“This is a trans thing and it doesn’t make me less of a man”
My period arrived the same day that an anti-trans bill in the US passed, allowing medical professionals to legally discriminate against patients based on their gender identity alone. It was also the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub massacre and a few days after JK Rowling’s anti-trans tweet storm. I stumbled across the news while scrolling through my feed first thing in the morning. Before I could even get through the article, I was choking on tears. I wasn’t surprised. I had read about the proposal of the bill months prior but somehow the actual passing of it in the midst of a pandemic on this day in particular felt so personal and cruel.
I gathered some internal strength, slathered Testogel on my shoulders and read through the details of the bill while it dried. I looked for the silver lining – state laws could still contradict it and it might be appealed. It was still a huge blow to know that I could no longer be certain I’d have equal access to healthcare in the country I’m from. I also worried that the UK would pass something similar, as the UK often mirrors the US in its anti-LGBTQ+ policies.
I dragged myself to get dressed and ready for the day, stumbling along to the bathroom. I had recently purchased a prosthetic penis, which had hugely alleviated some of my gender dysphoria and given me a much-needed confidence boost. I went to use the toilet standing up and scarlet drops left my prosthetic. Plop, plop… into the toilet bowl, atomic-bomb-like mushroom clouds: the physical embodiment of my emotional vulnerability.
I had already begun to associate myself with people who used to menstruate but no longer do. I was four months on testosterone and had not had a period in over two months. I was becoming a man, my body shifting into its true form, and periods had no place in the vision I had of my future self. I felt I was simultaneously being invalidated by my internal biology and the external transphobic world. I couldn’t do much about the bill being passed beyond signing a petition and writing to my congressman, but I could start to reprogram my thoughts around menstruation.
I consider the arrival of my first period as the moment in which I began to repress my true gender identity as a child.
I consider the arrival of my first period as the moment in which I began to repress my true gender identity as a child. I had lived happily as an androgenous tomboy in my youth and as puberty set upon me I rejected every aspect of it, clinging desperately to my boyhood. But then my period arrived and I was a woman. It felt as though there was no turning back, and from that moment onwards I attempted to embrace my unyielding biology. The result was many unhappy years, not entirely miserable, but void of the kind of unabridged happiness I often feel now.
The connection I made early on with menstruation was so formative to my sense of self that it has been difficult to reframe my thinking around it as a trans man. I had initially just wanted to ignore it until it quite literally went away with hormone replacement therapy, but there are many reasons why I might experience a period again, even after it has stopped. For instance if I ever want to try to get pregnant, or change the type or dosage of testosterone I take, I might experience a period. Also I could still menstruate for the next six months or longer. Testosterone affects everyone differently so I don’t want to be devastated every time my body decides to bleed.
Last week I had a period and, for the first time in a very long time, it wasn’t an all-engulfing occurrence. At first I was still very much ready to get upset and my stomach sank when I saw the red drops in the toilet bowl, but I was able to pause, actively reflect upon what it means to be a trans man and integrate menstruation into that internal dialogue as a trans man. I thought to myself, ‘This is a trans thing and it doesn’t make me less of a man.’ It might sound silly but it worked surprisingly well, and the next time I have a period I’ll think the same thing until it becomes a real inherent belief. This is how we begin to reshape our ideas around societal norms and grow ourselves inside and out. It is a long and turbulent process in a lot of ways but being able to feel OK about something that has caused me pain my entire life is a tremendous personal achievement.