Question: Queering Menstruation

CInnaZimtAnie asks…

I’m a genderforker working on a paper involving queer genders & menstruation. It is so difficult to find resources! Has anyone seen anything? A study? A little bit from a book (nonfiction or fiction)? Or maybe you’d be willing to share your story with me? I know that menstruating is a big deal for me because of how it conflicts with and sometimes confirms my gender ID. Does everyone else just deal with it and not give it much thought? What’s up?

You can feel free to email me at genderclear at gmail dot com if you have any comments you don’t want to share publicly.

Please post your response in the comments below.

» Ask Genderfork «

Posted by on March 23rd, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: questions 91 comments »

91 Responses to “Question: Queering Menstruation”

  1. Gregory

    The only thing my period gives me is that I’m more prone to headaches/migraine when I spend too much time in public transport or badly ventilated lecture rooms. (Too bad I spend too much time in public transport almost every weekend.) Headaches I can live with, and most of the time I don’t even realise when I have them.

    I used to really hate the bleeding and the whole kerfuffle that goes with that, and I still have to be really careful with replacing my pads in time or it will become a disaster. I tried tampons for a while, but unlike my period as a thing, they do make me feel uncomfortably hyperfemale.

    I have no cramps or nausea or back pain or anything, so I’m lucky. The only thing that bothers me about periods is that the parts of your life you might need that part of your body for just seem to be best put on hold for a week.

    But I know I do want to have children someday, so I taught myself to live with it. Most of the times.


  2. Kab

    I love my period. At times.

    When I have it feeling masculine, it messes with my masculinity, messes with my head, but makes me feel special.

    When I feel most feminine, it just messes with my head.

    When I feel beautifully in the middle, I LOVE the bleed. It makes me feel so womanly, so manly, so neither.

    It makes me feel me.

    (unless I have cramps)


  3. lamb

    A few years ago I was told I had PCOS and my periods were very hard to come by. This was after a year working in a construction job and HATING the way my bosses treated me like the little girl of the crew. I had a lot of anger about the whole situation and tension about being female, and I think it was mostly the anger and my trying with all my might to be as good as the boys that resulted in my ovaries being all locked up.

    All that crap came to the surface over several months of recovering from that shitty job, and my periods came back, and these days I am very happy when they show up on a regular basis. I do have to say, like the others, getting the Diva Cup is the best thing I have done in that regard. Easy to forget about, no trash, no regularly scheduled dispensing of my income to corporations just for paraphernalia to soak up my blood.

    The only other thing I have to add is that when I have awful cramps on a day that I am feeling boyish or the need to be tough, or when I have to be doing harder physical work, it just makes me feel disjointed… to be all weak in the middle but outwardly appear unperturbed.

    I sometimes wish I had a boy’s body but the fact is I was born with a girl body that functions like a girl’s body should, and I think that would stop me from ever trying to become more physically masculine. I would be so anxious that I would be messing up my physiology. I’m very sensitive to things, and I wouldn’t want to screw up the way my body runs. So I’ll stick with this girl body for this lifetime around.


  4. Char

    Since I am unable to go on a hormone like testosterone, I would be willing to try Seasonique (four periods a year) or something… maybe if I can work up the courage to go to a gyno about it. In the past, a birth control pill messed me up royally, so I may not do it again.

    As for if periods mess me up? Yes. I don’t get suicidal anymore, but I need vicodin in secret for the severe pain and I need to lay around and not be seen by anyone. (and no advice will help, I am IS and believe me- none of your female remedies are gonna work on this one)


    The idea of having to wait until menopause to kill this thing is just something that totally sucks. But it’s a lot cheaper than going on hormones and having surgeries… which I would actually become neutrois if I could. I’m so sick of the gender thing I get every month where I fall apart from this stupid “gift.” It’s not a gift when it’s so horrible that I would have to transition to get rid of it. Apparently severe pain without cause is not a good reason to get the offending organ removed before I have kids- don’t even get me started on that. Having a period is useless when you aren’t going to have kids. And I can tell you this- I am NOT having kids unless I use sperm… my own, btw.


  5. Skip

    I hated my period when it first came at 13. It gave my body a girlyness I didn’t want and didn’t feel.

    In my 20s I was on the pill so didn’t have much of a period at all. In my 30s I went off the pill and hated my period again. In my 40s my period started to be really unbearable, overflowing a super plus tampon in about an hour and a half. A couple times I had to go home in the middle of the day because of a serious blowout that went all the way through my jeans. It got to where I couldn’t give blood because I would flunk the iron test. And then there were the cramps, lasting a week along with the heavy bleeding. I tried BCP again, also NuvoRing, but both of those just gave me two periods a month. Seriously, I couldn’t tell the breakthrough bleeding from the period.

