Menstruation - not just a female issue
The term menstruation has always been associated with girls and women. We often see and hear a woman's perspective on menstruation. But the process of menstruation occurs in anybody with a functioning uterus and ovaries irrespective of their cisgender (a gender assigned to a person upon birth).
Menstruation has always been an issue that women are associated with but menstruation is not just a female issue. Menstruation should not be limited to gender because menstruation is more than that. Any trans or non-binary male or person can experience menstruation as they also have a uterus and ovaries. The education regarding trans or non-binary menstruation is very low because whenever menstruation is brought up, it is automatically considered as a “women’s thing “.
Historically, the use of masculine pronouns in place of generic was regarded as non-sexist, but various forms of gender-neutral language became a common feature in written and spoken versions of many languages. Many efforts were made to reform from androcentric language.Now, it has become common in some academic settings to rely on gender-neutral language to convey inclusion of all sexes or genders. We are learning to talk about gender in a more inclusive way in every field.
Menstruation was never really assigned to a gender. Menstruation is referred to as the process of vaginal bleeding and if we read in that context, anybody that bleeds due to functioning ovaries means they are menstruating which goes beyond gender. Some trans-women can also get their periods without blood as they don’t have a uterus or ovaries but they can experience menstrual symptoms such as pain, cramps, headaches and mood swings. Many people irrespective of their gender can experience menstruation.
To anyone for whom menstruation is not a normal occurrence in the eyes of society and still they go through the process of menstruation, they have to bear more torment. The monthly reminder of red causes them anxiety of being labeled in derogatory terms and becomes the cause of gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria happens when a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their anatomy and their gender identity. Getting your period as a person who doesn’t identify as a woman can cause discomfort and anxiety— especially when many people describe menstruation as “a female issue.” Their journey of menstruation and acceptance of it is harder and their battles are tougher than one can imagine.
Some cisgender women don’t experience the process of menstruation due to menopause, stress, and disease. On the other hand, there are people who menstruate who don’t fall into the category of cisgender women. They can fall under transmen, intersex, genderqueer, or non- binary. Transmen refers to a man who was assigned female at birth. Intersex refers to people who are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. Genderqueer or non-binary is a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary. Non-binary identities can fall under the transgender umbrella, since many non-binary people identify with a gender that is different from their assigned sex.
In many situations, the talk around menstruation is framed to cater to the female mindset but we can always broaden our mindset and be inclusive of all people who menstruate irrespective of their gender or their body. Here are some things we can do on everyday basis to be inclusive of everyone:
1. When talking about menstruation, we can refer to it as ‘reaching puberty’ rather than “assigning it to becoming a woman”.
2. Proper usage of pronouns that the person resonates with. It is always good to ask beforehand about the pronoun they prefer to associate with such as she/her or he/him, they or even it.
3. We can refer to sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups as “menstrual products” rather than “feminine hygiene products”.
4. Knowledge regarding menstruation should be shared with every child at an early stage irrespective of their gender. This shall cause the upcoming generation to be more understanding and inclusive of everyone.
5. We can prefer more gender neutral terms when referring to menstruation. To be inclusive of all, we can use “ menstruators” instead of any gender oriented terms. Words such as “ menstruators” include everyone who menstruates.
With little steps, we can be more inclusive of everyone!
So, during this pride month, let’s be more open and welcoming!
Comment below if you know more ways to create inclusive and gender neutral spaces.