OP-ED: Healthy & Dignified Periods for All
Contributed by Wendi Schweigart
I started project Marilyn in 2019 after reading an article about period poverty in a magazine. I was frustrated with myself for never thinking of what a houseless woman does when she’s on her period?
Wait…let me rephrase that.
What does a houseless person who menstruates do when they get their period?
Yes, that’s better.
And there it is.
Why do I say “person who menstruates” or “person with a period” instead of women?
That’s because men can have periods too, obviously.
The truth is, if you aren’t a part of the LGBTQ+ community, it may not be as obvious.
There was certainly a time when I didn’t know either.
I know what you’re thinking… ‘What makes a white, heterosexual, cisgender, 40+-year-old woman (geez, maybe I should have left my age out) the authority on this subject? The answer is, I’m not. I’m someone who’s committed to learning more and using my platform to serve our community, and to that end, I want to share my learnings with you.
I’m supposed to know everything about the subject of periods and all that goes with it, right? Well, this tells you that I still have a lot to learn.
The mission of Project Marilyn is to provide free period supplies to members of our community who cannot afford them. My education began when a lovely friend asked that Project Marilyn supply their business with period supplies in both the women’s and men’s bathrooms.
I’m sure the quizzical look on my face said it all. “Men have periods?” I asked.
Luckily my friend is kind and gave me both the grace and space to learn about this new (to me) concept.
Clinically speaking and according to transequality.org “Transgender people are people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were thought to be at birth.” So, if your sex assigned at birth is female but you’re gender identity is male then you’re a man who has a period. PERIOD.
Here’s the thing, I believe in working to end period poverty because menstruation should matter to everyone. Whether you have a period or know someone who has a period, the issue of period poverty matters to all of us.
According to The Alliance for Period Supplies: 2 in 5 people cannot afford period supplies in a given year due to lack of income and 1 in 4 students miss school because they don’t have period supplies.
How can our friends better their lives when they have a stack of fast-food napkins in their underwear? Not having access to proper period supplies can cause health problems as well self-esteem issues. Now imagine you’re trans and the list of things you have to deal with and consider just got a lot longer.
Men’s restrooms most likely don’t carry period supplies or even disposal containers for tampons or pads. We can do better to help everyone who menstruates have dignity with their period.
As I continue on my journey of learning how to best support all menstruators, I hope you’ll join me. Let’s link arms as we talk about things that can be awkward and uncomfortable, like periods and everything and everyone that goes along with that.
We can work together to create a place where everyone who menstruates has the supplies they need to have a healthy and dignified period.
My new motto for Project Marilyn is, “If you bleed and are in need, we’re here for you. PERIOD.”
This article was originally published in the 2022 PRIDE Issue of Las Vegas PRIDE Magazine, and can be read in its original format here.