WNBA’s Layshia Clarendon Wants to “Break the Doors Down” on the Stigma Around Menstruation

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For people with periods, managing menstruation on a daily basis requires some skillful planning and making sure all the supplies needed are nearby. Add in the layer of exercise or playing sports, and the amount of self management feels like it doubles. POPSUGAR spoke to WNBA athlete Layshia Clarendon about how menstruating people can manage their cycles while being active.

Clarendon is working with Adidas’s Stay In Play campaign, which aims to provide menstruating athletes with supplies and education on how to manage their cycles while staying active. This campaign includes a line of period-absorbing activewear as well as a free and downloadable Pe(riod) Lesson Plan — developed by sports scientist Dr. Georgie Bruinvels, PhD (of Orreco, EXOS human performance company) — which contains information on tracking the menstrual cycle, managing one’s cycle, and additional educational information on menstruation.

The WNBA’s first openly nonbinary and transgender player, Layshia Clarendon, spoke to POPSUGAR about managing their menstrual cycle as a professional athlete, her advice for POPSUGAR readers, and his perspective on the conversation around menstruation.

POPSUGAR: How do you feel about Adidas’s Stay In Play and what it means for athletes who menstruate?

Layshia Clarendon: As someone who menstruates, I am passionate about athletes’ ability to stay in sports. I have been talking publicly about periods for years, and I was excited when Adidas came to me with the Stay In Play campaign. I wanted to break the doors down around the stigma [and] have a major brand talk about this stuff, because it can help a lot of people.

I’ve won a gold medal during my period, played in championship games on a period, been an all-star, and done so many things while menstruating. Sports [have always] made me feel like I belonged and was part of a community; I got to exercise and stay fit and just be around people who were like me. It’s important, and I want to make sure I help young people who have periods stay in sport and continue to play, because you get a lot out of it.

PS: Do you see products like the Stay In Play TechFit Period Proof Tights as a way for menstruating players to find a sense of comfort while playing sports instead of worrying about whether or not they’ll leak through to their uniforms?

LC: I am super excited about the Adidas TechFit Period Proof Tights, because there is a level of protection that you want when you are playing a sport. It’s hard enough to show up and play sports and deal with the competitiveness and the excitement and not be worried about ‘am I leaking?’ or ‘am I bleeding?’ and that stress and weight of it. Having a tight that you can put on and know I am protected and I can just focus on the game now and focus on the community and the fun and the sport is everything. Because, at the end of the day, when you are performing, you don’t want anything to be distracting you.

PS: What are your thoughts on menstruating products still being advertised mainly to cis women and girls? For example, the Stay In Play products are labeled under the “women’s training” category.

LC: There is a long way to go to breaking down the gender binary. It’s important to note that menstruating products aren’t just for women: they’re for people with a uterus who menstruate. It’s not about erasing the identity of a woman or girl but about creating space for all to be welcome and seen. It’s about breaking down the misnomers around sex and gender. Why does a girl or woman only look a certain way? I also identify as a woman, so I should see people who look like me marketing period products as well.

PS: From your perspective, how can the conversation around menstruation be shifted away from centering menstruation as something that only happens to cis women, so that the conversation includes all menstruating people?

LC: I don’t think folks actually want people who menstruate or women to have autonomy and power over our bodies. This is yet another way that we have been shamed and stigmatized into thinking something that is the most natural and beautiful thing is actually a bad, shameful, taboo thing that we should hide. Like any fight, allies are important. Cis women need to speak up more about how they’re not the only people with periods. Language is really important — menstruating isn’t synonymous with women, and it’s important that we shift the conversation to reflect that reality. I think it comes down to us owning our power and owning our bodies and the things that we are able to do when on our periods make us badass.

PS: Do you have any advice for fellow athletes or people who workout on how they can manage their cycles on the court? Off the court? Pregame? Postgame?

LC: My advice is to track your cycle. I use the Life app for iPhone. It’s important to track your unique cycle, because everyone is different. Tracking helps me understand why my body is feeling tight or why I’m feeling fatigued even though I slept eight hours. This helps me mentally understand where I am and how to move through my day. For example, if it’s the off-season, I will take the day off when my body starts bleeding. I’m extra gentle with myself and try to give myself gratitude for all that my body is doing. So often we only demand more from our bodies, but we don’t stop to appreciate all that they do for us. In terms of sports performance, I make sure to really activate my glutes when my cycle is coming to make sure I’m as stable as possible.

PS: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with POPSUGAR readers?

LC: As someone who just had top surgery in 2021, I want to encourage all athletes to be themselves and be the person they want to be. Having a period, as much as it’s painful and the symptoms suck, it’s pretty remarkable that our bodies are able to do what they do. As long as you can find the community and a way to manage your symptoms, it’s a really great thing, and you can overcome it and continue to play sports. You are not alone. I’m sorry that the stigma and the shame makes us feel like we are alone. Know that we are fighting to break down this stigma for you, so you can feel less alone and more powerful.

Ahead, check out images of the Stay In Play lounges, which were at a variety of teen sporting events this summer and came equipped with a massage area and Cora period products.

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