Period

We all laugh when a sitcom features some daring man braving the pharmacy to pick up tampons for his girlfriend. The man is so completely bashful and embarrassed, ensuring hilarious antics as he tries to nonchalantly check out, but fails miserably. But why is that the situation? Why are men so embarrassed by a normal part of a woman’s life?

Before I transitioned, I was treated just like any other boy. Sure, my hair was long, and I wasn’t really a “manly” boy. Still, I was, as most boys are, completely sheltered from the process of menstruation. I knew vaguely about it from an 8th grade sex ed course, but even then it was only very briefly touched about, and by then, I was already uncomfortable with the topic. It’s not that I thought it was a terrible thing, it just simply was never talked about in my life. I had no sisters; my mother never talked about it; older women felt it was inappropriate to tell a young boy about it; and women my age were all too embarrassed to talk about it. Not to mention, most boys became more and more uncomfortable with the topic as it was made to seem like a big scary unknown thing.

I remember when I was in middle school, there was a girl I liked, whose naI’m not going to mention, but I hope she one day reads this. Since I had a crush on her and I was a young teenager, I thought it would be perfectly appropriate to snatch her purse and look at whats inside of it. I grabbed her purse and ran down the hall, she chased after me, but I opened the purse first. And there, on top of the mess in her bag, was a pad. I turned bright red, she grabbed the purse without a word, and we never discussed the incident again. It was almost a decade before I ever laid eyes on a pad or tampon again. That was also the last time I went digging in a girl’s purse without their permission too. I was taught, by experiences like this, that menstruation was something to be embarrassed about, that shouldn’t be talked about, and was extremely private. I, as a boy, was never to talk or ask about the issue, despite the fact I couldn’t comprehend why someone would bleed once a month unless they were hurt.

After I transitioned, all the secrecy and shame vanished in an instant. Women, when in the company of other women, are usually totally comfortable talking about their periods. It’s not something taboo; its just a part of the experience of being a woman. Sure, there are times it is inappropriate to discuss, but chit chatting around the office, after class, when going shopping is totally normal. While I am mostly out, it’s not always appropriate to out myself in every conversation, so I often find myself in conversations where other women assume I get my period as well, so I am welcomed into the conversation. A year ago, I was still bashful about the topic, but as it became more and more discussed, more and more normal, I found there really wasn’t a reason to be uncomfortable.

Periods, by in large, are not fun. They usually involve cramping, pain, bloating, having to change tampons or pads frequently, hormone changes, and dozens of other potential symptoms. Most women who know that I am transgender always tell me “Ashe, you’re so lucky you’ll never have to go through menstruation!” While I understand why being able to be a woman and totally skip out on the whole period thing seems very ‘lucky,’ but a period isn’t just a pain. It is a sign that a girl is becoming a woman; it means fertility, the ability to have children. While I’m sure being able to skip the monthly bleeding sounds appealing, I want to remind the cisgender women reading this that it also means not being able to get pregnant, to be a mother by blood. It’s one of the only parts of being a woman that cannot be replicated via hormones, surgery, time, patience, diligence, or anything. It’s an absolute barrier a trans woman can never pass. It’s convenient, but it isn’t lucky.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Anonymous

     /  April 26, 2012

    I remember periods being soooo embarrassing in high school. Like if someone saw my pad in my purse, it was the most embarrassing thing to happen all week. And now it’s like nothing, haha. High school was weird….

    Reply
    • I suppose a lot of it has to do with the stage of life as well. I noticed, getting older, talking about periods is less immediately taboo. Still, its funny to watch how uncomfortable guys get walking down the feminine hygiene department of the drug store!

      Reply
  2. O'Broithe

     /  April 27, 2012

    I love reading your posts, especially your points of view as trans, but I felt the need to express a cis point of view.
    I’m not speaking for anyone else, so I’m not certain if anyone else feels this way, but the menstrual cycle should not dictate the obvious presence of a woman. Now, I would find it an insensitive statement to call you lucky for not having a period, so I can see your point there, but as you stated in a previous post, a period does not define who/what a woman is.
    I’m not sure if I want to be a blood mother. I don’t want to pass along these neurotransmitter deficiencies and have my child follow in my self-destructive footsteps. I don’t want my female child to be mocked for having light skin but dark hair, giving the appearance of facial hair.
    And yet, I want my child to have my beautiful, expressive brown eyes.

    Reply
    • O'Broithe

       /  April 27, 2012

      (Grr… Stupid smart phone.) Anyway, it’s a mixed feeling to have a period, to deal with pain, the mess… But that shouldn’t define your being a woman. It’s the mentality, the intangible essence, that lets you determine your gender (or no gender).
      Gah, I should stop rambling, but just know this: Ashley, to me, you are a woman. Your actions, reactions, aura… EVERYTHING. You are who you are. πŸ™‚

