Updated: Aug 3
Although the menstrual conversation is widely considered to be a taboo subject, it is incomparable to the stigma transgender individuals face. Many wonder, “Can trans folks have periods?” and the answer is yes, trans men and women can bleed.
Menstruation is not only for women, but our society still deems women to be the only menstruating gender. Periods can be an emotional whirlwind, especially when the individual experiences gender dysphoria- being in distress because a person does not feel their sex assigned at birth matches their gender identity. In an interview written by Clue, trans men, genderqueer and non-binary people articulated their notions regarding menstruation: “When my period arrives, the dysphoria is the most unpleasant,” stated B. Periods can be debilitating because of the ongoing cramps and uncalled bloating, but having a female genital is what truly makes menstruation atrocious for trans men. They get trapped in a negative mindset where their dysphoria consumes them because their gender assigned at birth becomes crystal clear. The constant need to be a man makes them feel visible, even when no one points their menstruation out. Menstruators who deal with gender dysphoria do not only feel “bad:” they can feel suicidal. It can deteriorate their mood and constantly remind them of their assigned gender and magnify their gender dysphoria even more: “It's so stressful because so many people refuse to see me as the gender I am already.” Seeking validation from the people around us is innate, but unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ community is a minority that is frowned upon and labelled as degenerates. The constant hatred against trans and non-binary individuals contributes to the destructive feelings generated when menstruating. Moreover, how can we define a “woman?” Does menstruating equate to womanhood? If a woman has undergone breast removal surgery does that make her less of a woman? As a society, we need to be mindful and not confine our thinking to stereotypes that have been perpetuated over decades.
The falsity that “only women menstruate” is not only perpetuated in the media, but it is seen in our education. Females and males are separated in health class to discuss their ever-growing bodies. According to Natracare, 72% of boys have never been taught about the menstrual cycle, so what happens to that individual who identifies as a boy but menstruates? These major issues embedded into our education and society reiterate that menstruation is a concept only for women. Have you ever seen disposable bins for sanitary products in a men's restroom? Most trans individuals have not, and the struggle of disposing a tampon or sanitary pad when other men are around is “embarrassing” for most trans folks (Bell, 2019). In addition to the pain and discomfort of a regular period, the trans community is often subjected to transphobia when seeking help from healthcare professionals. Many might consider this fear to be frivolous, but in the United States, a man was denied his HIV medication after stating that he had intercourse with another man. Moreover, several trans individuals are afraid to discuss their period and dysphoria due to the soul-crushing fear of judgement. They feel “weird” (Bell, 2019) packing a pad or tampon in their bag, and if they decide to talk about their painful period, individuals often misgender them, which unfortunately contributes to their gender dysphoria.
With that being said, many trans women see menstruation as a sign of feminity, and instead of rejecting it, they embrace it with open arms.
Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who menstruate all deal with some sort of criticism and pain for it. However, facilities and policies are being implemented to advocate for a more inclusive sex education curriculum. Society needs to overcome their bigoted notions and understand individuals who are not cis that menstruate. Menstruation does not define womanhood. Womanhood, gender, and sexuality are abstracts; labels cannot always define our true identity.