Woman hand holding up the LGBTQ+ flag

We Need to Include Trans Voices in the Menstruation Conversation

Laylah Funk

International Transgender Day of Visibility is on March 31st. It’s a day to recognize and celebrate the transgender community—and to raise awareness about the discrimination they face every single day. 

Just one walk through the menstrual hygiene aisle is proof that, as a society, we’re still reluctant to the idea that it’s not just women who have periods. With products that are almost always labeled for “women’s health” in ultra-feminine pink packaging, it’s hard to be surprised that the trans community feels alienated when it comes to having a period. 

“But degendering periods is erasing women.

Nope, it’s not! Anyone that has a uterus has the potential to menstruate. It’s an age-old myth that everyone with a uterus is a woman, and that every woman has a uterus—but that’s not true, never has been true, and never will be true. (In fact, this belief has literally been debunked by medical professionals). I’d like to think that the uproar around degendering periods isn’t blatant transphobia—but rather, a really unfortunate lack of understanding. So, let’s talk. 

Gender is not the same thing as sex. 

Gender actually has nothing to do with genitalia or sex chromosomes—and it definitely doesn’t have anything to do with periods. Gender, by definition of the word, only refers to the social norms, attitudes, and expectations that are often associated with being male or female. Wearing makeup, painting your nails, and having long hair? These are examples of gender roles—but we all know these roles aren’t what define your body.

On the other hand, sex refers to the biological, anotomical, and chromosomal differences that make us either male or female—or neither. People can be born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t necessarily fit into the boxes of “female” or “male”. It’s called intersex—and yes, it’s possible for them to bleed, too!

The bottom line is that “woman” does not equal “female,” and “man” does not equal “male.” Removing gender from the menstruation conversation couldn’t possibly erase women—because people that identify as both women and men have always menstruated.

Women are not defined by their ability to menstruate. 

Even if women were the only people to have ever menstruated—which they’re not—women are so much more than just their bodies. They’re unique and wise and everything in between, and they don’t need menstrual cycles or biological children to be special. 

I’ll leave it at that. Women are capable of (and will be better for) lending their voices and opening the menstruation conversation up to the trans community.

Period pain can be more than just physical.

Especially for trans men. A large portion of the trans community has experienced or been diagnosed with gender dysphoria: when a person whose sexual anatomy doesn’t match their gender identity. It’s fair to assume that experiencing gender dysphoria is confusing and uncomfortable—and it’s also fair to assume that the ultra-feminization of periods doesn’t make it any easier.

Kenny Jones, trans writer & advocate, said, “Getting a period made me feel like less of a man, even though my teenage self already identified as male. I, too, used to associate periods solely with cisgender women. In my eyes, a period was the opposite of masculine, and so my ego and internalized expectations of male dominance were enough to convince me to bottle it up and speak about it with no one.”

Excluding the trans community from the period conversation only causes harm, and it never does anyone any good. Aside from the fact that it’s like, scientifically incorrect to only include cis women in the conversation, it also completely alienates people in the trans community—to the point where they have no one to turn to.

The trans community deserves to be seen, respected, and included. This Transgender Visibility Day, and every day moving forward, we have no plans to stop advocating for transgender-inclusive period conversations.