In this blog, Nixon talks about men and nonbinary people who get periods and encourages us to challenge our assumptions… (TW: gender dysphoria & self-harm)
As a man, society looks at me and expects me to approach the topic of menstruation with the same air of mystery and squeamishness that most men have about the subject, and expect me to never comprehend the torture of cramps and passing clots. And why not? Menstruation is such a taboo topic in most western cultures that I know many girls from conservative families that had their cycles sprung upon them with no preparation from their parents at all, so it would make sense that as a man, I’d have less than spectacular insight as to woes of those who bleed.
I am, however, a trans man. To paraphrase liberally from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, “If you put a uterus in me, do I not bleed?” (Oh yes, yes I do)
For the unaware, trans men are those of us who were incorrectly assigned female at birth. We came out, the doctor/midwife saw a vulva and proudly proclaimed to our parents, “It’s a girl!” Genitals, however, do not a gender make. So out I came, the doctor announced my girlhood to the room, and on we went from there. Including all the wonderful trauma that happens to a 9 year old boy who gets his first period. It’s shocking, I imagine, for everyone who gets their first menses, but my first period sent me reeling. Until then I’d been able to live inside a bubble where I was just like my brothers—strong, athletic, brash…the first sight of blood between my legs was (and continues to be) the ultimate act of my body betraying itself. The dysphoria that would come with every cycle would send me reeling, thinking thoughts of self-harm and wishing—PRAYING—that I’d get uterine cancer and have to have it out.
I’m not sure how other people feel about their periods, but during that time I can’t really cope with much. In the past, suicide has seemed like a legit option. It’s hard to feel manly when you’re doing what the world thinks of, aside from giving birth, as the womanliest thing on earth there is to do. And that disconnect is painful in a real way. It’s encoded in our language—we call pads and tampons “feminine hygiene products,” we call it “lady days,” and “my womanly time” to avoid calling it what it is. You can’t go into the men’s restroom at a bar and get a tampon, and if you could, you can’t dispose of it in the stall, since men’s stalls typically lack the little garbage can women’s stalls enjoy.
As a man who has periods if I can’t take my testosterone on schedule (which is sometimes the case if money is tight. The kids need to eat more than I need that medicine), I have to face down the task of buying, and using, menstrual products in a world that defaults to “only women have periods.” It’s a painful reality to live in, and it’s simply wrong. We are out here, men and nonbinary folk who have periods. To assume that the man in front of you can’t possibly relate is simply not always true. We exist. We feel your (cramping) pain—literally and metaphorically.
So throw an extra tampon or two in your bag the next time you go out…there may be a bloke at the bar who is smack dab in the middle of his shark week and needs you to throw him a lifeline.
About Nixon VanJustice
Nixon VanJustice is a pretty much the luckiest partner and father in the world. He’s been in love with his partner since they were 11 years old, and together they have two epic tiny humans and an Italian Mastiff. I guess you could say he’s pretty average for the typical American guy, insofar as guys whose parents thought they were little girls growing up.
Follow him on twitter: @NixRedux!
If you would like to contribute your own piece or share your ideas, let us know in the comments or tweet them to me: @maldrichwincer.