Madin Lopez: A Genderqueer Perspective On Menstrual Care

 
 

The original version of this post was published on the Public Goods Blog

By James Brundage

Madin empowers LGBTQIA+ people to combat bullying and build confidence by providing free identity-positive hairstyling and self-esteem workshops.

While busy with the opening of a new community center in the arts district of Los Angeles, Madin took a moment to share some of their experiences of menstruating as a non-binary, queer person.

Public Goods: A lot of the success you’ve had in your outreach work shows how uplifting and transformative something as seemingly simple as a haircut can be when it’s done in a way that can reveal someone’s authentic style. Do you think it’s important for youngsters to have personal care options that don’t impose notions of gender identity?

Madin Lopez: Absolutely.

PG: Specifically in the context of menstrual care?

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ML: Absolutely. You know it’s been called ‘feminine care’ forever, which is just the worst term to use because all genders have periods. I remember for myself as a young gender-queer kid, I just wanted to ignore the fact that I was bleeding so much because it’s such a marker for your gender at the time. It just sparked so much dysphoria to go to the store and have to get this box of “feminine” care products.

Madin empowers LGBTQIA+ people to combat bullying and build confidence by providing free identity-positive hairstyling and self-esteem workshops.

While busy with the opening of a new community center in the arts district of Los Angeles, Madin took a moment to share some of their experiences of menstruating as a non-binary, queer person.

Public Goods: A lot of the success you’ve had in your outreach work shows how uplifting and transformative something as seemingly simple as a haircut can be when it’s done in a way that can reveal someone’s authentic style. Do you think it’s important for youngsters to have personal care options that don’t impose notions of gender identity?

Madin Lopez: Absolutely.

PG: Specifically in the context of menstrual care?

ML: Absolutely. You know it’s been called ‘feminine care’ forever, which is just the worst term to use because all genders have periods. I remember for myself as a young gender-queer kid, I just wanted to ignore the fact that I was bleeding so much because it’s such a marker for your gender at the time. It just sparked so much dysphoria to go to the store and have to get this box of “feminine” care products.

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PG: What options would you want to be available for a young person making their first choices about menstrual self-care?

ML: Honestly, really just removing the stigma in any way that we possibly can. You know, if you were like me, then you would probably would shove the tampon up your sleeve to go to the bathroom. Even in the queer community, being a person who is assigned female at birth who is masculine presenting, I still get shamed by people in my community for having a period.

That’s what hits me, that even in our own spaces, toxic masculinity still seeps in because it’s a marker for femininity and because people are extremely misogynistic. If you bleed out of that part of your body that you must be just a lesser human being.

PG: If you walked into a drugstore and you could make any change, what would a shelf look like? Or if you could see an advertisement on TV or a billboard or whatever. How would it be different than what you already see?

ML: Well I think that’s starting to change a bit. I have seen some of the advertisements mostly in the UK beginning to have actual blood in their advertisements or actual red stuff. We show blood of all kinds in movies and TV, but then it has to be this blue liquid because there’s such a stigma around menstruation. Maybe even packaging them next to bandaids in the drugstore. Like, ‘You bleed here? Great! Get this. You bleed over here? Great! Get this.’ Just taking away the notion that we immediately need to fix and hide it all.

PG: Environmental damage is a serious issue for everyone, but the stakes are even higher for the next generation who will inherit much of the mess we’ve made. Because menstrual products are often made with materials that don’t biodegrade, processed with toxic chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides, they actually take a pretty hefty toll on the environment. Do you see issues related to the environment as a vital component to this conversation?

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ML: Yes. Absolutely… I was afraid that I was going to have a landfill with my name on it. In my mind, I was like, ‘In a decade I will have my own landfill from how much waste I am creating.’
So that’s when I started to use something that was a bit more recyclable. I literally bought recyclable pads. Just over the years I’ve tried to create this arsenal that I could just use then clean and use again because I didn’t want to have a landfill with my name on it.

PG: How do you feel about scented menstrual products?

ML: The fact that [menstrual care] comes scented is… gosh. It’s just such a slap in the face. ‘Oh well here you go…. just so that you can make that not smell so bad.’ … everything around it just screams, ‘Be ashamed of yourself!’

What that’s teaching people is not only to hide this part of themselves, but it’s also teaching them to not pay attention or to what goes into their body. I have to hide this smell, and I have to hide the blood, and I have to hide all of this… It affects people to not pay attention or care what goes into their genitalia.

PG: How important do you think it is for queer youth to be aware of what materials come into contact with their body? Is empowering them to make more important and safer choices a priority in advocating for queer youth?

ML: Yes, you may get the message not to care if there’s a condom attached to what goes into your genitalia. It’s a message stating that what you have is disgusting, and it doesn’t matter what enters it.

When we’re thinking about this next generation, yes, you’re right. They’re the ones who are going to have to deal with it. Everything that has been left in our laps when it comes to being queer and having to like — you know, running out of water. Not to mention that our ice caps are melting…There are so many things to focus on at once, and they’re all going to hit the next generation at the same time. So what we have to do is just educate.

PG: So if you had a time machine and could go back and give young Madin some words of advice on how to care for themselves, what would you say to them? Is there anything you wish someone had said to you?

ML: Yes. To actually look in the mirror. I think I used to get really depressed around menstruation time. It’s good to actually look at yourself and to see, ‘Okay. Well I want to work on this, or I want to feel better about this. I’m going to wash my face. I’m going to brush my teeth.’

Unfortunately, we have been taught that we are our body. So when you don’t necessarily align with what your body presents, then you don’t get to love who you are. Though just starting that journey really early is saying, ‘This is me right now, what I can afford and this is what I got.’

Maybe it’s small or it may not fit how you actually feel, but at least it’s the best that you can make it. And you’ve put effort into it. And that starts to build a whole level of worthiness. I mean of course you’re asking me what I would tell myself, but it’s what I tell the youth all the time.

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PG: So, my last question is just: What’s new for Project Q? What else do you have going on in LA and beyond? How can any of our readers support you, stay in touch with you, be involved in any way? Is there anything you need for your new space?

ML: We have a volunteer program so folks, usually queer people of any color, of any background, of any profession, come and teach anything to the youth. Because really what it is, is them being able to see different types of themselves and learn about things they might not have ever learned about and ever had the chance to do, and see it being done professionally by somebody who looks like them.

We’ve had financial planning so that youth can put away a couple of dollars to take care of themselves, whether that be for food or for skincare. We’ve had meditation. So they can really drop in to their core selves and really see who that person is. We’ve had Hip Hop and Poetry so that there’s some expression. Even Nutrition On A Budget where they all learn how to make a meal for under $5 at home, or if they have a kitchen or if they have a space. And also just meal prep and how long to keep food out and just things like that. It doesn’t really matter what we do.

The thing is that the archetype Project Q has created is to… it’s duplicatable. So folks can come and teach this workshop, and that’s actually the currency produced to be able to get a hair service. That’s how they’re paying. They’re paying with their attention. And they’re paying with their learning. So folks can come and teach a workshop.

We also, like I said, had our grand opening in June. I’m really excited to be able to really open up our space to everyone to see what we’ve been up to.

To donate to Project Q, you can text PROJECTQ to 707070