There has been a fair amount of controversy over an ad for Always sanitary napkins that Proctor & Gamble, the manufacturer of Always, has disclaimed. The ad thoroughly misgenders and erases trans women through equating us with drag queens--some of which have taken off their wigs, or are in a clearly-marked "Gentlemen" restroom. It also mocks trans women for the genuine distress of not being able to menstruate. I could go at length about what exactly is wrong with this ad, but others have already done so, and I advise you check out their take on the matter, here and here among other places.
I'm including the ad below, with a trigger warning since this is pretty offensive to trans women:
Aside from the disgust and outrage I feel over the ad, I also paused and reflected on one of the assumptions of the ad--and I found it no longer rang true.
There was a time when, yes, I desperately wished I could menstruate--but not for menstruation's sake. To wit, I wanted to be a mother, badly. This desire, and the belief I could never conceive outside of some futuristic biotechnology, fueled a fair portion of the self-loathing I felt when I first realized I was a trans woman. The despair over never being a mother was so crushing that it shocked a couple of otherwise stoic therapists into passionate pleadings that I not give up hope, that there were other options. But that didn't take the pain away.
But then I found myself becoming a mother anyway--in two senses.
One, I was a stepmother to a young cis man I sometimes jokingly call my favorite red-headed stepchild. Helping to raise him has done much to fill the void--to have someone call me momma, to seek comfort and advise and love from me, to be nurtured and shaped into someone I am truly, humbly proud of having raised.
Two, while it took years to realize it, I was also a mother to myself. All trans women are, really. The woman who is denied by the outside world can only be allowed to grow up, to be nurtured and loved and cherished and protected, when we recognize the mother inside us. I'm not saying we're all great mothers--a lot of us have to learn how to be mothers at the same time that we're developing as trans women, and a lot of us (myself included!) make mistakes while doing so. But if we rise to the challenge, and learn how to be loving and kind to ourselves, to feel proud of ourselves and to encourage ourselves to reach further, we may find that the burning urge to be a mother will be well satisfied.
That said, I do not need any sort of essentialist notions of motherhood to determine whether or not I can be a mother. I am a mother, and a damn proud one at that.
And if you don't like that, you can shove your sanitary napkins down your throat. Always.