Women don’t have periods….People have periods

Editor’s note: This piece is reposted from Dr. Jen O’Ryan’s Medium blog.

I recently attended an event in San Francisco, which was hosted at the offices of a large, global tech company.

My companion returned from the men’s bathroom, happily informing me that it was stocked with both pads and tampons. He even provided a snap of them neatly organized in a little wicker basket. Not since the great Vegas road trip of ’04 have I been so delighted to see period supplies in a bathroom.

To those outside of the LGBTQ community, this may seem like an odd placement. Maybe someone in facilities left them there accidentally or its part of a first aid kit (fun fact, tampons are great for a bloody nose — ask any boxer).

No, these are stocked in that bathroom for men who are on their periods. And that’s a good thing.

Transgender men who menstruate need the same access to supplies as women. Dealing with periods poses a particularly unique challenge for trans men, as well as gender fluid and non-binary individuals. This is especially true for those who are not able to be open about their identity in the workplace. Putting pads and tampons in all bathrooms reduces the risk of having to explain, as a man, why you bled through your jeans.

Promoting greater access to these products is not limited to the workplace. Emergency management teams, volunteer responders, and service providers for the homeless should be prepared to distribute hygiene items to people regardless of their presenting gender. Menstruation is a biological reality for many adolescent and adult humans; it is not ‘lady problems’. While we’re at it, let’s drop the “feminine” euphemism and call them what they are…personal hygiene products.

Stocking period supplies in the men’s bathroom does a couple of other things as well. It brings much needed visibility to gender identity and daily struggles that simply don’t occur to many cisgender men. People of all gender identities have periods; not just those women featured in ads that are always playing tennis in white pants or riding horses.

Most importantly, organizations that make personal hygiene products discretely accessible for all employees send a clear message to gender variant people — you are here, you have value, we see you, and recognize your humanity.

Putting these supplies in the bathroom right next to the soap and mouthwash normalizes their presence. That’s a lot for one little wicker basket, I know. Nonetheless, this small act of providing access to basic hygiene items signals inclusion. True inclusion.

About the author:

Dr. Jen O’Ryan completed her PhD in Human Behavior, specializing in gender and sexual orientation. She provides training and resources to organizations on developing their inclusion strategies. Jen has recently introduced a new approach to policy review, entitled “Queer Eye for the Inclusion Guide”.

Jen also offers guidance to parents and families on navigating a child’s coming out process, as well as ways to develop a deeper connection with the LGBTQ kiddo or young adult in their life. Through years of research and advocacy, she brings an extensive background on the complexities that often come with conversations about orientation and gender.