It's never easy to realize your dream, especially when that dream is to become the first human disposable sanitary napkin.
"Pad Gardner," as he calls himself, works at a movie theater in Panama City, Florida. A former theater major, he's a huge Twilight fan and an ardent gay-rights supporter. He loves vampires and werewolves. Next month he's doing a walk across America to raise awareness for his favorite cause: teaching women to avoid Toxic Shock Syndrome from tampons.
He sees a psychiatrist and a therapist regularly, perhaps to work through the sexual abuse he discusses on his YouTube channel, TheFemininePad. He's also active on Google+, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and DeviantArt, posting regular updates and talking with his followers.
At the start of 2013, Gardner made four resolutions:
1. To get my legal first name changed to Pad.
2. To start preparing for life as a feminine pad.
3. To set a world record for having the largest pad collection.
4. To become a pink disposable feminine pad.
Risking ridicule, alienation, and backlash, Gardner has been diligently reaching out across a myriad of social networks looking for friends to support him in his ultimate goal: to serve his purpose for eight hours as an overnight pad (preferably a Kotex).
He says he can't talk to coworkers for fear of harassment, and he hasn't spoken to any members of his family since July, but nothing has dissuaded him from pursuing his dream of one night absorbing a woman's menstrual blood.
For research, Gardner collects feminine pads and spends hours meticulously photographing them from every possible angle. He says he's working on setting a world record for the largest collection of pads. "Currently I own 1407 pads and 57 packs of pads. … I am planning to donate myself and all the pads in the collection to women in need of pads once I have become a pad finally," he writes on his YouTube About page and DeviantArt account, which houses a gallery full of his explorations into feminine hygiene.
As evidenced in the Q&A session on his YouTube channel, Gardner knows more details about the history and dynamics of feminine products than many women do. He also fully supports women who use tampons and menstrual cups—whatever makes them feel more comfortable.
But for himself, Gardner seems to have made up his mind about his long-term goal: he wants to become an overnight pad, preferably Kotex because of their association with the color pink, his favorite. After that? He'll spend the rest of his existence as a disposed pad, contemplating the joy he experienced at having fulfilled his ultimate purpose.
So, uh, is this real?
Yes. While it might be easy to assume that Pad Gardner is trolling, he's absolutely serious about both achieving his personal goal and using his many social platforms to raise awareness and benefit women. His walk across the U.S., to "promote pad usage, and to prevent [Toxic Shock Syndrome] related to tampon use," begins next month.
While Gardner says he can't talk about his goal to any but the most open-minded of friends, he seems to have gotten an influx of bemused but supportive followers. "What are some things that I need to know about with being a feminine pad?" he recently asked Twitter.
"It could get messy (lolwtf)," was the sole reply.
Illustration by AFemininePad/DeviantArt
In addition to changing his name to "Pad" (because other pads don't have identities or names), Gardner says he wants to be treated like "any other normal pad, which probably means getting tossed into the trash," after which he expects to exist as any other sanitary napkin would: contemplating his existence and the joy of life.
"Hopefully Soon I Will Be in the Pad Pack" is the title of one photo in his DeviantArt gallery. It shows an open package of pads, "a view of where I hope to be very soon."
Photo via DeviantArt
I've heard of something called Otherkin before. Does this count?
Yes and no. Otherkin are an increasingly acknowledged, increasingly open community of people who believe that they are, and have always been, non-human in some way. Kin come in all varieties: animalkin (often known as "therian"), zombiekin, vampirekin, dragonkin, werekin, and elfkin, for examples. There are even offshoot variants of the Otherkin lifestyle called Fictionkin, comprising otakukin, fictives, and factives. These are people who believe that they are actually fictional characters from anime, fantasy, or other stories.
There are even Otherkin who, like Gardner, believe that they are really plants and inanimate objects, yet these are rarer.
"I have met people who have identified as machines... and know some who identify as mollusks and anthropods, in particular species which are typically thought to lack the intelligence required to translate to human identity," writes the owner of Kinspeak on Tumblr. "However, these people still believe themselves to be internally these things, often because they know deep inside that it is right."
Photo via DeviantArt
There seems to be some key differences, however, between Otherkin and Pad Gardner. Most Otherkin realize that they identify as non-human, in a process of unearthing a true self; Gardner, however, seems to be actively working to become the object he has identified with.
Another difference involves physical transformation. While he has not specifically discussed how he'll transform physically, it seems to be a core part of his goal, which he calls "a huge transition in my life." The concept of being otherkin has ties to the spirit and animal worship of religions across the world; but while such worship is often metaphysical in nature, most Otherkin don't believe in physical transformation. The Otherkin Alliance, for example, holds the belief that "physical shapeshifting isn't possible."
Many Otherkin view their identities as otherkin as something that happens in another dimension, a semi-real magical state that allows them to assume their true form. While they inhabit their human states, many Kin live as close to their non-human states as possible, often forming communities to do everything from dating to eating while remaining as close to their non-human states as they can. But Gardner seems to be fascinated with the actual physical nature of a pad. He seems to give little focus to the practice of living as if he is able to absorb blood and fit in a box with a dozen other Kotex. Metaphysics doesn't seem to be on the cards.
Photo via DeviantArt
What is the religion of a man who wants to become a pad?
Recently, pip-says-hi on Tumblr wrote an eloquent description of Otherkin's connection to religion:
[T]he entire concept of Otherkin basically boils down to the belief that what makes us US, what shapes and defines who we are, is more than flesh and blood and bone. ... It’s the same foundation that practically every religion in existence has ever used. Christians and Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists and Wiccans and Satanists and… all of them. That’s the entire point of religion, isn’t it? It tells us that there’s something more to the universe that being born, fucking around for a few years, and then being tossed aside into the grave.
Gardner's identity likewise has a strong religious component: He's a member of a branch of goddess worship known as Yoni Tantra ("yoni" means "vagina" in Sanskrit). It's likely that the religion grew out of his interest in pads; Tantra involves religious sexual rituals and Gardner says he's wanted to be a pad since he was 10.
The Yoni Tantra teaches how to properly contemplate the womb of the goddess, and it's a stanza Gardner has taken to heart:
"Meditate as being absorbed in the yoni [chakra],
with yoni on the tongue,
yoni in the mind,
yoni in the ears
and yoni in the eyes.
All sadhana [life purpose] is vain unless with the yoni."
Gardner imagines that when he's no longer useful, he'll spend his post-menstrual existence at the bottom of a dumpster. But the time will be ecstatic: He'll have lived out his purpose.