While the awareness regarding menstrual hygiene, especially in the rural area of the country is still an issue, a non-profit organisation- Humans for Humanity, founded by Dehradun based social activist Anurag Chauhan has taken up the initiative to promote menstrual hygiene in transmen of the country.
Chauhan who along with other young social activists have been working to promote menstrual hygiene among the women of rural areas of six states of the country including Uttarakhand, Delhi, Rajasthan, Haryana and others, decided to work on the initiative for transmen since last year.
Transmen are persons born who are assigned female at birth, but as they grow up, they identify themselves as males.
“Decided to work for transmen after meeting one”
In the words of Chauhan, they decided to work on the issue after coming across a transman in Delhi who said they “don’t pay attention to their menstruation as they are ashamed to accept the fact that they menstruate.”
“I had first come across this issue after meeting a transman in Delhi who was the partner of one my friends, about a year ago. He was biologically a woman but lives like a man including dress sense and appearance because he couldn’t accept it mentally that he is a woman. He described himself as a man trapped in body of a woman,” said Chauhan.
“He was a body builder. When I asked about the menstruation, he became somewhat hesitant to talk about it saying, it somewhat disgusts him because he can’t accept that he too menstruate which subdues his identity as a man. He then went on to say that due to this unacceptability of menstruation, he doesn’t give much importance to menstrual hygiene. That was when I thought of working to promote menstrual hygiene among others like him,” said Chauhan.
So far identified 30 transmen to work with
He informed that they included the transmen category also under their project called Wash which focuses on “women sanitation and hygiene.”
“In this project, we had already worked with about 15 lakh women in rural and slums of six states on menstrual hygiene. We had organised workshops to teach them how to make sanitary napkins using basic material at home and counseled them on the importance of menstrual hygiene. After meeting the transman, we started doing the same for transmen also,” said Chauhan adding his organisation have so far identified “about 30 transmen in Delhi.”
He informed that initially they have started working for transmen in Delhi region but would “soon expand the project in other areas also.”
Identifying transmen biggest challenge
Explaining the challenges if working to promote menstrual hygiene in transmen, the young social activist said, “The major challenge is to first identify the transmen and then taking them into confidence to speak on this issue which is very sensitive for them.”
“Working with women on the issue is much easier than with the transmen because they are first of all not ready to accept from inside that they too menstruate as they think snatches away their feeling of being a man which biologically they aren’t. We had to put in lot more efforts to make them understand that they have to give importance to menstrual hygiene so as to prevent any medical issues,” said Chauhan.
He also said that most of the transmen they are working with said “They are always afraid of the fact that if people in their society come to know that they menstruate, then their actual identity of being a woman would be revealed.”
Many transmen had suicidal thoughts when menstruating
Sonali Pandit, Chauhan’s colleague and director for research and analysis in the organisation said they had to gradually take the transmen into confidence that they have to pay attention to menstrual hygiene as menstruation is a natural process in their body.
“Many of them initially said that whenever they menstruate, they sometimes have suicidal thoughts thinking that it just washes away their mental thought that they are a man and not a woman. Due to this, many of them don’t know how and where to buy sanitary napkin during menstruation,” said Pandit.
She said initially when the transmen where not ready to speak on the issue, they were just invited to the workshops on menstrual hygiene organised for the women to observe.
“After witnessing the liberal and informative way we counsel the women on it, they gradually opened up with us gaining confidence that we are there to help them. Then only we were able to make them understand the importance of menstrual hygiene in them also. But saying that, it is a long way to go and we had only little success so far,” said Pandit.
Were earlier ashamed of menstruation: Trans men
Appreciating the efforts of Chauhan and his colleagues, the trans men said that they were earlier ashamed of menstruation but gradually opened up on the issue because of their (Chauhan and colleagues’) initiative.
One of the transmen who is included in the project, said, “The fact that we are actually a man trapped inside a woman’s body, we were ashamed every time we menstruated. Because it kind of dissolves our soul of a man. But Chauhan and his friends came forward to help us counter this feeling and now we are gradually accepting it while focusing on menstrual hygiene.”
Another transman receiving counseling from Chauhan said, “As we always maintain our appearance and live as man, we couldn’t go to the shops to buy sanitary napkins as we were afraid doing so would reveal our identity in the society which is yet not ready to accept people like us. But Chauhan helped us with this issue by providing sanitary napkins and teaching some of us from financially weak families to how to make them at home using a few basic materials. That has solved the problem to some extent.”