Free Tampons Now Available in Trans-Inclusive Men’s Restrooms at Washington State University

By Brian Oaster

It’s not just women who menstruate. And in a push to be more trans-inclusive, Washington State University is now distributing free menstrual products in men’s restrooms.

The effort is just one of several changes the University has introduced at its campus in Pullman, Washington, with the goal of fostering a better transgender experience. They’re currently piloting the menstrual products in three campus restrooms: in the Student Recreation Center, the Chinook Student Center, and the Compton Union Building.

WSU recently ranked on Campus Pride’s 2018 Best of the Best LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges & Universities list, which includes roughly the top 10 percent of queer-friendly campuses from over 330 universities and colleges nationwide.

“This ranking is exciting because it shows that we’re building on the work of the students and professionals before us,” says WSU Pullman’s Director of the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center Matthew Jeffries. “When I receive emails, I get to take those concerns, thoughts, and needs to the people who will listen and want to make change happen—here in Pullman and across the system.”

‘Affirming Folks’ Identities’ on Campus

“Throughout the system, students are coming forward and advocating for change,” said Nolan Yaws‑Gonzalez, working group member and assistant director at the WSU Vancouver Student Center. “We’re going to make changes that impact the whole system.”

The list of changes that make WSU’s campus more trans-inclusive includes updating construction standards to require at least one single occupancy restroom in new or renovated buildings. It also includes making student ID cards free to update when you have a name change, and allowing for trans students to use their chosen names instead of their dead names.

“Affirming folks’ identities on their CougarCard is a really big piece for us,” says Jeffries.

“We’ve involved a large number of departments and individuals in this process, to gain their input and shape what this change would look like,” adds Director of Information Systems and the Cougar Card Center Craig Howard.

Because control over one’s name is central to trans identity, making student ID cards inclusive is a small and relatively easy step for the campus that could make a big difference to trans students.

WSU Joins a Nationwide Shift

The WSU Pullman campus is not breaking new ground. Rather, it joins the University of Wisconsin Madison, University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Bowdoin College, and Brown University, who all made headlines last year for offering free tampons and pads in their men’s bathrooms as well, inciting a vocal backlash amongst the conservative right.

The University of Rochester’s student government put $5,000 towards a free tampon initiative, which included putting baskets of them in men’s restrooms. “[T]here are some men on the campus who menstruate,” said Lance Floto, vice president of the student government association, “and so it’s just the whole idea of inclusion and making sure that nobody’s left out — it’s a very easy thing.”

The nationwide effort, while still small, reflects a greater national awareness of trans struggles and menstrual equity.

Brian Oaster

Brian is a Choctaw writer in the Pacific Northwest.