with periods in mind.
The subject of periods was assigned female at birth, maybe it’s time for them to transition. That’s my embarrassingly cliche closing statement on this topic. I’m so glad to see progress being made. I hope this post helped those of you who, like me, feel dysphoric or uncomfortable with your period. Let me know if you’d consider buying this underwear in comments or if there’s a product you wish was made more trans and non-binary friendly.- AB
featured image copyright of Pyramid Seven, no copyright infringement intended, this is not a paid promotion