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a letter on language: why trans inclusivity is not up for debate

Culture

7th July 2021

TW: discussion of transphobia; examples of transphobic and cisnormative language.

ohne supports the trans community absolutely and without exception. We’re working every day to be more inclusive and to fight harmful misconceptions and assumptions about who gets periods and who deserves to take up space in the period industry. It is time to let go of outdated, inaccurate ways of understanding and talking about sex and gender. We recognise that we have an obligation to use our position in the period product industry to fight to make it a more inclusive space for trans people within our community and within society.

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Why are we writing this now?

Well, we’ve always strived to be trans inclusive here at ohne, but recent events and the so-called ‘debate’* currently raging in the British press have shown us that we need to be more vocal about our support for the trans community. We’ve had some comments about our use of inclusive language here at ohne. These comments have been both welcome - from people pulling us up on any use of cis-normative phrasing - and not-so-welcome - from people who dislike our use of inclusive, ungendered language. We thought it was about time we addressed this head-on.

[*for what it’s worth, we object to the hate perpetuated in the mainstream media being referred to as a ‘debate’ and recognise the ways the ‘trans debate’ narrative has been used as a weapon to divert progress from trans rights to frenzied click-bait fodder.]

The period product industry has been hostile to trans people and gender diversity for decades. With mainstream period products designed to be hyper-feminine, product marketing that perpetuates period shame and secrecy, and the inherently gendered language around ‘feminine hygiene’, the period product industry is long overdue for an inclusive, progressive rebrand.

While we’re proud to be a part of a new wave of sustainable brands led by people who actually have menstrual cycles, we know there’s still a long way to go until shopping for and talking about periods can be a safe and positive experience for everyone. We’re passionate about pushing for the period industry to become a place where trans people feel welcome, represented, and catered to.

This starts with inclusive language use at a minimum, and extends to consistently and significantly including trans voices in conversations about periods, gynaecology, and the cis-heteropatriarchy.

Inclusive language

As mentioned, we’ve received some comments - most recently in response to our anonymous typeform set up last week (submit your own comments here) - from people who dislike or feel offended by our use of inclusive language.

While we do not tolerate transphobia under any circumstances here at ohne, we do understand that there may be some people who are simply confused by the conflicting information online and in the press; people who are willing to learn more. If that sounds like you, this next section is for you.

[n.b. We are always willing to engage in thoughtful, kind discussions and to answer genuine questions so please do reach out if you have them.]

Inclusive language does not reduce you to body parts

When we say ‘people who have periods’, ‘people with vaginas’, or ‘a human with a uterus’, we are not suggesting that we think that’s all you are. We’re suggesting that it’s something you have, a feature of your biology that affects your life. When we say ‘people with mental health problems’, we don’t assume that we’re reducing them to that single fact. When we say ‘people with cats’ we’re not saying the only thing you need to know about them is that they have a cat.

Our choosing not to use the word ‘woman’ and instead using ‘period-havers’, ‘people who bleed’, or just ‘people’ does not take away your right to identify as a woman. Hell, we’re not even taking away your right to feel that your period and your menstrual cycle is inherently linked with your womanhood or femininity. What we are saying is that not all women have periods and not all people who have periods are women. Trans women are women - and so are the cisgender women who do not menstruate - including those who are post-menopausal or pre-pubescent, those who have had hysterectomies, those who are overweight, underweight, or on hormonal contraception that stops their periods (to name just a few ways ‘woman’ and ‘menstruator’ are not always one and the same).

Trans men, nonbinary people, and those who identify as agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming who experience a menstrual cycle all deserve to be included in conversations about their bodies. It is not acceptable to debate people’s right to exist or their right to exist with the same access to information, products, and services as their cisgender counterparts. It is not acceptable to exclude trans people from spaces, either online or irl, that they deserve to be in.

A note to our trans community

We will never think that it is your responsibility to educate us, but if you would like to talk to us us, pull us up on any insensitive, cis-normative, or trans-exclusionary language use, or make any suggestions as to how we can better include you and center your voices, we’re all ears. Please feel free to use our anonymous typeform to do so, slide into the DMs, or email us directly at [email protected]

We’re grateful for all the amazing trans folks in our community who put themselves out there to fight for their rights, the rights of others, and menstrual health equality everywhere. We promise to be better allies to the trans community and to make ohne a safe space for trans and gender diverse people who menstruate.

Image credit @Santiago Franco Schicke

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