      Now can you guess who I am? πŸ˜‰

      Reply
    • I had a guess as to who this is right away πŸ˜‰ But I’ll respect your privacy!
      I want to thank you for bringing up a cis point of view of the situation; I really value it and I think thats what can make this conversation truly impactful, as the majority of people who read this blog probably do not consider themselves transgender, so hearing a cisgender perspective is very helpful.
      I absolutely agree with you about a period not defining a woman, not at all. I talked in a previous post about how difficult it is to truly define what it means to be a woman; its not a vagina, as all I need to have that is $20-40,000 and I’d have that. Its not breasts, as women who have had breast cancer and had one removed are STILL women. Its not being able to procreate, since some women wont and many women cant. The only definite I came up with to define a woman is the shared, day to day experience of being a woman. That being said, most women do, at some point in their life, have a period. So while it does not define being a woman, it is a shared experience most women have, and that experience is one of the few things that separate cisgendered and transgendered women.
      Having babies does not make you a woman, it is definitely internal, its how you feel, its how you act, and how you are treated. Thank you so much for all your kind words O’Broithe πŸ˜› I need to give you a hug next time I see you..!

      Reply
  3. I agree with Anonymous… it might have been strange in high school but in the grown up world it’s not!! My son will even tell me his girl friend is on her period… when he was 17 he asked me if she was more likely to get prego on her period. Ok so let’s not use my son as an example because we know he was raised sex positive and so was I.

    I will use other random men that I know…. I have rarely met an adult male or female that was embarrassed by the discussion of menstruation. In the cases in which I am presented with this type person I find that they are rare and in fact are raised in a strangely sex shameful home in which they assume everyone else is brought up in a similar way. Often they are floored to find out that I regularly had conversations with my mom while she was on the toilet or getting dressed, and so have most of my friends, in fact we make jokes about it. I find it fascinating that most of these people brought up in these shameful homes have no idea that their own shame shines so brightly that often other people don’t want to talk about it with them, because it makes them uncomfortable. If people like a person they don’t want to make a person uncomfortable and hence the shamefulness continues to be a reality for that person.

    Now I have heard men make jokes regarding a woman’s “bitchiness” being related to her PMS, and this is often true, to some extent. But something I have learned is that just because I am yelling at you about when I am PMS’ed doesn’t mean that it has less meaning. In fact, often I need PMS to give me the passion to yell at you about it! LMFAO!!

    As for parenting, first of all….Just because you can’t carry a child does not mean you cannot do the biggest part of parenting which is RAISING ONE! If you want a child there are numerous ways to do it, even as a transwoman. Since your interested in partnering with either a woman or transman you could EASILY make a child of your own DNA, unlike many other loving hetero couples. You still make sperm, so if you want a child I strongly suggest leaving that option open until you decide how you will do it. You could adopt, if your with a woman you can have her artificially inseminated. I know your a transactivist so I assume you know of all the great stories of transcouples giving birth. AND from experience giving birth is like a piece of the puzzle, there are so many other pieces to parenting. If your missing that one piece it makes no difference you can easily fill it in with a substitution, i assure you this is true! You can be a mother…but your mind set will need to change. But that’s another story πŸ™‚

    Reply
  4. Anonymous

     /  May 1, 2012

    I saw myself doing that “your so lucky” crap to a trans friend of mine and started thinking to myself that it was a terrible thing to say to her, I apologized, but also informed her I’m probably going to bitch epically about it every month. So every month she mutually shares my suffering with me and pats me on the head and eats deliciously awful things with me. I feel equally envious and terrible about her physical lack of bleedy times because I know she would take that period in a hot second if she could. 😦

    Reply
    • Anonymous, thank you so much for your post! I read it first thing this morning and it almost brought me to tears. This is exactly what I was trying to highlight in this post. Yea, menstruation isn’t a terribly pleasent experience, but trust me, given the choice, I would definitely rather have them than not.
      I’d really like to hunt down a cisgendered woman who doesn’t have a period due to medical or hormonal conditions. I bet that perspective would add a lot to the conversation. If anyone knows a girl like that, would you forward this on to them?

      Reply
  5. I didn’t have a period for 13 years because of the birth control I was on and it was a fantastic blessing and women were often jealous. Notice now that there are several types of medication that women can take to stop or lighten their period. Those medications wouldn’t exist if a woman would CHOOSE to have a monthly period. It’s a major inconvenience and frankly it has little to do with my identification as a woman. When I have it, it doesn’t make me feel less like a man or more like a woman. It is a medical condition that is frankly severely inconvenient and costs me money. I need supplements to handle the hormone changes – something to keep it from getting all over the place. The millions of tampons and pads that will take forever to decompose. It keeps sex from being fun and fulfilling unless you decide to make a mess of it. My sheets are forever stained in the middle from waking up with blood pouring out of me…. Menstruation and all that comes with it… is an inconvenience and a medical condition – if your born with ovaries than you gotta deal with it. Just like people with penis’ gotta deal with the hard on at bad times – that even though I have penis envy I certainly am happy I don’t have to deal with that, along with other things that come with having a penis. Would I trade my monthly period for the issues of having a penis?? Of course, but we don’t have that ability yet……but I don’t think its worth taking something synthetic in my body daily in order to obtain something that is close to it. πŸ™‚ But that’s just me πŸ™‚ Just like I wouldn’t take a medication to stop my period. Nature thinks its necessary for me to experience the monthly period and still identify as genderqueer. πŸ™‚ I have other plans!

    Reply

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