LGBTQIA+ and (Wo)menstruation: Unique set of challenges

For those who navigate the fluidity of gender, the experience of menopause is an extraordinary tapestry of unique struggles and discoveries. Read the first hand experience...

Last Updated on August 2, 2023 by Neelam Singh

“I will get my uterus removed” I uttered in a determined manner, after I learnt that I had attained puberty. As an 11.5 years old I persisted, “I will not bear any children”. However, my mother mentioned that the function of the uterus is not to only carry a foetus and that it must not be removed without valid reasons. In addition to that, as I had undergone a cardiac procedure (an ‘open heart’ surgery, to close a congenital hole in my left ventricle), any medical procedure that results in the loss of blood that must be performed after administering anesthesia to me, requires additional precautions. As a consequence, it was not advisable for me to have hysterectomy or use medicines that directly impact my hormones, as far as possible. This has led to my menopausal issues (the regular occurrence of severe nausea and abdominal cramps or spasms, in particular) having to be treated with mild and basic medication rather than with specific drugs in a sustained manner although the latter may have its own fallout.

An asexual perspective

(Wo)menstruation and Me-NO-Pause regularly and painfully remind me of being assigned female at birth (AFAB) – I am gender fluid and that does not imply that I feel like a woman sometimes or a man at others. Further, I decided not be a parent biologically or otherwise. I feel humiliated and irritated if someone says “you are like a mother/parent” or suggest that I should have been a parent or wonder why I did not opt for parenthood. I do not believe that pregnancy can or could have solved some of my gynaecological issues although I’m fairly certain that pregnancy could have amplified or introduced more health issues for me. I briefly considered adopting children, but I gladly and fortunately (for the prospective adoptees) did not. In fact, I find discussing or reading about sexual and reproductive health, tiring, perhaps because I am asexual. I do need to justify or explain the reasons for not choosing to be a parent, to anyone except myself – anyone is entitled to their misconstrued opinion(s) about me. Overall, I can do without (wo)menstruation and everything associated with it. I believe and wish we should find ways (free of harm and pain) to handle or avoid (wo)menstruation and its associated fallout – ah, the ‘bleeding’ exhaustion!

Additionally, I disagree with those glorifying or romanticize periods (or motherhood – although relevant here, unwanted parenthood can separately discussed). I was appalled by a lady posting on Facebook about menstrual joys and particularly glorifying menstrual blood/bleeding. When I posted about my disagreement, a male journalist tried convincing me that menstruation and blood/bleeding should be glorified. Actually, I believe that menstrual blood is largely useless and perhaps even harmful (as it maybe contaminated and toxic)

periods

“It troubled me immensely for a year”, my (late) maternal grandmother told me many times, when recalling her menopause that occurred in her early fifties. My mother has also said likewise about her menopause. But many like 50-year old me have, pre, peri, post menstrual and menopausal issues. This surprises my 78-year old mother and perhaps something unique to generations younger than hers. (Well, persons younger than me have been struggling through PCOS/PCOD). “How do you know you have menopause”, a gynaecologist asked me. Whether or not my menopause has begun, it has been troubling me for the last few years. So, I want my menstruation and menopause to simply end and wish it never began.

Menstrual misinformation and disinformation

“This is a female/women’s issue”, “Men don’t get involved”, “It’s that day of the month, a ‘period’ of staying away and keeping your things away from women touching them” are among the phrases I have heard growing up. I think emphasising this is important now that ‘periods’ are not just a woman’s issue and not all who menstruate are women and not all women menstruate. This now includes in definition intersex and cis women with hormonal variations.

I think its essential to say this, very radically in feminist terms that womanhood isn’t based on fertility and menstruation. This is just one important step in recognising the existence of Intersex people in the wider world out there.

A very popular movement surged on the internet recently and appropriately #BleedingWhileTrans and this specifically discusses menstruation while dismantling many misconceptions. Many believe that only Cis women menstruate, but we know that Trans, Intersex and Non-Binary individuals menstruate too. Bleeding is gendered that determines how we see someone and their bleeding existence. Therefore ‘menstraution and menopause’ are not feminine – this notion must change. This maybe controversial but being Man or Woman or Intersex or anyone does not equal or mean a certain form of expression, masculinity or femininity in lay terms.

But let’s actually discuss periods and despite the body-positivity/neutral movements and era we live in, we barely hear/find public discourse about periods. Actually, it’s so off-limits that the word ‘taboo’ usually arises while discussing periods. According to the UC Berkeley and Borgen project reports, 70% of menstruators in India have never heard about menstruation before their first period.

I think this becomes easier to read/talk when people stop gendering and associating people specific experiences as the only thing experienced by someone or just one gender alone.

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