The emergence of Caitlyn Jenner in the media has brought transgendered men and women into the spotlight of the national media. I think that’s a great thing. Marginalized members of society deserve to be understood and to be a part of the conversation, because I think that leads to them being treated with compassion. What happens when someone is born a female but identifies as male and has a period? How does that impact them? Maybe it’s just me, but I’m curious as to how transgender males who still menstruate handle their periods and how the broader societal discussions surrounding menstruation impact them.
What Does it Mean to Be Transgender?
For those who may not be familiar, transgender men are people who were assigned a female sex at birth but feel it not an accurate description of who they are inside, so they then begin to identify themselves as men. Let’s not forget, gender is a social construct that differs from biological sex. Where biological sex identifies your chromosomal makeup and the appearance of your genitals, gender largely relates to social and cultural differences. So if you really think about it, it seems totally possible to chromosomally be a woman and have the biological makeup, but identify as more of a man.
Transgender Men and Menstruation
Many transgendered men take hormones and/or have surgery to make their bodies more masculine, but for those that have not and still have periods, it can be a difficult time. It often can serve as a reminder that their bodies don’t match their gender identify.
Most conversations about menstruation happen in the context of girls and women, and that’s not a totally accurate reflection of modern society. Menstruation is not exclusive to women anymore. We need to remember that we have brothers-in-arms out there that need our support, our recognition and our compassion. They menstruate too, and to be mindful of those members of our society who are made invisible or invalid by the discourse that elevates periods as the source of womanhood or femininity is to recognize their unique struggles. I think we need to consider the implications of the statements we make and the attitudes we have and examine how they may hurt both women and transgender men.
It’s important to remember that inclusion is about more than what we say, but also how you say it. Exclusionary language equals exclusion in everyday life. Our language and the overall discussion of periods need to be inclusive and not exclusive. Remember that the views that express menstruation as feminine are gender essentialist and they harm and marginalize an entire group of people, including other women that no longer menstruate.
So in the future, I challenge you to think about how you view your period and how you communicate that to the world around you. Remember that there are many different types of people on this planet, and the world is made richer by that diversity. Respect yourself and in doing that, remember to respect other people whose experience is different from yours and include them in the conversation.
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