    Six months ago I had Novasure endo ablation, and I am ecstatic with the results. Now I have no period at all, or just a tiny smear of a discharge. Not having periods makes me feel more comfortable in my body. I can be my true androgynous self without having to worry about my stupid uterus exploding all over my clothes.


  6. Cyk

    I hate getting or even talking about my period because of how it made me feel like a female. I don’t identify as male, but as both (or neither, I’m not too sure yet). I’ve been lucky in that respect though, because my period seems to feel the same way and I rarely get it. In the last 4 years I’ve had it maybe 5 times. I went to the doctor after a year of not getting it, had blood and urine tests as well as an ultrasound but apparently there’s nothing wrong.


  7. Arthur Bhutic

    I love that you wear pads. It’s lovely to want to cry wearing girl-panties with you’re pads. Which I love that you wear pads, is that I love too see the waistband of you’re girl-panties appear appear above you’re pants or shorts and you see my boy-briefs appear above my pants or shorts. I only hold my underwear party with you wearing pads, which I love too see you in you’re girl-panties and you see me in my boy-briefs.


  8. Anonymous

    oh my i hate every change that had occured in my body


  9. Anonymous

    i have it right now. and it’s really messing me up. i just want it to stop. i cannot bear the idea of more than 30 years left with this. not only do i have to deal with up to 5 days of pms but then i have another 5 days of hating my body. it just reminds me of my sex and how it doesn’t match with my gender. i’m 18 and have recently moved to san francisco. the option of taking T has just become a possibility for me. the more i think about it, the more i want to do it. it’s scary because of the health risks involved, but i’m feeling more and more like it’s worth it.


  10. T

    I hate the fact that I menstruate. It feels completely unnatural to me, even though I’m ok in my female body and don’t identify with either gender. But to me it just feels very humiliating and just as if something is not right with me. I also don’t seem to be affected by any mood hormones, so I’m more like `WTF??’I’m not sure whether I want to have children some day, but if I could have someone else have them for me I’d definitely would want to get a hysterectomy.


  11. Anonymous

    I dread getting my period…but I resist that feeling as well in the off chance it’s just a symptom of our sexist culture. I’d go on birth control to regulate and tame my discomfort, if I didn’t think that in some way the pill is less liberating that everyone thinks it is. It regulates female hormones…I don’t want to be regulated.

    Getting my period deepens the connection and solidarity I feel with all other women. It is a unique combination of pain and possibility that I dislike but couldn’t imagine my identity without…no matter how genderqueer I may be.


  12. Anonymous

    My period is terrible. I’m on an extremely high dosage of Naproxen, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll have to look at options like birth control.

    I typically present as female, but more often than not I wish I had a handle down there. o___o The most frustrating thing (besides the physical pain) is how HORNY I get. Gah. Sexual things are awkward for me to begin with, but it’s really quite a bother when the day before and for a few days afterwards, all you want to do is fap. :/ The physical act of menstruation never really bothered me, however.


  13. Dez

    My family already believes I can never truly be male because I wasn’t physically born male. I try to hide my period and cycles from them so they never get to say “boys don’t have periods,” and I’ll never have to reply “I wouldn’t have as many if I were on T.”

    I guess I should be confident about every part of myself going into transition – but that’s the point of transition – some things don’t work for me and need to be changed. I hate having to buy “lady-stuff” at the drugstore, it’s a real confidence killer.


  14. Elaine G

    I haven’t read any of the comments but here’s my answer.

    I’m a genderqueer female bodied person.
    I have loved my period for the past eight years, before that I dreaded it. I had an absent mother and learned most of what I know about women’s issues from the school nurse and my friends. I have never used tampons, I could never get them in it always hurt too much when I tried, so while in middle school I mostly resorted to pads. I found the wrappers embarrassing and felt like everyone could smell me when my time came. Fortunately, I have only experienced cramping two or three times since I started menstruating and it was during the start of puberty. I’m twenty-two now and I know the way my menstrual cycle affects me better than anything else about my body.
    My menstrual cycle is regular coming exactly every 29 days and lasts 4; the first is heavy, second moderate, and the third & forth days light. When I’m bleeding I feel the joys of womanhood and also experience fairly extreme emotional lows as my period ends and the hormones start to change again.

