Let's Talk About the Non-binary Representation in Our Period Conversation
Oftentimes when we write and talk about menstruation, it’s easy to talk about just women who menstruate or refer to girls and use “she/her” pronouns. But it’s important to understand and be aware of the limitation of this kind of dialogue.
By gendering menstruation in this way, we are actually ostracizing people who aren’t women or individuals who don’t identify with “she/her” pronouns.
Let’s make one thing clear: menstruating does not make someone a woman, not menstruating doesn’t make them not a woman, and women aren’t the only individuals in this world that menstruate.
We need to make sure that we are telling everyone’s stories.
Men Who Bleed
Menstruation already holds a negative connotation when referencing women who bleed. People are embarrassed to talk about it, individuals are shamed for it, etc. However, this situation is magnified tenfold for men who menstruate.
Not only is menstruation shamed in men, but it isn’t even widely understood as something that happens. It’s something that has been hushed for so long that people don’t even realize that transgender individuals get their periods too.
Activist Cass Clemmer shines a light on this issue through their Instagram account: @tonithetampon. Cass identifies as “they/them” and Cass also menstruate.
In a poem, Cass shared their experience with menstruation and the internal battle that it causes: “Most people deal with blood and tissue/ And yet my body forces me to surrender/ Cause every time I get my cycle / Is another day I shed my gender.”
We want to make sure to include their stories as a part of our period dialogue and understanding.
The Gendering of People Who Bleed
When discussing menstruation, it would be best if we can make sure that we are not gendered in our conversations.
It’s not a difficult thing to fix—we simply need to make sure that instead of using “she/her” pronouns that we are using more inclusive pronouns such as “they/them” and “he/him”.
Claire Rudy Foster, is non-binary and trans and their largest discomfort with menstruation isn’t the menstruation itself, but the gendering of “feminine hygiene products.”
It is alienating to people who don’t identify as women or as feminine to see the products they need to be labeled in this way. This continues even in menstrual product’s packaging (hello, pink everything) and the marketing surrounding menstrual products.
“I think we need to unlink personal identity from the body’s functions,” Foster said. “Bleeding, pregnancy, lactation, ejaculation, and other things are not gender-specific. Men can menstruate. So can non-binary people. So can women.”
This whole conversation is not only important to have and to keep going for the sake of understanding, but it’s vital to increasing the quality of healthcare.
For Transgender and Non-Binary people, receiving the proper healthcare, especially when it involves menstruation is a huge barrier.
Taylor So started identifying as non-binary in their late teens. Back in 2017, they sought treatment for an eating disorder just a few months away from their scheduled hysterectomy. So wanted to make sure that they were healthy enough to undergo surgery and talked to their doctor.
The doctor suggested cauterizing their uterus instead. After some heavy research, it becomes clear to Taylor that this procedure was not routine.
“I was being lectured on transitioning,” So said. “The irony of this unsolicited advice being given in an ED clinic, where body sovereignty is integral to recovery, was not lost on me.”
Many insurance companies and healthcare facilities make it nearly impossible for a man to receive the healthcare they need if they have a womb and cervix. Because of this, many men can go through complications regarding menstruation such as Dysmenorrhea and Endometriosis without receiving the proper care that they need.
In fact, Robert Eads, a trans man, died in 1999 due to doctors refusing to treat him for his ovarian cancer.
“The lack of education on the sheer diversity in menstruation is something that needs to be acknowledged,” So said.
We need to keep having this conversation. We need to make sure that our conversations are inclusive. We need to make sure that we are meeting the needs of everyone who menstruates: this includes all of the trans, nonbinary, intersex, agender, female, and male menstruators.
*The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to Nannocare, Inc.