Recently on Twitter I saw, yet again, claims being made that trans people who menstruate will eventually no longer have a menstrual cycle because of testosterone… and therefore, trans inclusivity when we’re talking about periods is a moot point.
Holy cisnormativity, batman.
This irks me. Because not only have I been on testosterone for two freakin’ years and am still #blessed with a monthly, but it’s also a wildly incorrect assumption that every trans person with a uterus is going to end up on testosterone in the first place.
There are transgender people who menstruate. Let me say it again to make sure we’re all on the same page here: THERE ARE TRANS PEOPLE WHO HAVE PERIODS.
And whether they identify as non-binary, as trans men, or anything else in the gender universe, one thing is clear to me: We need gender inclusivity when we’re talking about menstruation.
For me, that week or so of bleeding is when my gender dysphoria is at its peak. It is a continual reminder of body parts that are alien to me. It’s a reminder of all the barriers in front of me as I try to medically transition. I panic about being outed as trans whenever I get supplies at the drugstore. And not only that, but I am forced to directly interact with a part of my body that horrifies me — multiple times throughout the day.
Don’t get me wrong, periods suck for everyone. But when you’re transgender, it can be a particularly miserable experience.
So when the world is trying to tell you that this difficult thing you go through every month isn’t actually happening, it’s infuriating. It’s worse, too, when every product is stereotypically marketed to women, a continual reminder that you apparently don’t exist.
Spaces for cis women to commiserate about menstruation are valuable spaces that I have no interest in interfering with. But just the same, we could be doing so much better to make sure that trans folks aren’t erased in the process — and that there are products, spaces, and conversations that trans folks can have access to as well.
Where to begin? It starts with busting the myths.
No, testosterone doesn’t always stop someone’s period. No, not every trans person who has a menstrual cycle will opt for medical interventions that stop it. No, menstrual products are not “feminine hygiene” products. And for the love of all that is good, periods are not just a “woman’s issue” (and not all women have periods, either!).
Which means that when we’re talking about issues that affect people who menstruate, we need to be thoughtful about how we talk about it. People of any gender can have a period, because periods have to do with anatomy, not gender.
Is your mind blown yet? (Hopefully not, actually, it’d be cool if this were common knowledge by now.)
Beyond how we talk about it, we need to design products that are more inclusive. And it’s happening, slowly but surely!
One thing that has given me a lot of hope recently are the new products I’m seeing that actually are gender-inclusive. My favorite example of this, which yes, is totally worth the plug, is the Keela Cup.
It’s brilliant because it’s created with disabled folks in mind, and it’s founded by a disabled person who keeps the marketing gender neutral — a gal after my own heart, really. It’s a menstrual cup that has a pull string (why didn’t someone think of this sooner?!), so it’s more user-friendly for marginalized folks for whom traditional products just aren’t cutting it.
Its potential to decrease gender dysphoria because of the ease with which it could be used makes it personally appealing to me. But beyond that, smarts products like these matter for disabled folks, trans folks, and survivors of sexual violence — or really, anyone who struggles with their period and the demands it places on us.
For anyone who struggles to interact with their bodies during their period, especially in ways they might not be physically able to or find it triggering to do so, having products like these out in the world is seriously important.
The fact that it’s only now coming into existence means we have a long, long way to go.
If we keep pretending that menstruation is just a nondisabled cis woman’s experience, we’re going to keep getting commercials with ladies in long skirts twirling around like periods are one big funfest, and products that, frankly, suck for everyone and especially for marginalized people.
Trans people can have periods. And everyone, regardless of gender or ability, deserves access to conversations, products, and spaces that make that experience as painless as possible.
So in 2018? Let’s make a resolution to be more inclusive when we talk about periods, demand better for the folks who are often neglected in these conversations, and yes, applaud and back the folks who are working hard to create better products that serve us.
Because seriously, it’s about damn time.
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A note about the Kickstarter mentioned in this post: I wasn’t paid in any way to plug it; I just believe in boosting the signal on stuff that I think has immense value for the communities I write for! If you want to support Keela Cup, there’s no pressure to do so, but I hope you’ll check it out regardless. And as always, if there’s a project I should know about, feel free to tweet me!
Sam, I have to admit that not having shared living space or been sexually involved with anyone who was having menstruation periods for somewhat more than twenty years, the entire subject has been far off my radar. And, how that process effects non-cis folks had not occurred to me. Thank you for bringing it up.
Reblogged this on cabbagesandkings524 and commented:
Sam points out a blind spot in, probably most, people’s thinking.
You make such a good point because even though it might be different, cis women who take testosterone as part of hormone replacement therapy still get a period. So, I don’t know why that wouldn’t apply otherwise. Thanks for sharing and educating!
Bust more myths!!
Thank you! I’m a year and a half on T and also still menstruating (albeit less regularly than before). It’s definitely an unpleasant, high-dysphoria time for me, and cissexism in conversations about periods is no help!
Thank you for this very necessary and important reminder to us cis peeps, and for the plug about the Keela cups!
Thank you for sharing your experience. As a menstrual educator, I am always trying to make my podcast, website and other resources inclusive for everyone who has a period. It’s not just a “women’s health” issue. xx
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I wish I had income and could support this product, because it sounds like an amazing idea. I was legit scared of even using tampons until I was 26, and even then struggled for about a year before I could consistently get them in without clenching and pain. No idea why, but there you go. I’ve thought about using menstrual cups but never actually made any motions to do so for similar reasons, and vague fears of not being able to get them out… but this would be a lot easier to use than anything I’ve seen before. Such a good idea!
I hadn’t considered it from that *particular* angle. I’ve been trying to explore it from the “Uterine Mysteries =/= Feminine Mysteries” angle. The idea that the *marketing* was an issue hadn’t yet occurred to me.
Thank you for drawing it to my attention!