    I feel invincible in the middle of my cycle when I’m ovulating. In fact, it is those times that I believe I reflect most masculinely. I have few mood swings, I mildly elated, and act most confident more masculine in my demeanor. I’m also hornier than a rhinoceros ;D.

    What changed eight years ago that caused me to love my womanhood and monthly bleeding? I discovered a device called the Diva Cup, it is magical! I haunted the forums of the livejournal menstrual cup community for almost a half year before I finally took the plunge and ordered one for myself (I also order cloth pads for backup – never have to worry about the wrapper sound again). The learning curve for a menstrual cup is steep but in my case well worth it. Perhaps you could look into it…I hope this was helpful.


  15. WanderingI

    I’ve always thought of the period as a kind of opponent- who will get the upper hand in the predictive game? Will I waste a ton of pads timing it too early, or end up ruining some underwear and sheets? I don’t quite keep score, but when I guess correctly I feel successful, and when I am incorrect, it’s sort of a “You win this time, but next time…” situation.
    Even though I don’t consider myself female, I can look at this sort of game and the skills I have learned from menstruating (getting blood out of clothes for one- most cismen i know would wash blood out with hot water, the ignorant fellows) as positive. And, it increases my threshold for pain. So the toughness that comes from this monthly body pain/horror actually makes me feel stronger and doesn’t conflict with my identity.


    E replied:

    I can relate to this too. Dealing with blood and gore, and enduring pain, makes me feel downright manly (odd as that might sound).


  16. Anonymous

    I’m not reading all the above comments. I’m very sorry, and I don’t mean to be rude, but I am short on time right now. I just wanted to add my two cents. I have a uterus and to me, menstruation has always been an important thing. I view it as a sort of grounding, familiar cycle which can make me feel more at ease when life feels chaotic, and can be a welcome change when I feel stuck in a rut. Aside from this, it is painful, messy, and an unwelcome reminder that I am dfab. Using anything other than pads makes me feel pretty dysphoric, so I avoid these things. I’ve recently been looking into packing to relieve bottom dysphoria, and one thing I like about pads is that they often can feel a bit as though I’m packing, which is great if I’m feeling some dysphoria during my period.


  17. Anonymous

    Genderqueer and female bodied here, i produce too much androgen, though I do menstruate. my cycle is just a bit longer. I feel most masculine around my ovulation, and I feel at my best around that time, emotionally very stable, good sex drive. But at least 12 days of that cycle, half of which pms, and the other half cramps and bleeding, just really messes with how i feel on the inside. Although i know it’s a healthy thing to do for my female body, menstruating feels emotionally wrong. It feels to me as something way too feminine for my body (and mind- I get all emotional, and confused about being emotional around that time) to go through. Birthcontrol pills don’t help me either, aside from physical side effects, I feel way more feminine when taking those, and I get completely depressed because of it.
    I would let them take it all out, or go on T if I didn’t think I possibly would want kids in the future. (Pregnancy seems like way too feminine a thing for my body to go through as well of course, but I want kids of my own)


    Anonymous replied:

    What is go on T?


    nola replied:

    T= Testosterone, going on T means hormone replacement therapy


  18. Rei

    There’s this minor character in an obscure manga called “Cresent Moon” whose physical sex would actually change over the course of a month, in accordance with the moon. That describes somewhat accurately the peculiar effect my menstruation has in me. Except for the whole regular monthly bit, anyhow.

    I also have PCOS, and as many people have described above, this means I can go many months without getting a period. I hardly miss them! I not only typically get quite ill when I menstruate, but the whole process sends not just my gender identity (epxression, atttitudes, etc.) but also my sex identity (what physical equipment I’d rather prefer, in a sense) in a state of great flux.

    Usually, right before a period, I feel very male. Not necessarily masculine (in fact, occasionally I’ll feel feminine), but male. Then the period happens, and the feeling peaks to the point where I am absolutely disgusted with my body in every possible way.

    After the period, I head to the opposite extreme, pampering, shaving, maybe even wanting to wear a skirt and makeup (a rare desire, for me). Suddenly I feel very female (and often, but not always feminine), and that feeling takes 2-3 days to fade back into my more constant state, which is androgynous in gender and indifferent to my physical sex.

    Menstruation is a chaotic time.

    Lately, I’ve been researching different options to address my issues here. I want to treat my PCOS without taking hormones that might feminize me. The hirsutism is an issue because the rough beard hairs I get are not compatible with my sensitive skin, so rashes and scabs over ingrown hairs ensue. But no hormones! Except maybe low dose T. I like feeling androgynous, neutral, genderqueer, and whathaveyou. So far, the best advice I’ve gotten is a change to at least a somewhat vegan diet, more exercise, treatment for insulin resistance, and adequate hydration.

