Menstruation Does Not Define Me

Gender and sex cannot be reduced to reproductive organs

Photo: Grace Cary/Getty Images

Here we go again. Amid a global pandemic and worldwide protests in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, a straight White cisgender billionaire can still grab headlines with trans-antagonistic tweets, taking issue with the fact that people other than women menstruate.

I am one of those people. I was assigned female at birth, but I am agender. In 2014, I transitioned to male for legal and medical purposes and began testosterone therapy. After enduring decades of unwelcome menstruation from unwanted reproductive organs, I was glad to put an end to their function.

Unfortunately, I recently began menstruating again. As has happened to many trans people, my medical care was interrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Before lockdown, I had been getting biweekly shots at my doctor’s office. In mid-March, among other social distancing measures, medical offices began deferring nonurgent appointments and “elective” procedures.

My doctor encouraged me to resume doing my testosterone injections at home. But given my anxiety and issues with having my partner do the injections, I decided to stop them altogether for the time being. As I was working exclusively from home, I figured I could deal with any mood changes, menstrual pain, and bleeding better than I could at the office. And at age 50, I hoped that I might finally enter menopause; not being on hormones might give me a better sense of whether that change was happening.

Defining a person by their ability to become pregnant — which is what menstruation, the shedding of the uterine lining, signifies — is the opposite of feminism. It is oppression.

After two months with no periods and some night sweats, I was hopeful that my years of unwanted fertility were finally ending for good. But in late May, the bleeding started again. Not just spotting but a full period — an event that, despite being in the relative comfort and safety of my home, I was ill-equipped to deal with emotionally and physically. I talked with my doctor, and she said I could resume my injections at the office.

Whether or not I am actively menstruating, I am not a woman and not a female. I feel no special kinship with other people who happen to have a uterus and ovaries. Nor do I consider trans women to be men or male simply because they lack these body parts. Outside of a doctor’s office, no one sees these reproductive organs, and they are no one else’s business.

Self-described “gender-critical” feminists, which trans people and our allies usually call TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), say they are defending women when what they are really doing is reducing them to body parts. Defining a person by their ability to become pregnant — which is what menstruation, the shedding of the uterine lining, signifies — is the opposite of feminism. It is oppression.

Trans women are women, trans men are men, and nonbinary people are nonbinary, period. Our genders are authentic, and our struggles to survive and thrive in a society that mocks, rejects, and attacks us are real.

Black trans women are especially in need of support. If you want to take action in support of Black women, trans folks, and against racist police violence at the same time, consider donating to the TGI Justice Project.

Here are some other organizations that support Black trans folks. I shared this list as part of my internship with the San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives during our Pride kickoff event.

Gender essentialism is not feminism. People are not body parts. Supporting women means supporting all women — Black and trans women included.

Photo: San Francisco Office of Transgender Initiatives

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, photographer, blogger. Pronouns: they/them/their. funcrunch.org, patreon.com/funcrunch

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