If you have seen the title of this article and felt a pang of sympathy leading you to click on it, I would politely recommend that you scroll ahead and look at other things on your social media page. I am a menstruator and I am differently abled. I’m also tired of being a topic of sympathy. I want my experience to be out here so that more awareness can be raised about menstruators with disabilities.
In India there are certain socio-cultural norms. Being physically differently abled goes against these norms quicker than Liz Truss’s resignation from being the PM of UK. Ableism happens in many forms. There is the staring, which is long and often broken only if you dare to look them back in the eye. If people are bolder there are questions. There were the school mothers constantly asking my parents what was ‘wrong’ with me and what happened. When I used to go to the mall with my family, I was hounded by people selling ‘ayurvedic’ cures saying that they could ‘fix my condition’.
With time, I learnt to develop a thick skin. With time, I learnt to be okay with boldly going into the differently abled washroom that a lot of able bodied people use because it is ‘bigger’. However, there is that one day each month when it starts. I get my period and there is blood streaming down my legs. If it catches me off guard, I’m reminded of my inability by my body to be able to cope with this efficiently. I also feel emotionally very vulnerable due to this while menstruating. Many differently abled menstruators do continue to get their periods. However, menstrual hygiene products for differently abled people are few, expensive and inaccessible. It is a market that needs growth in a fast manner. While there are brands now that sell these products for differently abled people, their visibility in India is extremely less. I am well aware that the battle for inclusivity of menstruators and to make menstrual products accessible is a long one. I am also mildly impressed that it is one that is now being fought for by menstruators rather than just staying silent.
In no way do I consider myself to be a representative of all differently abled people. I’m just a menstruator who wants to be able to have the privilege of owning products that make me physically independent enough to take care of my own body every time I enter shark week.
– A first-hand account from an anonymous differently abled person.