    And one of these days, I’m gonna get this damn uterus removed. Probably doesn’t work right anyway.


  19. Anonymous

    I am 33 years old and genderqueer. I got my first blood when I was 11 and I hated it so much. I cried all day and wished I would never have to have it. It felt like a terrible curse.

    I lived with a single mother who was extremely religious and held so much shame about bodies. She did not teach me about tampons because she felt like inserting anything into the vagina was inappropriate. I hated gross disposable pads bunching and leaking and smelling. My flow was heavy and pads could not adequately handle the job.

    When I finally discovered tampons on my own, that was slightly better but always leaked. The whole thing felt like a gross inconvenience.

    I felt lucky to have long irregular cycles, averaging 35 days, so that at least it would happen less often.

    Like many others here, my whole experience of menstruating changed dramatically when I started using the Keeper cup around age 21 (and now use the Diva cup). It never leaked, I could forget about it, and I made no gross disposable garbage polluting the planet. I actually began to enjoy menstruating! All the things I hated about it were gone! A miracle!!

    Now, at 33 I am beginning to explore the pagan spiritual side of bleeding, earth cycles, and embracing menstruation as a time when I am more powerful, and more receptive to subtle energies. Unfortunately, a lot of that kind of discourse (and things like red tents) is heavily gendered towards women only. I try to ignore the language and change it in my mind to include genderqueer and trans folks.

    I have heard that letting my blood flow, rather than using a cup, increases the ability to access this power. The thing that led me to finding this amazing thread was researching cloth pad options for genderqueers. I wear trunk briefs so regular cloth pads are not compatible.

    Lunapads has this awesome statement on trans inclusion:

    They offer some brief-like menstrual undies, but I have not yet ordered them because this is bringing up flashbacks to the uncomfortable pad experiences of my youth. What if I hate it again, like I did then?

    I agree with what Charlie said: “getting my period makes me feel witchy! (connected to the moon and the tides and the Earth’s movements in general.)”

    And I LOVE what ZB said: “it’s my totally hardcore werewolf time! And anyone can be a freaking werewolf!”

    What I would love to find is a community of genderqueers and trans men who embrace the spiritual, witchy, werewolfy, empowered experience of menstruation, make it queer as fuck, and reclaim it from the oppressive messages we get that it is dirty, gross, shameful, female, and something that only women do.

    Menstruation is something that people of all genders experience, and I would love to see space open up for this to be empowering, for those who seek it. (I also acknowledge and respect the space for other kinds of genderqueer and trans experience that desire total separation from bleeding.)

    Thanks for this thread. It is so awesome to hear from other genderqueers who are embracing and feeling empowered by their bleeding cycles.


    Morgan from Lunapads replied:

    Hey Anonymous!
    Let us know if you’d like to try a pair of Lunapanties on us, in exchange for your feedback. We’d really love to hear what you think of them.
    We get a lot of requests to make pads that will fit with boxer briefs, a difficult proposition for us, from both a design and manufacturing perspective. It would be super valuable to us to have your feedback on whether Lunapanties are a suitable alternative for those seeking a solution to this. Just pop me an email at blog [at] lunapads [dot] com with your size and preferred style.

    Also, I’m so grateful to read all of your thoughts on menstruation. Thanks for opening up about such a personal topic and providing such valuable perspectives!


  20. Aewin

    Background: I had a big epiphany a while ago where I realized that while I often feel masculine, I never feel feminine or female. I’d just accepted that I was female because I was told for 25+ years that I was and had never examined it in-depth. I’m somewhere on the masculine side of ‘ambiguously gendered’ in that if someone were to mistake me for male or female I’d rather be mistaken for male since it’s the box I more closely fit in, and I have plans to medically transition in that direction. Some terms that more or less fit me depending on which definitions you’re using for them are transmasculine, androgynous, and neutrois.

    Now, for more on me and my periods. Pre-epiphany I got on birth control to manage my periods, which made them shorter by a few days, and I switched over to Lunapads since they were more comfortable and more environmentally-conscious than disposables. I’m happy with my vagina (though I would like a penis to go with it) and there’s no dysphoria regarding having one, but I’ve never been one for tampons. And I’ve never really enjoyed my periods, because I don’t intend to have children, so the whole ordeal seems like a waste of bodily resources for me.

