By Sidney Drmay
Ryerson psychology graduate Alyssa Bertram was tired of having to go out to buy tampons.
“I just wished a service existed where your tampons could come to your house and I sat with that idea for a really long time,” Bertram said. “After going through some family troubles I really had the push to make it happen.”
In June 2016, Bertram launched easy.—an online menstrual product delivery service where people can subscribe to receive products every three months. The company uses exclusively organic products and donates five per cent of profits to the ZanaAfrica Foundation, an organization that delivers sanitary pads to girls in Kenya so they can access safe supplies.
Many drugstore brands are bleached to make the tampons white and use synthetic fibres that can shed in the vaginal wall, which can lead to irritation, infection and, in extreme cases, toxic shock syndrome (which can be fatal).
“That really scared me and caused me to change my behaviour. I started buying organic tampons, and that changed the idea for the service,” Bertram said.
This past month, Bertram launched a “No Shame” campaign to encourage people with periods to be open and normalize the conversation surrounding menstruation. The campaign features four images of women on their periods in day to day life. One photo depicts a couple changing their blood-stained sheets, while another shows two women going skinny-dipping with the tampon string visible.
“I wanted to start a bigger conversation and get people talking about menstruation and get people to question what they found comfortable,” Bertram said.
More recently, a conversation has been unfolding about menstruation as being more than a women’s experience. Trans men and non-binary people have periods too, and have been more vocal about their experiences.
Trans Collective coordinator Gabriel Holt said that he’s always questioning his body. “Did I bring enough pads? If I buy some, will I be misgendered? Do I have to use the women’s washroom? Please, uterus, don’t make me use the women’s washroom.”
Bertram is hoping to have easy. be accessible to trans people.
“It’s not only women who have periods, so that’s something I’m learning more about and being more conscious about,” Bertram said. “We’re open to anyone who menstruates and trying to be inclusive.”
On campus, menstruating as a trans person is an anxiety-filled experience.“You can’t focus on the lecture because cramps drown out everything else, along with the constant thoughts of, ‘this isn’t right,’” Holt said.“You spend all your time wanting to escape your body even more than usual.”
Ryerson only keeps menstruation product dispensers in women’s washrooms (and many of them are unfilled), making it difficult for trans men to access supplies.
Campus facilities manager Kerri Bailey said that Ryerson is committed to finding a solution.
“We are undergoing a review to determine the best location for vending machines across campus, including in gender neutral washrooms, as well as appropriate and consistent pricing of products,” said Bailey. “We’d like to make these products free for all students and are looking into the cost to the university to subsidize that.”
Free menstruation products are currently supplied by the Centre for Women and Trans People on the second floor of the Student Campus Centre.