No, Not All Women Bleed and Some Men Do. Let’s Talk About That.

CW: Body Dysphoria

In January 2018, Pink Parcel, a UK-based period subscription box, revealed a new fashion line to fight period shame. Bringing together designers, activists, influencers, and fashion editors, they introduced their “I’M ON” campaign – fronted by trans model Kenny Jones.

During his FTM transition, Jones claims he had to “deal with experiencing periods each month and many of the negative stereotypes that can come along with it.” After all, when confronted with the question of how to deal with periods as a trans man, facing difficult things like body dysphoria, the plight of changing pads in men’s washrooms, and the feminisation of menstruation, it’s easy to feel like you’ve entered a space that you don’t belong in.

Though some trans men take testosterone or undergo hormone replacement therapy, it’s very likely that they will still have periods until their treatment fully kicks in. However, our period dialogue today tends to erase the identities of thousands of trans individuals (and cis women) who don’t necessarily comply with the traditional period narrative. The conversation has largely focused on “pussies,” boiling the plural, diverse experiences of menstruators everywhere down to a homogenous monthly cycle. In reality, periods are as nuanced and manifold as the people that have them.

Along with trans men who do get periods, there are numerous cis women who don’t. Because of issues like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, hormonal imbalances (low estrogen or high testosterone), and genetic disorders, some women may stop experiencing – or never experience – a typical menstrual cycle. But the feminisation of periods has lead us to collectively believe that a woman is only truly a woman if she is able to menstruate. This is intensely problematic as it reduces women to vessels of birth or tools of reproduction rather than human beings capable of making their own decisions and practicing self-determination outside of conventional gender roles.

On February 15th, Dr. Anita Mani, Medical Director of GIFT IVF Centre, Sasha Ottey, Executive Director of PCOS Challenge: The National Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Association (@PCOSChallenge) in the U.S.A., and Dr. Felice Gersh, Medical Director of Integrative Medical Group of Irvine (@gershfelice), held the first-ever press conference to discuss the issues faced by women with PCOS in Cochin, India. PCOS is the most common endocrine dysfunction of women and is rapidly growing in India. On February 18th, Dr. Anita Mani and @PCOSChallenge are holding the first International Conference on PCOS in India for both healthcare providers and patients. For more information, visit PCOSChallenge.org/india (See link in Bio) . . . . . . . #Cochin #Kochi #India #PCOS #pcosfighter #pcosawareness #pcosdiet  #pcoshealth #pcossupport #pcosproblems #cysters #pcoschallenge #pcoswellness #pcoscysters #ttccommunity #ttcjourney #cysters #ttc #ttcsisters #infertilityawareness #wellness #womenshealth #diabetes  #vegan #paleo #keto #glutenfree #health #healthy #healthylifestyle

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At GiveHer5, this was one of the key reasons behind our shift from using the term “women” or “girls” to the more gender-neutral term “menstruator” in our everyday dialogue and especially on social media, where we make most of our widespread impact. Recognising the power and value of inclusivity, in both language and action, is a vital step towards gender equality in a world where gender doesn’t manifest itself quite like we were once taught in our biology classes. To address this change, we uploaded a “Myth v. Fact” post – and things turned very controversial, very quickly. We received a slew of transphobic and sexist comments (that have since been deleted), either claiming trans people are “just confused” or that women who don’t get periods are “sick and defected.” However, one of our followers thanked us for the representation, reminding us why this shift was an important one to make.

When our activism is more inclusive, we’re able to break down the systems of oppression that hold us back from achieving equality and focus on providing rights and representation for all instead. In alignment with this, organisations in various industries are taking small but meaningful steps: In November 2014, Thinx introduced their Boyshorts, reusable period boxers designed specially for those who deal with period dysphoria. Harper’s Bazaar published an article about a trans woman’s relationship with menstruation during their Period Month last summer. At the same time, The Better India uncovered the experiences of non-binary folk and their periods, right here in India.

Our discourse is changing, evolving from cis-centered and exclusionary, to a more open, broad, and all-embracing conversation, but there’s still a long way to go. That’s why we urge everyone to stay curious, get involved, and share their experiences to diversify our understanding of menstruation.

FEATURED IMAGE CREDITS: Pink Parcel

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