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May 02, 2022
Words by Xenia E.
For too long, menstruation has been branded as a “women’s” issue, excluding people with identities all across the gender spectrum. Marketing that uses language like “feminine” products can heighten dysphoria for those who bleed and are not women. I chatted with four nonbinary and trans individuals about what it’s like to bleed as a non-cis person. Cis means that you identify with the gender you were presumed at birth. We talk about experiences with menstruation, dysphoria, and how they deal.
Does anyone have a loudspeaker?Anyone with a uterus can menstruate, regardless of their gender. Language and advertising that attributes menstruation as a woman’s experience are damaging to folks with different gender identities. And, well, it’s also just plain inaccurate. Body parts don’t define gender, people do!
Sam: Non-binary (leaning toward the agender category), and they/them.
Jesse: My pronouns are he/they and I identify as transmasculine.
Riley: They/them nonbinary, transmasc.
Quinn: She/they, I identify as non-binary.
Sam: That I should not be having them.
Jesse: As a trans person, getting my period every month makes me feel a heightened sense of gender dysphoria. I feel a sense of wanting to be outside of my body and what it’s going through when I bleed every month. It feels as though I’m going through something that isn’t really for me, isn’t really mine. It’s also very confusing to feel my hormones so out of wack and have increased anxiety, depression, and mood swings during these few days/week out of the month. I’m mostly going through the motions until it stops and I can get back to being ‘me’.
Riley: I try to conceptualise my period as outside of gender but difficult given societal conceptions. It generally feels like a reminder of a “purpose” people think my body has, though I do not feel attached to this purpose.
Quinn: My gender feels linked to my period, and in this way I still feel a connection to the traditionally femme activity of menstruation. I wonder if I would feel less tied to being femme if I didn't have that monthly reminder? However I have PCOS, higher than normal testosterone levels, and as such, I also wonder if my irregular cycles and challenges with fertility have informed my sense that I'm not fully femme.
Sam: I hate it. I’ve hated it since the very first time I experienced it. I hate the entire process. The worst part for me is the first two days. I have a heavy flow so the cramps are on 10 and very debilitating. I am nauseous and can’t stomach anything. And the amount of blood makes me feel like I’m in a horror movie I didn’t know I was suddenly cast in.
Jesse: When I was a teenager and just starting to bleed, I always felt super uncomfortable and “icky” but never understood why. This feeling of going through something that wasn’t mine to go through has always been present. Some weeks are better than others, but overall I really hate the process of bleeding, having to buy period products, CRAMPS, mood swings, trouble sleeping, and overall exhaustion. The worst part physically is the cramps, and the worst part mentally is the dysphoria and discomfort in my body when I’m out and about in the world. I feel less like myself; I feel like an imposter in my own body.
Riley: I feel incredibly detached from the reproductive organs in my body. My entire cycle, not just my period, feels like a strange and alien thing assigned to me incorrectly—somebody else could certainly use these tools more than I can right?! I don’t love or hate it, more so feels like a drag. The worst part is the pain but I think that’s true for everyone. I think these conversations about gender and periods could benefit from expanding the conversation to the whole monthly cycle, noticeable body changes (hormones, discharges, arousal, etc), and how trans people relate to these experiences. especially people who are taking hormones (I am not), and how their hormones impact their cycles.
Quinn: I honestly hate my periods. They're often painful (cramps are the worst part), I get pretty significant PMDD (this may actually be the worst part), and it impacts my sleep a lot. I hate the inconvenience/extra effort needed to care for myself, not just around the bleeding but my symptoms as well. It feels like a hassle.
Sam: Sometimes. Usually in the few days leading up to it.
Jesse: My period absolutely heightens my sense of dysphoria. I feel like I’m a fraud as a trans person, I feel less of a boy, less of a man, less of a masculine person.
Riley: Yes, because of what it symbolizes and also because it makes my boobs larger and harder to chest bind.
Quinn: It heightens my sense that I'm in-between... (CW negative self-talk coming up) like I can't even bleed like a normal woman, nor can I get rid of it. It feels like an inconvenience that is even more inconvenient than the average human, and I have to keep doing it.
Sam: Lots of pain relievers, water, a heating pad, and my favorite foods (especially ramen), and copious amounts of fanfics to occupy my attention.
Jesse: What usually helps me through the week of my period the most is physical movement. I ride my bike, go climbing, skateboard, and smoke weed while walking. These activities help my mental and physical health so I can feel more connected in my body and not focus on the bleeding happening. Therapy helps my anxiety and mood swings, as well as hanging out with friends. I try and give myself a lot of grace and patience during this time too. I need to remember that my body is still mine and it’s a wonderful place to be.
Riley: I try to “out of sight out of mind” it but obviously when I have to engage directly with it I can’t do that. I use tampons because they feel like the best balance between comfort, long-lasting function, and minimum invasiveness, compared to a menstrual cup.
Quinn: I try to sleep better, eat better, be gentle with myself, warn my loved ones that it's coming. Ibuprofen. Shouting into the void.
Who get periods? People get periods.
Main image by Jason Leung on Unsplash.
About the writer
Xenia (she/they) is a freelance sex and mental health writer. She focuses on sex work, LGBTQIA+ issues, menstrual equity, and trauma. She holds a BA in writing from The New School. She’s currently based on the West Coast. Xenia enjoys hiking less than 10 miles, cooking vegan food, and hanging out with her girlfriend and rescue pup.
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