Updated: Jun 1, 2021
“Womanhood isn’t defined by menstruation. It is defined by the people who identify as female; it is their experiences that give it meaning. It has no rigid boundary.”
One of the many things that our society needs to unlearn is - gender. We have been conditioned to accept only two genders: male and female. As a convenient multiple choice question, the world operates in a very binary manner. Those who do not align with either side have a tough time navigating through life, surrounded by some who are completely ignorant, while some who refuse to learn. Although the idea of gender is undergoing a revolution, terms like ‘non-binary’, ‘gender-neutral’ and ‘trans-inclusive’ still trigger a significant backlash. When people don’t fit into the most common and obvious definition of a ‘woman’, they can very easily be blocked out.
Talking about menstruation sure has come a long way. Learning to accept it more openly has managed to dismantle cultures of shame and misinformation that have been dominant for long. But we are yet to get on the same page when it comes to talking about periods beyond ‘gender’.
Menstruation is a biological function, not a ‘woman thing’. There are people who menstruate who aren’t women. They may be trans men, intersex, genderqueer or non-binary people.
However, it is nearly impossible to find ads, media, or awareness for periods that are gender-neutral. This lack of trans-inclusive language is not only harmful medically, but also socially and on a much more personal and emotional level within transgender communities.
What we understand from this is that people barely get the difference between gender and sex.
Sex deals with the biological parts, while gender has nothing to do with them. It has to do with identity. And our identities are not determined by our bodies. Each one of us has a unique voice, a unique experience through the stories that we have lived.
Lives could be saved with a little bit of extra effort on more gender-inclusive, transgender-friendly, and queer-inclusive language when it comes to periods. Whether that shift comes from medical professionals, companies, communities, or political movements, there are countless people who are isolated from today’s dialogue around menstruation but still experience menstruation themselves. Men who bleed deserve love, support, and to be included in the conversation.
Using the term ‘menstruators’ rather than ‘women’ is some progress. But a shift in language is not the only thing we need.
We need more awareness of alternative genders through educational sessions, right from school. Raising gender-positive children, without segregating the pinks and blues, the fairies and the superheroes, is important.
We need improved trans representation in mainstream media.
Also, installing gender-neutral restrooms in all public spaces, and marketing of menstrual hygiene products in a less hyper-feminized manner would be a great start. The Period Movement and Cass Bliss’s Instagram campaign #BleedingWhileTrans have broken barriers and instilled hope and immense strength in all those fighting this battle.
At WomxCup, we celebrate all the different kinds of queer bodies that have periods. Using body-positive and trans-positive resources helps us contribute to a period-positive planet.
So, rule of thumb: Not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women.
One thing that makes people so special? Thier willingness and dedication to support and uplift the most vulnerable among us. The bottom line is that everybody deserves to be validated, supported, and given access to healthcare resources as they explore their biological realities, no matter what their gender or identity might be.
And that starts with all of us acknowledging and speaking the truth: People menstruate, not just women.
Here’s to strong people.
May we know them.
May we be them.
May we raise them.
Written by Nibha Patil
Cover by : Karin Friedman