Menstruation is not just a “woman thing”. Periods can be a pain—especially if you experience gender dysphoria, or have an illness like PCOS or endometriosis. We asked trans men, nonbinary, and genderqueer people how they feel about their periods.
“I like everything about the physical body I was born with, except for the fact that it contains an organ that bleeds so regularly.”
My periods last about a week, and at least three of those days feature debilitating cramps—debilitating to the point that I stay in bed shivering from chills and only want to eat salt and vinegar chips.
When my period arrives, the dysphoria is most unpleasant: I’m unable to ignore the fact that I have a vagina. For me the emotional aspects of menstruation are just as real and horrible as the physical symptoms.
I like everything about the physical body I was born with, except for the fact that it contains an organ that bleeds so regularly. I'm lucky—there's nothing else about my body that makes me feel dysphoric. I'm very grateful for that, three weeks out of every four.
I loathe that my period so regularly shatters the illusion that my body is gender-neutral. I hate that it makes my assigned gender at birth immediately apparent to anyone who cares to glance at a calendar. It makes me feel very visible in an unpleasant way, even when nobody comments on it.
“I try to hide it and pretend I don't even get one”
My period ruins my entire mood and often involves suicidal ideation, due to how strongly it magnifies my gender dysphoria. I try to hide it, pretend that I don't get one, and that I don't even have a uterus. It's so stressful because so many people refuse to see me as the gender I am already. If they knew I menstruated I would never be able to gain their acknowledgement and respect.
I experience dysphoria related to my reproductive organs more than anything else except my face. It is what hurts me the worst—physically and emotionally—when it comes to my body.
What do I like about being a trans person who menstruates? Next to nothing. I do like making jokes about removing my uterus for an experiment though. I dislike how my period makes me feel, and how it makes society see me.
— Vin Tanner, @hologramvin, nonbinary, trans, lesbian, 20, Seattle, United States
“I don't like people using menstruation as a way to draw a line for womanhood”
The first day of my period I need to lay down as much as possible, because the cramps are so bad. Sometimes I also get really bad headaches and backaches. I feel weak and listless for the whole week.
I don’t always experience gender dysphoria relating to my menstrual cycle. That said, I would like to rip out my uterus entirely, because I’m reminded that it exists not only during my period, but during ovulation as well. I also get cysts, which cause stabbing pain.
I wonder, does anyone—regardless of gender—enjoy menstruating? I do enjoy searching period tags on social media for memes and other people to commiserate with—a symphony of people who come together to bitch about bleeding, cramps, aches, mood swings, and chocolate, for some reason. I usually crave sushi, or whatever I can get into my mouth fast enough.
I don't like people using menstruation as a way to draw a line for womanhood. You bleed =/= you are a woman. It doesn't work like that, like, even if you're cis or whatever. Not every cis woman has a period. Even at its most base logic, it's flawed. My aunt had both her breasts removed, and just had her uterus and ovaries removed, and is afraid she won't be a woman anymore. It hurts everyone to use organs and parts and whatever arbitrary measurement to define a person.
—Fallon, nonbinary, bi as hell, [Fallon asked us to add: funny and charming] 27
“I get to have kids! Yay!”
My period makes everyday activities harder. Everything becomes easily overwhelming. I get severe PMS, and it makes my gender dysphoria worse. The thing I like about being a nonbinary trans person who menstruates? I get to have kids! Yay! What I don’t like is mostly not being able to bind because of my breasts being tender, and the mood swings. The menstruating itself is fine.
—Anonymous, nonbinary, trans, queer, 19, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
“Menstruation is a reminder that my body will never be the way I want it”
My period doesn’t affect my daily activities much, but it's painful so I just power through it. I get dysphoria during my period, and in addition I have to wear "feminine" underwear in order to use pads, which only increases my dysphoria. (Just the idea of tampons makes me dysphoric.)
I like the emotional solidarity I get from other trans people who menstruate. On the other hand, there are several things I don’t like about having a period: I don't have a penis. I have the ability to carry a child, an experience that would make me feel awful. Meanwhile, trans women can't do that—even if they want to. Menstruation is a reminder that my body will never be the way I want it to be, and I just have to live with that.
—Noam, nonbinary, trans, 16, Paris, France
“It’s a reminder of the uncontrollable decisions my body makes without my approval”
When I have my period I feel like I can’t do ANYTHING. I used to want to go on T [testosterone] to stop my period. It’s a reminder of the uncontrollable decisions my body makes without my approval.
There’s absolutely nothing I like about getting my period. I especially dislike the idea that this will keep happening to me for most of my life, unless I take active steps to stop it.
