By Jennifer O’Mann
An estimated 1.2 million Americans (or 11% of the LGBTQ+ population) identify as nonbinary, as found in a 2021 study by the Williams Institute. Many report being abused or assaulted as children or adults, and the study showed that 94% of nonbinary adults have considered suicide at one point in their lives. The reason for the stress they can face, said researchers, is linked to psychological distress, and this stress can be caused by everything from discriminatory treatment from healthcare workers to challenges faced in everyday personal hygiene routines. “Being [nonbinary] is a unique kind of gender minority experience because you are constantly surrounded by binary-identified people,” said study author, Bianca Wilson. How can discrimination affect your daily hygiene routines, and what can be done to amend these issues?
Menstruation and Gender Dysphoria
People who have gender dysphoria feel that there is a disconnect between gender identity and their assigned sex at birth. Transgender and nonbinary individuals can have gender dysphoria, which can be triggered by a part of their body that ‘does not belong’ or by a process that feels ‘wrong’. This can be the case with menstruation. As stated in research published in the journal Sociological Inquiry by Sarah E. Frank, “Menstruation has been historically known as a function of the female body that affects women. Trans and [nonbinary] people face this biological function as a potential social signal of gender/sex identity.” Trans and nonbinary people face specific challenges when it comes to personal hygiene during menstruation. These can include no garbage cans being in the stalls of men’s bathrooms, pads making loud sounds when opened in public bathrooms, and product packaging that emphasizes femininity.
Just a few advances in the area of menstrual hygiene include the launch of trans and nonbinary-friendly menstruation management companies like THINX (which makes boyshorts/briefs for menstruation that empower trans men). These shorts come in various types, with the most absorbent lasting for almost a full day. Changing these briefs is easier and quieter, and their packaging and marketing caters to nonbinary and trans individuals through a thoughtful use of colors and fonts. Much more can be done, however, to facilitate menstrual hygiene for nonbinary individuals. Strategies include providing trash cans in men’s bathrooms, marketing menstrual products in a more gender-neutral fashion, and (in the case of healthcare workers) avoiding asking nonbinary individuals about menstruation during visits for unrelated matters.
Some nonbinary individuals find it difficult to talk about menstruation because they fear it will impact their identity. Frank’s research, for instance, showed that having menstruation can actually trigger dysphoria because menstruation is traditionally spoken of as “a woman’s thing.” Being able to discuss pertinent personal hygiene issues (including itching after menstruation, which can indicate unbalanced bacteria levels) is important, but it is important to do so with friends and health professionals who affirm your identity. In order to balance vaginal bacteria levels, an individual’s support network or health professionals may recommend remedies that do not involve vaginal/front hole insertions (which can be stressful). These remedies can include diluted apple cider vinegar baths, unsweetened yogurt for the outer vaginal area, and the consumption of probiotic supplements.
Using Gender-Affirming Hygiene Products
It isn’t just menstrual products that are catered to one assigned sex. Everyday hygiene products such as deodorants, shampoos, lotions, and the like, are often marketed in stereotyped colors and bear typical fragrances. Many products are physically divided into separate areas in stores, which can make shopping intimidating or stressful for nonbinary people. Cost can also be an issue: as reported in a 2015 study, “On average, personal care products cost women 13 percent more than men.” It is important to keep an eye on costs per ounce or grams. Moreover, purchasing hygiene products can be made easier by seeking out brands that seek to knock down stereotypes. Top brands include Noto (which presents a fluid, non-conformist vision of beauty for the face and body), Ursa Major (which believes that ‘skin is skin’ and caters to the needs of different types of skin), and State of Menopause ( one of our partner companies, dedicated and committed to celebrating later life, whilst being gender-neutral and inclusive too).
As reported by Vered Counseling, nonbinary people can make personal hygiene tasks easier by avoiding or reducing triggers. For instance, if showers make you feel worse, you can shower with low lighting. If body hair is a problem, a friend can be enlisted to help with waxing difficult areas like the back. For tasks, you don’t enjoy, meanwhile, pleasant distractions such as pets, music, or watching a video can help keep your focus on non-stressful objects.
People who are trans/nonbinary can face various personal hygiene challenges. Menstruation can pose a big challenge. For instance, nonbinary people using men’s bathrooms. Establishments can go a long way towards helping reduce the problem. For instance, by providing waste cans in cubicles so that pads can be thrown away. Companies making personal care items and products for menstruation can also be a big aid when it comes to reducing distress during this time of the month. Trans and nonbinary individuals can additionally shop from companies that help affirm their identity, seek out healthcare workers who are aware of LGBTQ+ issues, and find ways to reduce triggers on a daily basis.