In this blog, Kasey, a non-binary person, speaks out about why we need more inclusive discussions about menstruation. (TW: rape & gender dysphoria)
I am a non-binary person, and I menstruate. And, as it turns out, I sometimes (read: often) find myself excluded from conversations about menstruation. Because I am living in a cissexist world, and from a cissexist perspective (i.e. one in which trans people don’t really exist), only women menstruate. And from a cissexist perspective, it’s funny sometimes to speculate about what it would be like “if men had periods”.
Newsflash: men do, sometimes, have periods. And that experience can be fraught enough for them, as menstruation is often a dysphoria trigger for trans men and other transmasculine people, without also making them the butt of jokes that erase their experiences entirely.
Menstruation is not, never has been, and never will be a quintessentially womanly experience. It’s not the exclusive domain of women, and it’s not even an experience all women have in their lives, whether because they are trans, or because they have a medical reason why they simply don’t menstruate. And it is important to remember that.
At the same time, I see many cis women’s frustration when this is pointed out to them. And I get it, because y’all have some very real beefs with the way periods are treated, the way we are all expected to keep them so super secret and make sure that cis men (delicate flowers that they are) are never reminded that this extremely normal bodily function exists. Your frustration is valid.
And yes, these issues are very much women’s issues. I’m not even remotely going to argue they aren’t – the secrecy and fear and misinformation that surrounds menstruation in popular culture are all part and parcel of misogyny, and of patriarchy – those of us who menstruate but aren’t women are, to some extent, collateral damage in this arena.
But that doesn’t make it ok to erase us from existence in this arena any more than it is ok to do so in any other context. Trans people’s existence is so often and so easily forgotten in conversations among cisgender feminists, and it really isn’t ever ok.
I’m not asking you not to be angry (I am angry right along with you, trust me!), nor am I saying you can’t talk about menstruation, or even frame it as a women’s issue. But I am asking you to be more thoughtful in the way you talk about these issues. If you can talk about other women’s issues that don’t exclusively impact women, in a way that centres women without erasing the other people affected (rape culture comes to mind – you don’t often, or ever, see people forgetting that people of any gender can and do experience rape) you can do the same with menstruation.
Kasey is a non-binary librarian on the asexual spectrum. They write about their experiences around these and other aspects of their identity, as well as other social justice issues, at Valprehension. You can also follow them on Twitter and Tumblr.
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.