Cycle Diaries Vol 4: Unlearning period shame
16th November 2021
The last time I menstruated was some months ago now. The feeling was almost always horrendous and every part of it hurt as bad as the stomach cramps did. No sanitary bins, plastic sandwich bags in my pocket for pad disposal, forever reminded of my being ‘other’. The shame of it all.
Feelings of shame are in-built for those who bleed. We are taught from a very young age that to have a period is to hide having a period. The adverts all glorify the woman who ‘you’d never know’ was bleeding – as if for those around you to know that you exist in a body that menstruates is undesirable.
In early 2019, in conversation with one of my best friends, who just so happens to also have a period, I was complaining about mine. I had unbearable cramps, anxiety-induced-nausea, and a lot of shame. My friend pointed out that she was trying to unlearn the societal shame projected onto people who bleed and suggested that my use of terms such as ‘monthly hell time’ were not exactly aiding this process for her. Until very recently, I'd not considered one key additional fact: it was not aiding me either.
I’d seen her experiences as detached entirely to mine. I wasn’t in a hurry to stop using the term ‘monthly hell time’; I certainly would never describe myself as ‘having a period’. I used language to distance myself from what was really happening, because my internalised transphobia was relentlessly reminding me that my body was wrong. It wasn’t right for my friend to be ashamed of her period, but I was so sure that for me it was different. That my shame was in some way founded by my being trans. I was so sure that my body was incorrect.
Now, some years and many periods later, I know that my body was never wrong. Having a period may have been uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing, physically and emotionally distressing. I threw up on the bus once. It was very rough. It still is when I get the occasional one. But none of these feelings are remedied by my resentment of the ways I differ from cisgender folks. In fact, quite the opposite.
As trans people, we have enough to deal with from the outside world. I'm choosing to be on my own team now. I'm me, I'm trans, this is my body, sometimes it bleeds.