As part of the Free Flow project to make tampons and pads accessible to the Bowdoin community, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) is sponsoring free dispensers in several women’s, men’s and gender-neutral restrooms.
Since the dispensers and trash receptacles were installed over break, tampons from the containers in the men’s bathroom have been found in the trash over 10 times. On Wednesday morning a housekeeper found that someone had defecated in the metal receptacle intended for used tampons. Obviously, this is unacceptable.
The pads and tampons were placed in men’s bathrooms for people who menstruate and use the men’s bathroom, such as trans men and some gender nonconforming people. For some students, this may not be immediately apparent. But the type of behavior exhibited this past week is both disrespectful to the housekeeping staff and a direct disregard for the rights of trans* students on campus. It is an act of bias and it deserves a prompt administrative response.
Whether or not a person menstruates does not determine their gender identity or which bathroom they use. While the trans* community on campus is small, it exists, and trans* people have the right to go to the bathroom in a space that accommodates their needs.
While we don’t currently know who was responsible for these actions, it’s important to address the malice they illustrate. That the products have been thrown out over 10 times this week clearly shows that this was not an accident. These actions send a message that trans* people are not wanted or welcome in men’s restrooms, which is a message we as a community cannot tolerate.
It is our responsibility to ensure that trans* students feel comfortable on campus, including in the bathroom. If you see someone throwing away these products, confront them. Putting tampons in the trash is unproductive and disrespectful. If you find issue with the Free Flow initiative, voice your concerns in a constructive, mature manner, perhaps through BSG or the Orient. If you have questions or would like to learn more, reach out.
In a world where it is illegal in some places to use the bathroom for the gender that you identify with or even express your gender identity, it is incredibly important that we show support for trans* rights. Placing dispensers in men’s bathrooms is an important step towards recognizing this community. Many people simply don’t understand what it means to not be cisgender. Trans* students face difficulties that are incomprehensible to people who haven’t or won’t experience them themselves. Questioning your gender identity and navigating a cis- and heteronormative society is often a relentless and onerous stress on a trans* person’s life.
Yet, due to the trans* community’s size at Bowdoin, trans* rights are not often given that attention. In their column from earlier this year, Ari Mehrberg ’20 called attention to a general apathy on campus to these issues. This hurts the trans* community and we cannot maintain this attitude. It is integral that we listen to the voices of trans* students and be supportive where we can. This starts with respecting pads and tampons in the men’s restroom, but it goes beyond this: show up to events, educate yourself about trans* identities and refer to people by their desired pronouns. Surely we can manage this.
This editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Jenny Ibsen, Meg Robbins and Joe Seibert.