Menstruation beyond one gender.

Written by Shruti Menon

Image Credits: Clue

Cass Clemmer is a transgender artist and educator. They created Toni The Tampon, a colouring book and Instagram account that breaks period taboos and helps parents teach children about menstruation. This excerpt from a powerful poem written by them documents the plight of being a queer menstruator.

“See my body had betrayed me,

That red dot, the wax seal,

On a contract left there broken,

A gender identity that wasn’t real.

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.”

Cass Clemmer is not the only one who feels this way. By sharing their experience, they were able to raise awareness on what a transgender person may go through during menstruation. 

Menstruation is not just a ‘woman thing’.

One of the lesser-known facts in our society is that any person with functioning ovaries and a uterus can menstruate. And apart from cishet women, this includes certain transgender, non-binary and intersex individuals. 

While the stigma and the challenges around menstruation remain, there are some additional difficulties which are faced by individuals in the queer community.

An incident that triggered a discussion around this issue was J K Rowling’s tweet wherein she responded to an article’s use of “people who menstruate” and argued that they are called women. 

This shows us how intertwined the concept of being a woman and menstruation is. Menstruation does not equate to womanhood.  This antiquated notion has sidelined and suppressed the voices of various transgender, intersex and non-binary people who menstruate. 

Gender Dysphoria and Menstruation.

Menstrual products are usually categorized as feminine hygiene products. They are packaged in colours that are conventionally associated with femininity, such as pink and purple.

For instance, the sanitary brand Always was called out for including feminine logos in their packaging. Thereafter, they agreed to alter their packaging and make it a gender neutral one.

These colours and symbols often serve as a reflection of the notion that only women menstruate; and it can lead to people feeling uncomfortable with their gender identities. 

Many trans women who do not menstruate suffer from gender dysphoria because they feel incomplete as a woman due to the absence of menstruation. 

Some issues that they face. 

The transgender community is more susceptible to period poverty because of their lack of access to education and unemployment. 

The lack of gender-neutral bathrooms can also pose an additional problem. It is possible that an individual may be presented with dilemmas such as not being allowed to go into women’s washrooms and not having a cubicle in the men’s washroom at the same time.

We often hear the rip when someone opens a pad, and doing so in a men’s bathroom may lead to a confrontation and harassment. In India, transgender individuals continue to face physical and sexual violence and live in a constant state of fear (Datta, Prakas et al, 2019). This problem is not only present in India, but also various countries around the world. 

A 16-year-old trans-non-binary person who resides in Dubai spoke about how it can be extremely dysphoric for them to use the women’s restroom because of the danger associated with using a men’s bathroom. We still have a long way to go when it comes to accepting individuals from the LGBTQ community. 

How can we make menstruation more inclusive?

  • Instead of saying women’s hygiene products, we can switch to saying menstrual hygiene or menstrual products. Additionally, we can demand having menstrual products in a gender neutral packaging.
  • Creation of more gender-neutral bathrooms can be helpful as it would be a safe place for various people. We need to strive for making policy changes so that more people who menstruate can get access to menstrual hygiene products. 
  • Awareness and education is truly the only way to bring about a revolutionary change. We can use more gender-neutral terms in our conversations and ask people for their pronouns. When we talk about menstruation we can say “people who menstruate” or “menstruators” rather than menstruating women. Furthermore, rather than implying that menstruation is a sign of becoming a woman, we can say that it means a person has reached puberty. 
  • On a larger scale, we need to advocate for their menstrual rights and demand menstrual education in schools.

SOURCES:

https://saathipads.com/blogs/Saathi/menstruation-not-just-a-female-issue#:~:text=Any%20trans%20or%20non%2Dbinary,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Cwomen’s%20thing%20%E2%80%9C.

https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/transgender-men-pain-menstruation-more-just-physical-n1113961

https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2020/10/period-friendly-products-for-transgender-and-non-binary-people/

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