Menstruation has been historically known as a function of the female body that affects women. The world confines the word ‘menstruation’ to cisgender women (women who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth). With the augmentation of ‘inclusivity’ , disregarding the gendered spectrum, many transgender and non‐binary narratives have become increasingly visible in sociological literature in the past decade, chiefly focused on gender theory and the medicalization of trans and non‐binary. This article emphasizes on the importance of being more inclusive of the alternative genders in the discourse.
People whose gender identity does not align with either side feel invalidated throughout their lives because most people are completely ignorant of the existence of gender beyond the binary, or simply refuse to learn. Womanhood isn’t defined by menstruation. Womanhood is defined by the people who identify as female; it is their experiences that give it meaning. It has no rigid boundary and moreover there’s a significant lack of nearness about the absence of menstruation in trans women and presence of it in trans men, even in the people who are involved in sensitizing and educating people about the diversity of people. Menstruation is just a bodily cycle that people with uterus-es go through.
“We still live in a world where gender is defined by genitals and outward presentation, despite the fact that a large section of the population does not fit the bill for what they ‘should’ be. Diverse representation would reaffirm that trans people’s identities are respected and their needs are looked after. It may seem like a small thing, but every time minorities are included into anything targeted towards the public, we get closer to integrating our communities and understanding each other better,” says a 16-year-old student from Bengaluru.
There’s a significant lack of sex education. In classrooms, students are usually taught about menstruation in a very hush-hush manner. The discussion on alternative gender identities is completely skipped, making students who are exploring their identities feel out of place and more vulnerable to mockery and bullying.
“I try to hide it and pretend I don't even get one”
“I don't like people using menstruation as a way to draw a line for womanhood”
“Due to dysphoria, I usually say I’m sick when I’m on my period”
“I feel afraid to talk about it with anyone but close friends”
“I dislike feeling that I can't be a real man because of it, despite knowing otherwise”
These are the statements by some trans men, non binary, and gender queer people when asked how they feel about their periods.
The society that is typically based on two gender spectrum, is reluctant in accepting the odds. This stigmatized thinking is prominent and can be detected within the 3 gendered/sexed social spheres that the trans and non binary bodies contest, i.e.
1. Gendering of menstrual products
In the case of menstrual hygiene, all advertisements by cisgender women are marketed towards them, and portray menstruation in one particular way. People under the trans umbrella who menstruate seem to have no space. Most roles are played by cisgender actors, written by cisgender scriptwriters, who have absolutely no clue about what being transgender really is, and grossly misrepresent the demographic. Since what people see and hear on screen largely influences their perceptions and beliefs, this has been and continues to be detrimental to trans people who face discrimination.
2. Men’s restrooms
“Who’s going to wash a moon-cup in the sink of men’s toilet”, says a person who identifies as trans, non binary.“It makes me extremely dysphoric using the women’s restroom, but what else can I do? I think it would be dangerous if I used the men’s restroom. A gender-neutral restroom would be a great way of tackling this problem," says another. Many trans people have an internal debate about using the two washrooms. When they are menstruating, it gets even tougher to decide which room would make them feel less distressed and which is more hygienic.
3. Health care
Be it mental or physical, the lack of information, education and awareness of queer menstruation is alarming. First of all, almost zero conversation, advertisements, Sex Ed along with hesitant and unwilling society makes it tough for the people to navigate through life. Deteriorated hygiene levels and gender insensitivity are the points of major concern.
These things which aren’t easily understood or do not fit the societal norms are instantly tagged misfit. But there’s an urgent need of thoroughly revamping the present scenario. Sex Ed which talks about alternative gender identities, improved media portrayal of the trans and non binary, government policies which are more inclusive of trans people and laws that protect them against discrimination should be brought into action. Installation of more gender neutral public washrooms and definitely the marketing of menstrual products in a less hyper-feminized manner would make their lives better. This leaves trace recognition for trans and non‐binary people who menstruate. Thus, the world would eventually be accomodative of the diverse human forms and would compel menstruators to bleed but with Pride.
Written by Devanshi Pandey
Graphics by Anashwara Mandalay