Historically, menstruation has been understood as a biological function of the female body, affecting women and only women. But over the last several years, as periods have flowed more and more into public discussion, this has begun to shift. Increasingly, activists, journalists and brands are speaking out about the fact that it’s not only women who menstruate. Trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming people also experience periods. Menstruation is not solely experienced by people who identify as women, but has to include trans periods as well.
In 1990, feminist scholar Judith Butler published her groundbreaking book Gender Trouble. Butler theorizes that gender is a social construct, a performance that gets countlessly repeated and reimagined in different ways. According to Butler, the way gender is performed depends largely on discourse, culture, history, time and place. Everything we do plays into how we perform our gender. From the way we dress, how we move and describe ourselves, down to the products we buy.
Trans periods: Menstruation as a trans man
Taking testosterone during the gender transition from woman-man doesn’t necessarily stop the menstrual cycle. As Cass Bliss, aka The Period Prince, discusses in Seventeen Magazine, “the dysphoria is real” when menstruating while trans, causing distress and confusion surrounding the body and gender. They say, “after having been told constantly that periods are about womanhood – by friends, the media, and advertisements – I was crushed when I started bleeding. I felt like I had no choice but to live my life pretending to be someone I was not.” In the interview for “Menstruation around the world” SJ shares about his experience with menstruation as a trans man.
Scientific research has shown that menstruation provokes deeply negative sentiments for trans and non-binary folks. Gendered bathrooms and being seen as a menstruator are a main source of stress and anxiety. Generally, period products tend to have lots of pink or traditionally “girly” designs. In addition to that, they can be found in the “feminine hygiene section” at the store. This only makes matters worse for trans menstruators.
“For far too long, the only period product imagery used in marketing was pink, flowery and showed bright-eyed young girls ‘frolicking.’ Nowadays, many show a variety of shapes, sizes and races. However, rarely do they show those who may not fit the traditional ‘social norm’ of ‘feminine,’” says Cathy Chapman, president of Lune North America, via Bustle.
Jen Bell published the piece talking about periods beyond gender for the fertility and period tracking app Clue. In her article, she discusses the importance of the words we use to describe the menstrual experience. Language carries power, and therefore exchanging “feminine hygiene products” with “menstrual care products” and “women” with “menstruators” or “people with periods” goes a long way to include those who do not identify as women in the discussion about menstruation.
Efforts to make periods more inclusive for trans menstruators
To that end, in an effort to be more accommodating to all genders who menstruate, the brand Always decided to remove the Venus symbol from their period product packaging in October 2019. This was after receiving tweets such as this one from trans activist Melly Bloom: “Could someone from Always tell me why it is imperative to have the female symbol on their sanitary products? There are non-binary and trans folks who still need to use your products too you know!” per NBC News.
Over 15,500 people have signed a change.org petition called #RenameDontShame. They are asking supermarkets in the U.S. and U.K. to use gender-inclusive language to market their period products. The petition, launched by Natracare, states that using the term “feminine hygiene” assumes all people with periods are women and you need to menstruate to be feminine. This excludes both other genders who menstruate as well as trans women and cis women who don’t have periods.
While conducting research for my master’s thesis on the changing culture surrounding menstruation, I interviewed women living in Berlin from different age groups and cultural backgrounds on their observations and perceptions of this shift. One of my participants was a mom with a transgender teenage son. She told me that he hates to shop for menstrual products because of all the “girly colors” and signals that it’s just for women – so much that he won’t do it anymore.
Gender neutral approach
For this reason, it’s important to also have brands and products available with a more gender-neutral approach to branding and packaging. Not only for trans menstruators, but for all people with periods who don’t identify with the way femininity is traditionally depicted on period products.
In this video, YouTuber Kel Lauren redesigns a Playtex Sport tampon package. They do this to question and challenge the overtly feminine style that period products tend to have, proposing a more playful, modern and neutral version.
Brands for trans people with periods
In recent years, there has been a crimson wave of startups offering period products in different designs, colors and forms. Some of them have a gender-inclusive, or gender affirming, approach to the way they brand and market menstrual care. Here are a couple cherry-picked companies to look out for if you’re searching for more neutral products that include trans periods.
1. Thinx: period panties
The classic example that comes to mind is Thinx, you’ve probably heard of them already. Thinx was one of the first movers in the period underwear market. They were also the first brand to include a trans man in an ad campaign for menstrual products back in 2016. Check out the Boyshort design of their period undies below:
On their product page for these shorts, they include a quote:
“As a trans person, it’s so affirming to know I can keep wearing a masculine style of underwear when going through something so difficult.” Leo from Newcastle, UK.
You can shop Thinx online, they deliver globally. In addition, if you’re interested in learning more about how it works, check out our guide to period underwear.
2. Einhorn: fun period products
Berlin-based startup Einhorn also emphasizes gender-inclusivity in their products. With a range of fun and trendy designs on their tampons, pads, and cups to choose from, shopping for period products can become actually enjoyable. Check out their variety of menstrual products below:
Shop Einhorn products on their website, they ship Europe-wide, or if you’re in Germany, you’ll find them at DM.
3. DAME.: innovating in menstrual care
DAME. has created the world’s first reusable tampon applicator. They’re working to “bring periods into the 21st century for all people whatever their gender.” They boast an award-winning, self-sanitizing design that keeps the applicator clean with multiple uses, and a glossy matt finish in forest green for maximum comfort upon insertion. Additionally, they offer organic tampons and reusable pads.
Shop DAME. online – they ship worldwide.
4. Aunt Flow: free tampons!
Aunt Flow is a startup from Ohio, U.S. that partners with companies and schools in order for menstrual products to be offered for free in bathrooms. In other words, their thinking goes, “Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons?” In marketing language, they target all “people with vaginas” and “menstruators” to include trans periods.
5. L.: For your natural cycle
L. offers personal care products made with organic materials, without the organic price. Their tampons come in a clear round container with black lettering and imagery of nature. They recently did a collaboration on social media with The Phluid Project where they created a guide to pronouns when talking about periods, and say, “We believe that it’s vital to celebrate ALL people who have periods, regardless of gender identity.” They have a solidarity 1:1 model where for every L. product purchased, one is made available to someone in need. In addition to that, they have partnered with The Pad Project to increase access to pads in developing nations and in homeless shelters across the U.S. Here’s one of their packages:
L. is available at U.S. retailers like Target, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart.
6. Lunette: Menstrual cups for everyone
Lunette from Scandinavia is a leading brand in the menstrual cup market. Their cups are made from 100% medical grade silicone, and each cup purchase comes with its own pouch made from recycled plastic bottles. They have created cups in a variety of colors and use inclusive language to disrupt gender stereotypes and change the conversations we’re having about periods. Committed to sustainability, education and inclusivity, Lunette also has a variety of resources on their website to address all of your unanswered questions about menstrual cups.
You can shop Lunette online, they ship worldwide.
7. Period Aisle: Products for every body
Period Aisle (previously Lunapads) has been around since 1999 and are true pioneers in the world of natural, eco-friendly menstrual care and gender-inclusive marketing. They sell period underwear with designs ranging from boxer briefs to thongs, reusable cloth pads, cups and even a period stain remover. On their Instagram, they have a series of posts defining important terms like “gender affirming”, “cisnormative”, “non-binary” and more. Additionally, they frequently show trans members of their community with their products:
You can shop Period Aisle on their website, they ship globally.
Want to learn more about trans periods?
Are you looking for resources or support on this topic? Check out these 5 tips from one trans menstruator to another and this guide to trans menstruation. Certainly look out for these brands for your period care needs.