    Post-epiphany I occasionally get dysphoric about my periods. I tend to swing more masculine in my presentation during that time; I pack and bind more often (binding for me is merely symbolic until I get chest surgery, as I have I-cups, but it does help me feel better about my body regardless of whether I pass as anything but female) while I’m on my period, and I think it might be a way of compensating and returning my body to a more neutral state.

    The dysphoria has been exacerbated by my recent switch from estrogen-containing birth control to progesterone-only pills to reduce the weight gain and brain fog I got while on them. My periods have gotten longer and heavier, but if I do well on progesterone pills for a few months my doctor will let me go on Depo-Provera, which often eliminates or reduces periods, and I’m crossing my fingers that that comes to pass. I love my Lunapads in the interim, since they’ve made the whole process of dealing with my period feel a lot more personal and like I’m in control of that bodily process.


  21. E

    I am genderqueer, afab, and am ok with my period. I used to have very painful cramps, which was obviously not cool, but now in my mid-30’s I seem to have outgrown them. I actually find blood kind of interesting in a “boyish” sort of way I guess: I use menstrual cups and there’s something oddly satisfying about filling them up. It doesn’t seem feminine at all: “good girls” are grossed out by their own periods because they’re yucky and dirty, right? I never was. When I started them at 11, I felt proud and grown-up. Not womanly, just, you know, adult. Sometimes I feel like having a period “resets” and purifies my body and mind in some way, and if I’m cranky, that’s part of the purification process: like I’m rejecting whatever is toxic in my life, mentally and physically.


  22. Felix Hewitt (Rin Patric)

    I absolutely hate my periods, not even because they are gross and painful, but because I have always felt that they were unnecessary. I never want to have kids… mostly because I feel like it’s not my role, I’M not supposed to be the one having kids. I don’t know, it’s just weird.
    And then the hormones happen and I feel not only very dysphoric, but depressive. It’s a very difficult time for me, and happens all too often. Fortunately I have slightly irregular periods, and for a few months (because of a traumatic experience, don’t ask) did not get my period.
    Unfortunately, because of my irregular cycle, I have no idea when my period is coming. I don’t even get a warning more than bad back pain when it happens. This causes a mess as well as extreme frustration over not being able to just take my uterus out of my body.
    If there was any way for me to take my uterus and ovaries out tomorrow, I would do it without hesitation.


  23. Anonymous

    Has anyone on this list tried Mirena? It is an IUD treated with levonorgestrel (a progestin analogue) that apparently stops menstruation for up to 5 years.


    Edith Wilson replied:

    Well! I haven\’t tried yet. But I have read about it. My friend was planning to go for Mirena as she was going through the heavy flow every time she had menstruation. The sanitary products did not help her a lot. But, last year onwards, on doctor\’s recommendation she started using a menstrual cup ( and was satisfied with the result. The doctor advised her that she reuse the cup sterilizing it.


  24. Anonymous

    Because of a genetic disorder my periods have been rather difficult. I would be lucky if I had 1 – 3 days without bleeding. I would bleed quite a lot. So one of specialist doctors recommended putting a mirena IUD inside my uterus. I had the operation and longer experience any bleeding. Having my period was rather difficult for me emotionally as it reminded me that I was born female. It was also difficult for me physically and academically. I am glad that I got the IUD but it is a physical reminder of my birth sex.


  25. Anonymous

    I’m a genderqueer AFAB person and I don’t have a problem with my periods. I don’t see them as a symbol of femininity, rebirth, spiritual connection with the earth, etc. They’re just a thing that my body does. I feel like some cis women have a kind of emotional connection to their periods that I don’t share or have an interest in. I would also never choose to be pregnant, so it makes my periods seem kind of like having an appendix.


  26. Anonymous

    I looked up Marina, it is only for some people that it stops, usually becoming lighter but the first three months may increase bleeding or make it irregualar


  27. Anonymous

    I’ve always hated it though it never caused me any cramps or any other PMS related symptoms besides slightly mood swings and sore breasts. BUT.. I feel so disgusted and degraded by the whole bleeding, mess and discomfort that I would get rid of it for ever and ever. Though recently for the last year the bleeding isn’t even that heavy, mostly the first day only, still it makes me hate my female body, and makes me feel useless and dirty. I’m gender neutral and this crap gets on my nerves pretty much every month. Ugh..


  28. Hannah

    Hi – I am writing a paper on this too – and finding limited resources. Find any noteworthy ones? Would love to share.



    Fine way of telling, and nice post to get data about my presentation subject matter, which i am going to deliver in college.


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