—Anonymous, nonbinary, lesbian, 22, Washington DC, USA
“Due to dysphoria, I usually say I’m sick when I’m on my period”
When I was in school I’d go home with a fever every time my period started. Even before I realized I was trans I didn’t like anything about having a period—mostly due to debilitating cramps. Now the main things I dislike are the bottom dysphoria and the way menstruation is described as a “women’s issue” despite non-women going through it (and plenty of women not experiencing it).
Due to dysphoria, I usually just say I’m sick when I’m on my period. I worry that this buys into the stigma of not talking about periods in public, but at the same time trans people face a lot of scrutiny and privacy invasion about our genitals. Calling it “being sick” eases my dysphoria and prevents nosy questions.
—Anonymous, nonbinary, trans, bisexual, 22, Fort Worth, USA
“I feel afraid to talk about it with anyone but close friends”
I feel weird carrying around pads because even thinking about periods causes my dysphoria to act up. I only really notice my bottom dysphoria when I have my period because of the constant pain around my pelvis. It also makes my chest more sensitive which makes binding more of a hassle.
There’s nothing I like about having a period. Without menstruating I wouldn’t have pain, the mess of blood, [the need to buy] menstrual products, or worries about birth control. If I didn’t get periods I wouldn’t have as much dysphoria. I think the worst part is that I feel afraid to talk about it with anyone but close friends. If I rant about my symptoms online I feel that a lot of people misgender me in their heads.
I find it much easier to deal with period-related dysphoria when I can predict when I’m likely to bleed. Having a period tracking app that isn’t gendered makes this ordeal so much easier.
—Anonymous, agender, trans, bisexual, 19, Waterloo, Canada
“Who’s going to wash out a mooncup in the sink of a men’s toilet?”
My period affects me significantly, especially when it’s heavy, or if I have bad cramping. It can make me grumpy, irritable, washed out, focusing on chocolate cravings, etc. Not to mention I may be somewhere or doing some job which means I don’t have ready access to a toilet, a sink, a bin, etc. Finding sanitary bins in male toilets is very hard in most places. Also, who is going to wash out a mooncup in the sink of a men’s toilet? No one.
I have dysphoria at a few different parts of my cycle. When I’m ovulating, my mucus can be slung across the room like a Spider-Man web, which sadly isn’t as cool or useful as that. Any point where I feel too moist down there makes me dysphoric, but shark week is the absolute worst as it’s an obvious, very visual, reminder that “you are not like most other men”—that you are incapacitated, messy, and complicated. Also you have to actually stick things up there.
I still have nightmares about sanitary towels from when I had to use them at school, and kids would comment about being able to hear you rustling, so they knew you were on [your period]. I remember leaving little red patches on seats when the stupid things leaked in class, and just the lack of hygiene in school toilets which meant you had no soap and no sanitary bins, and no help if you had an accident. Tampons were a necessary evil and I forced myself to use them, despite hating the feeling and the process and the mess. Don’t get me started on applicator tampons—they were the devil. At least by using my hands I felt it was man’s work.
I suppose I can at least empathise with women when the topic of periods comes up. I dislike pretty much everything about menstruation. I always found it traumatic to be reminded that I’m female-bodied and bleed every month. I thought I might not get my period, and hoped it was all a weird hoax—until it happened. Then it felt like a horror movie. I particularly don’t like the feeling when you are on a heavy day, and globs of blood rush out of you. When very fresh looking globs of blood pour out of you, that’s quite disassociating.
—Anonymous, questioning/exploring being male, trans, queer, 42, London, England
“My dysphoria gets more severe around the time of ovulation”
I’ve noticed my dysphoria gets more severe around the time of ovulation. Sometimes when I’m on my period the dysphoria gets worse too, but sometimes it doesn't. I dislike most if not everything about menstruating, and want to get my uterus removed surgically.
—Aya, nonbinary, demigirl agender (sometimes I fluctuate to more masc genders), trans, lesbian, 20, Netanya, Israel
“I dislike feeling that I can't be a real man because of it, despite knowing otherwise”
Lately, my period affects me quite a lot. I have extra dysphoria then, because I feel required to use the women's restroom even though I want to use the men's. I don't really have an outlet for my dysphoria, so it ends up being internalized.
I really don't see the good in having a period. I don't plan on having my own kids, and it causes me nothing but pain and dysphoria. I also dislike the feeling that I can't be a real man because of it, despite knowing otherwise.
—David Barrett, nonbinary, trans masculine, pansexual, 18, Akron, Ohio, USA
Know what’s coming. Download Clue to track your menstrual cycle.