Madin Lopez: A Genderqueer Perspective On Menstrual Care

When launching our new gender neutral menstrual care line, we were lucky enough to sit down with Madin Lopez, founder of the nonprofit, ProjectQ.

madin lopez they them writing on knuckles

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.

madin lopez giving haircut to young black LGBTQ person

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?

I was afraid that I was going to have a landfill with my name on it.

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.

madin lopez brushing hair of young black LBGTQ person

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

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Comments (14)

  • Menstruation is a biological part of being female whether this person wants to accept that part of “himself” or not. So now girls and women should not be allowed to embrace nor celebrate our menstruation (which we should!!) because we might alienate a non-binary person? Once again women are expected to put other people’s feelings and needs above our own. And tampons next to bandaids?! A monthly menses is generally a marker of a healthy, female body and should not be lumped with wound care!

    • Hi Kris,

      We encourage girls and women to embrace and celebrate menstruation. Our offering of gender-neutral products and content is simply a way to be inclusive of everyone and supportive of the LGBTQ community. All of our products are gender-neutral, including our personal care and food.

      I don’t think Madin was equating menstruation with a wound. She was trying to make a point about normalizing periods in the same way that there isn’t a stigma attached to bandaids.

  • I’ve never thought of this from this perspective. The dysphoria Madin describes makes sense. I think they have a healthy way of looking at the situation: this is something that their body does, but for them it doesn’t have to be a male or a female thing. It just is. There should be no shame or stigma in menstrual care for Madin just as there should be no shame or stigma for any of us.

  • Thanks so much for publishing this! It’s an interesting perspective and one I’d honestly never thought about before. I love the idea of ‘de-specializing’ menstrual care.

    I understand Kris’s concerns about placing tampons/pads in the “wound care” section (periods aren’t injuries), but to me, the point Madin was trying to make was that menstrual care should be normalized, not sequestered as a ‘feminine issue.’ It’s a normal biological function that more than half the world’s population experiences—and not all of those people identify as female (or any gender, for that matter).

    Love y’all, keep up the good work!

  • What a wonderful article. A big thank you to this whole team for adopting such a considerate practice. I think whatever we can do to make good people feel more comfortable and seen in their skin and in this world can only be described as positive. Furthermore, wether you get it or not, why deny a person something that brings them peace and does not affect you in the slightest? (Ah hem, Kris)

    Keep up the good work!

  • As a mom raising a transitioning son, it never even occurred to me what he must be going through, month after month. Madin, thank you. There’s so much more I could be doing to shed the stigma and help him love himself no matter what comes. I admire (so so much) all you’re doing.

  • This is such an important lens in the forever stigmatized / shameful cycle of menstruation — I began menstruating at age 12 and didn’t even feel comfortable enough talking to my own mother about it, let alone my community! So I spent two years using toilet paper in lieu of menstrual products before a friend helped me through the process of inserting a tampon. It then took almost twenty more years for me to feel comfortable enough to use pads rather than trying to conceal / plug my flow.

    When I think back on that time in my life, I feel sad for the teenager who a/ felt embarrassed by something so natural and life giving b/ couldn’t afford to buy monthly protection and c/ didn’t have enough support from school – home – community to normalize the process and associated feelings with having a period. And for the adult who thought pads were an visible and bulky and thus depleted my sexual currency.

    Madin’s efforts to make menstruation more approachable is long overdue and should be celebrated for the thoughtful and inclusive heart at the center of the mission. To criticize providing options for all is to be blind to needs beyond oneself.

  • I think it’s so cool that a company can stand behind and write about a topic like menstruation in relationship to issues like feminism and the environment!

    I’ve felt shame and the need to hide my menstruation cycle my entire life. Even being a straight female, I felt the need to hide my periods because I didn’t want to feel lesser than men, to be dismissed or be told I’m being emotional or irrational because of PMS. I’ve resisted talking about my periods with friends or partners because I wanted to be above it, unaffected by it, to not feel disgusting. And it felt better to disregard it and keep it all to myself because then at least I wasn’t giving it any attention.

    I hate how wasteful tampons are and that I’m a part of that problem. I’m so excited to try these and that they are relatively affordable in comparison to tampons with plastic or synthetic fibers!

  • I really like that. It makes sense that most people who feel feminine would also have to seek menstrual care at some point, but there’s no reason for the extra level of obfuscation. I feel bad for the girls who didn’t know what was happening and would have been glad to find something quickly when they went to look in the “I’m bleeding and I can’t stop it” aisle. I hated pads and preferred tampons, but I loved when I transitioned to a menstrual cup. I love even more having an IUD that reduces my periods to zero agony or mess. I just think it’s so funny that a lot of the men in my life are so happy with their masculinity and how they can handle gross things or bloody Gore, but they cannot stand blood from a uterus. It’s pretty sad though that one half of the population can’t stomach something natural for the other half, and that the half who has to deal with it can’t talk about a normal thing like it is normal. Thanks so much for covering this in an open, curious, and productive way.

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