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Let’s get past both the menstruation and transgender stigmas | READER COMMENTARY

Menstrual hygiene products are restocked on a store shelf. File.
Menstrual hygiene products are restocked on a store shelf. File. (Rich Pedroncelli, AP)

Period stigma is certainly a stigma we need to “get over,” as The Sun’s recent editorial noted (“Girls menstruate; get over it and put free hygiene products in Maryland schools,” Jan. 28). But equally important to eliminating period stigma is eliminating the transgender-exclusionary belief that only women and girls menstruate (“Free feminine hygiene products unnecessary in boy’s restrooms in schools,” Jan. 30).

Last year, menstrual hygiene company Always removed the Venus, or “female,” symbol from its sanitary pads, marking an important shift from “feminine” hygiene to “menstrual” hygiene. Menstruation is not only a reality for cisgender (assigned female at birth) women and girls, but also for some transgender men and for some gender non-conforming folks. House Bill 208 addresses one of the most basic needs of Maryland students: menstrual hygiene.

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Testimony in support of the bill noted that we urinate and defecate, and about half of us also menstruate. If we don’t expect our students to bring their own toilet paper to school, why should we expect them to bring their own menstrual hygiene products? What’s more, why should we provide menstrual hygiene products for cisgender women and girls, but not for students of other genders who also menstruate? Not for the trans man in my English class, and not for the non-binary student in my theater productions?

Generation Z is the most gender non-conforming generation thus far; a 2018 Pew Research Center survey found that 35% of Gen Z members know someone who uses gender-neutral pronouns, a jump from 25% of Millennials, 16% of Generation X, and 12% of Baby Boomers. House Bill 208 is written to serve all K-12 Maryland students starting in their restrooms. When we empathize with each other, reject age-old sexist stigma and recognize the needs of those expanding our definitions of sex and gender, we commit to supporting the future of Maryland: our children.

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Priya Hay-Chatterjee, Silver Spring

The writer is a policy research intern at NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.

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