Transguys Get Their Periods Too
Originally Published: June 22, 2015
Revised: September 14, 2015
Imagine awkwardly reaching into your bag in the middle of class, digging around for an item without having anyone notice you. You finally find it, a tampon hidden at the bottom of your bag. You slide it up your sleeve or crush it into your pants pocket—anything to hide it away. You ask your teacher to be excused and quickly walk to the bathroom. You hurry inside the men’s bathroom and then you realize there are no sanitary trashcans in this bathroom. Because the idea is that men don’t have periods. That’s untrue.
A diverse range of people from transgender boys to some genderqueer and intersex people experience menstruation. I identify as a transguy, which means that I was assigned as female at birth, but I identify and live as a male. So, going through puberty and experiencing things that are usually attributed to females was both confusing and extremely difficult to maneuver.
I would pretend to be grossed out when guys talked about how disgusting periods are. My girlfriends would exclude me from their conversations, saying, “You wouldn’t understand; you’re a boy.” They discounted my history and experiences because they weren’t taught that sex does not equal gender. Not all boys have penises. Not all girls have vaginas. And not all people with vaginas menstruate. I was one of the guys that bled, which felt totally wrong and caused me a great deal of confusion and depression or dysphoria.
Dealing With Dysphoria
Dysphoria is a disassociation or disconnection between the mind and the body and is most commonly experienced around the chest, genitals and secondary sex characteristics. Basically, getting my period was a reminder that my body did not match my gender identity. When my dysphoria was at its worst, I would skip school, leave parties early and even avoid my friends because I wasn’t feeling like myself. This sense of disconnection between body and mind led to depression, mood swings and negative coping mechanisms, like self-harm. Cutting helped me feel in control of at least one aspect of my changing body. Everything felt wrong.
I was going through the wrong puberty, and I could do nothing to stop it. After explaining my distress to my doctor, he offered to start continuous birth control to help ease my painful dysphoria. This would allow me to have a period every three months but would require me to add more estrogen to my body, and that made me cringe. So I found alternative ways to find peace with my body.
How I Survived Periods
Some of the things I did might seem a bit weird to others. For example, I took sharpies and wrote MENstruation and highlighted the word ‘men’ on the boxes of my own sanitary products. I added some personal creative flair by doodling little cartoons of men or masculinizing the pictures of girls on the boxes, so I could better relate to the advertisement.
I also actively encouraged my friends to use more inclusive language or gender neutral phrases. I felt more comfortable and respected when others used “shark week” instead of “Aunt Flo.” This way, their words validated my gender identity rather than triggering me. (A trigger is a word, image, topic or phrase that may cause an emotional reaction in a person.)
I find it limiting when menstruation is regarded solely as a “woman’s experience,” like when people use phrases such as “entering womanhood” when referring to menstruation and “feminine hygiene products” when talking about tampons, pads or menstrual cups. Personally, menstrual cups were my product of choice because I could put one in and forget about it for hours and wear my favorite boxers without ruining them.
Is This a Never-ending Struggle?
As your friendly neighborhood trans-brother, I want to let other trans-kids out there know that you’re not alone if you’re experiencing dysphoria. I persevered through these years and learned some important lessons regarding my body. Eventually, I started testosterone injections, and my periods stopped. This dramatically lessened my dysphoria and made me feel a lot more comfortable with my body. Body positivity, the education of others and self-acceptance is what ultimately helped me get through these tough times of the month, and it can definitely help you.
Ethan Lopez is an 18-year-old contributor who lives in California.
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