Breaking the Silence: On Menstruation and Identity
Because I am someone who identifies as a Two-Spirit individual and a transmasculine non-binary person, the relationship between menstruation and my identity is very complicated. Every time we turn on the news or open social media, we are bombarded with ways that lawmakers are trying to control women’s bodies. It’s hard not to be frustrated by the lack of insight displayed by the majority of society when it comes to understanding something that has always been taboo. However, the conversation still tends to be very one-sided and excludes anyone with a uterus who does not identify as a woman.
Inescapable societal messages that menstruation is gross, disgusting, and/or shameful have created a narrative of menstruation as a negative, troubling, problematic experience for those who menstruate. Even as someone who is constantly learning and decolonizing my thoughts and behaviors, I find it is hard to break free of these messages, but not just because it’s considered “gross” but because it’s seen as a “female thing.” For one week out of every month, I experience the psychological warfare of dysphoria caused by the inability to deny that I was born with a uterus, and it seems as if the whole world knows it, too. My period ruins my mood. I experience severe cramping, bloating, and diarrhea which causes me to have to use bathrooms that further isolate me while in public based on my gender expression.
One of the worst feelings for me during my period is when I have to put on “period panties” or more “feminine” underwear so that I can use pads, as the thought of penetrating myself with tampons exacerbates the dysphoria. I had a talk once with my OB/GYN about my symptoms during my period, and after misgendering me constantly, his magical solution was to offer me birth-control pills. All I heard after he said those words were “you will be taking estrogen, and I don’t care about your dysphoria,” but I was so desperate for period relief that I agreed. WORST DECISION EVER. All my symptoms were amplified, especially the mood swings, making it even harder to manage my mental health.
As a transmasculine individual, my mental health is a constant battle. The battle is over not allowing society to have any say over who I know I am as an individual and wanting to be an agent of change and being out and proud about who I am to the public, which opens me up to criticism. The saddest feeling I have during my period is that it is a constant reminder of my fertility and how there are many trans women and/or people without uteruses that would absolutely love to be in my position and to experience the possibility of being able to give birth but can’t. While I struggle constantly with separating my identity from my menstruation, I know that I am not alone in this struggle, and I will continue to use my voice and privilege to amplify the voices that need to be heard the most.
Be a Rose and an ally to the LGBTQ community by getting involved with organizations like the Grand Rapids Pride Center, which offers community and individual training for people who want to learn more. Visit the GR Pride Center for a tour and to explore volunteer opportunities. Get involved. Speak up when you see injustice. Expand your understanding and vocabulary. Listen to and elevate the voices of those who have been marginalized.
Together, we need to do more research and have more conversations about these issues. The more we are able to talk about these issues out loud and erase the stigma, the healthier all of my trans siblings can be.
By Guest Author: Jazz McKinney (they/them)
Jazz is a Black and Indigenous Two-Spirit individual who currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, working as a LGBTQ Therapist and serving on the Board of the Grand Rapids Pride Center and the Support Committee of Grand Valley State University’s Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center. Jazz has been involved with racial justice work as well as advocacy and activism in the LGBTQ+ community for over 15 years and is committed to highlighting the importance of education, awareness, and involvement to create change. Jazz is passionate about working to decolonize gender roles and identities as well as discussing the impact that harmful gender binaries can cause within our communities.