Lesbian “Tampon Crusader” Pushes West Hollywood to Distribute Free Menstrual Products


Jenner Deal just wanted to talk about tampons.

She brought them up over and over again as a new member of the West Hollywood Women’s Advisory Board in 2018. She pressed City Councilmember Lauren Meister on the issue at Meister’s re-election party. And when Meister didn’t act fast enough, Deal literally took her concerns to the streets.

“I walk my dog by her house every morning,” Deal tells NewNowNext. “Whenever I would run into her, I would bring this up.”

Deal, an out lesbian and viral video producer based in West Hollywood, had a simple but difficult question for the city.

“Why do we have free condoms and not free tampons? It’s not okay that we have a condom budget, and we don’t invest in women’s health. Because let’s be real, the condom budget is not for women, it’s for men in West Hollywood.”

Jenner Deal

Jenner Deal.

It’s that reality, argues Deal, that contributes to the neighborhood’s nickname of “Boystown,” a reference to its gay male population. According to the city, LGBTQ people make up more than 40% of West Hollywood’s population.

Last Monday, the West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to make tampons freely available at City Hall and two public parks. Councilmembers voted for the measure as part of the city’s consent calendar, a slate of measures the council passes en masse each meeting. But the group made specific mention of the measure, almost every one of them taking a moment to note that it was long overdue.

“It’s the kind of groundbreaking thing that we need,” declared West Hollywood Mayor John D’Amico he told residents before the vote.

West Hollywood follows Salt Lake City, which is piloting a similar program to the tune of $20,000 and New Hampshire, which voted in July to make menstrual products freely available in public schools. Massachusetts also passed a measure in July to make tampons free in schools.

It was Meister who ultimately drafted West Hollywood’s proposal, as the state failed to pass a bill that would have waived taxes on menstrual products two years ago, Meister says. West Hollywood had formally backed the proposal.

“Anyone who can’t afford to purchase products and happens to be at one of our public parks or at City Hall will find it available, whether its young women or people that are just out there who happen to not have a household income that makes it easy for them to purchase these products,” Meister tells NewNowNext. “They’re not cheap, and we don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t get what they need in our city.”

The six-month pilot project is costing the two-mile city just $1,500. But Deal, who is known unofficially as the city’s “Tampon Crusader,” hopes to expand the project to bars, clubs, and health centers, making the products available to all of the city’s straight, queer, transgender, and nonbinary residents.

“The residents of West Hollywood who can afford to live [there] can buy their own tampons and condoms,” says Deal. “This is truly an intersectional issue with homelessness in our town. We need to offer these types of resources free of charge to everybody, but specifically for the homeless population.”

Los Angeles is facing a homelessness crisis. In 2019, the City of West Hollywood saw a 31% jump in its homeless population, according to Patch.com. Homelessness in Los Angeles spiked by 16% in 2019. Nearly 59,000 people are currently homeless in Los Angeles county.

Meister wants the council to draft letters to the Los Angeles Unified School District, the City of Los Angeles, and the State of California, letting them know about the project.

“Hopefully we are setting an example that others will follow,” she says.

Kate Sosin is an award-winning, trans-identified news and investigative reporter.



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