| By Ria Sewlani |
All of us dread those days when we wake up with a budding pain slowly spreading through our body. In other words, we all hate ‘that time of the month’. All women are familiar with the heavy blood flows, mood swings, bloating and many other symptoms that take over us every month.
While these are scenarios that every menstruator may go through, for queer menstruators existing at the margins of oppression, their struggle is amplified. Menstruation has always been perceived as a woman’s issue, especially since menstruation is considered to be intricately tied with childbirth.
The world is assessed in binaries and recognising the rights of queer people has been a huge struggle. Hence, for menstruators who are not women, the shame and pain are steeped within various complicated intersections.
“So you look at your parents. They like tea. Their friends like tea. So you like tea too. Liking tea means you’ll be accepted. But something’s missing” says Tsang.
As you expand your social spaces, you discover coffee and you like it. But being a coffee and a tea person would mean not fitting in. So you try to move on but the aroma of the coffee haunts you everywhere you go. Then, one day, you finally meet people who like both tea and coffee; you slowly discover frappuccinos and lattes: a world way beyond the binaries indoctrinated within you. Eventually, you continue to try new flavours and develop an enriching palette while still drinking the good ol’ tea in front of your parents.
“While I could draft countless analogies and metaphors for you, there are ultimately limits to the English language. In the same way the presence and majesty of a mountain can’t be described to someone who’s never seen or been near one, the pain and depths of dysphoria and coming out cannot be accurately described… This isn’t just a preference or a choice between coffee or tea. This is about not being able to live authentically,” says Tsang.
For many transgender and non binary people, going through menstruation may mean triggering their gender dysphoria.
They say that even knowing that they are ovulating, being unable to bind their breasts because of tenderness, having to wear the appropriate (feminine) underwear to accommodate products like pads or panty liners: triggers their gender dysphoria.
Different menstrual products can also add to the already-long list of triggers. For some, insertion of a tampon acts as a trigger while for some inserting menstrual cups do. Also, having to use the wrong bathroom or carrying sanitary products to the men’s washroom can trigger their gender dysphoria.
Apart from already having to face years of marginalization and erasure, gender dysphoria because of periods is another struggle that trans and non-binary people may battle with regularly. What we can do is try to form a safe space for their voices and struggles. As a society, we can help in the following ways:
- We need to change the hyper-feminine way of packaging and marketing sanitary products. We can do this by holding companies accountable for using hues of pink to make the product look feminine for the mainstream society. Or marketing decisions like portraying only cis-women in their advertisements.
- A push for inclusive bathrooms that are equipped to assist menstruators from all genders.
- We need to use gender-neutral language. For example: Something as easy as replacing the word “women” with “menstruators” or “people who menstruate” goes a long mile in supporting the lived experiences of transgender and non-binary people.