Universal access to menstrual products is absolutely crucial for all people that menstruate, but especially for young and trans people - two groups disproportionately affected by the stigma surrounding periods and period poverty.
Periods are still a very taboo topic within our society, and young people who menstruate can often feel ashamed to talk about them, even though they are such a significant part of many people’s lives.
Menstruation can start as early as nine or ten, and last until you are in your fifties – or even later. The embarrassment they feel is only magnified when they do not have access to the necessary products, such as tampons and pads.
Menstrual products are incredibly expensive, which is a huge issue for young people as many of them cannot get jobs due to education and other responsibilities, and you can feel like a huge inconvenience asking for money for menstrual products, particularly if you are from a low-income family. Even with many of the major supermarkets now covering the ‘Tampon Tax’, menstrual products can still cost upwards of two pounds, a cost inaccessible for many.
Period poverty is detrimental to every part of a young person’s life, especially when it comes to education and socialising with friends - two things that are imperative to development and growth as a person. Without universal and free access to menstrual products, young people have difficulty doing anything – either not leaving the house or having to use makeshift products. Individuals I have spoken to have told me that they have used toilet paper, or even a sock wrapped around their underwear, as a makeshift pad when they couldn’t afford to buy the real products. This is clearly very unhygienic and potentially even dangerous for their health.
Many young people must make the choice between buying lunch that day, or being able to afford the products that enable them to do everything they want to do. This quite clearly isn’t a world we want to be living in, young people shouldn’t have to go hungry or risk their health because they do not have access to the products they need.
The problem is only exacerbated further for trans people that menstruate. Periods are regarded as a “women’s issue” and highly feminised within our society. If you do not identify as a woman, yet still menstruate, feminine associations with menstruation can make your gender feel very invalidated and may heighten your gender dysphoria, the significant and valid distress trans people feel due to their body not reflecting the gender they know themselves to truly be. Buying menstrual products can heighten these feelings, as they are perceived to be items only for women.
As a transgender young person, menstruation and discussions of period poverty can leave me feeling both dysphoric and isolated as my voice often isn’t heard or respected, but it is absolutely imperative that there is universal access to menstrual products for everyone.
Period poverty can have long-lasting impact on a person’s life, affecting their confidence and self-esteem, and if they are missing school due to a lack of available and free products, potentially an effect on their future life chances and career options.
Universal access, as Monica Lennon MSP’s Bill proposes, would have a long-lasting and positive impact on so many lives, not just for young and transgender people. It is crucial that everyone supports it.