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The concepts of gender and sexuality are evolving at a decent pace to make the world more gender-fluid. Yet, the topic of ‘menstruation’ is still fraught with cissexism – or the discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. 

The language we use is important

People usually tend to use the words women and girls when talking about periods. The use of gendered language when discussing periods can be harmful because it reinforces the false idea that menstruation equals women. This inevitably excludes individuals who do not identify as women, including trans men, non-binary folx, gender fluid, and intersex people. This can also isolate individuals who identify as a woman but do not menstruate.  

There’s a broad spectrum of those who menstruate

Navigating periods when all information, marketing, packaging, products, and discussions are targeted towards women exclusively can make people who do not fit within the common definition of “women” become easily isolated, marginalized, stigmatized, and discriminated against. When health care issues are gendered, it can further prevent trans and gender non-conforming from accessing essential information and resources to manage their health. Periods can also be a source of gender dysphoria for many who experience periods but do not identify as women or girls. Associating menstruation with womanhood can make them feel dysphoric about their bodies and struggle with how they see themselves. 

A woman is more than her anatomy

Menstruation being rooted in the idea of womanhood is also harmful to women who cannot menstruate. Cisgender women can sometimes not experience menstruation – a condition known as amenorrhoea, which can be attributed to a range of multiple factors such as low body weight, mental stress, excessive exercise, eating disorders such as anorexia, birth control, and hormonal imbalance (Polycystic ovary syndrome or thyroid malfunction) to list a few. It can also be due to menopause (the time that marks the end of your menstrual cycles). Considering menstruation as a girl’s or a woman’s only issue can make them feel as if they are not a ‘real woman’ or ‘woman enough’, which is of course a false narrative. To be identified as a woman, you do not have to have a period, a uterus, or even ovaries for that matter.

What does gender-inclusive language look like?

It is about time that we move past the idea that periods are rooted exclusively in “womanhood” rather than an experience that can be highly variable, and mean different things to different people. Dismantling this narrative starts with adjusting the way we talk about periods. It can be done by making simple changes in our everyday language surrounding menstruation. You should avoid using the words “women” or “girls” exclusively when discussing periods. Instead, you could use language like: “People who menstruate”, “people who have periods”, or “menstruators’’. Despite referring to products as “feminine hygiene products” or “women’s health” products, we can say “menstrual products” or “period products”. You can also use the names for the specific products you are referring to, such as “pads”, “tampons”, “liners”, “menstrual cups”, etc.

Changing narratives and promoting inclusion

Using more inclusive language can make those that do not identify as women feel more included in menstruation narratives and create more dialogues about the experience of periods from people with different gender identities. It can also help dismantle cultures of shame and misinformation surrounding menstruation that has been around for thousands of years.

Menstruation does not have to be assigned gender and the language we use is important. As the world is evolving to be more gender-fluid, the language around menstruation has to evolve to become more gender-neutral and inclusive too. It is important to remember that – not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women.

The Conversation

6 Responses

  1. The fact that CLOWNFISH can switch genders is supposed to support this argument that women are not the only ones who menstruate? Give me a break. This is ludicrous. I will not have my language and choice of words dictated to me by people whose feelings cannot tolerate the fact that they were not born women. The actual rate of true intersex people is minuscule and no, I will not change my words for them. Doesn’t anyone else notice how bizarre and impossible it is that this population has supposedly exploded in the last decade? Natural shifts are never that fast. This is a social contagion.

  2. Honestly, it’s articles like this that make me feel like I’m not woman enough. It feels like my womanhood is stripped away from me to save someone else’s feelings. Well, respectfully, fuck that. People can’t even DEFINE woman anymore cuz it goes against the insane ideology of TQ+ people.

    LGB is LITERALLY about your preference for biological sex, so I have no qualms with them. The TQ+ people need to grow up and accept that woman means an adult female human. Female means you have female reproductive organs. A big reason why so many young women identify as TQ+ is partly due to the SHAME of being female or the pain it causes that’s been constantly instilled in us because of ancient Abrahamic and patriarchal manipulation.

    So many women today are reclaiming their sexuality, reclaiming their menstrual cycles and wombs, and discovering that we don’t have to be at war with our bodies and our biology. It’s a beautiful thing to be in harmony with. But the perpetuation of the idea that biological women are the problem in this conversation is absolutely ridiculous. We are the BEGINNING. Before a man, there’s always a woman that birthed him. Before a TQ+ person, there was a uterus that protected that person. Our bodies create life. We are LIFE. Someone’s feelings do NOT have influence over the power of life-giving women.

    And to trans men who still have ovaries and a uterus, you are a woman. If a trans man is pregnant, how can your gender dysphoria handle that trauma?? Real transsexual men and women are not putting themselves in the situation of jeopardizing their dysphoria because it’s THAT intense and harmful for them.

    Please, young women, girls, please know that being female, being woman is a gift. We innately have so much power that men can’t begin to understand. We are rooted with nature and life itself. Please don’t think that it’s a curse just because the world and the medical field told you it is. Actually learning about your infradian rhythm and being present in the moment with yourself during your cycle, and even tracking the moon along with it if you like astrology, is so rewarding and beautiful.

    Please don’t harm yourselves because someone else told you that being woman is a curse and isn’t worth anything. You’re beautiful, powerful, strong, brave, creative, and so much more. Being woman is being the embodiment of life.

    1. Yk womanhood isn’t about our bodies right? Being woman is more than what our bodies can do, also you clearly don’t know anything about trans people and people who are trans because it definitely is not due to shame of the gender it’s simply not feeling comfortable and thats 👌🏽.
      Also not all women can even have kids, this can be trans women or even cis women who are just not fertile. And about periods being a beautiful thing yes it can be but bot for people who literally have medical conditions that make their periods physically unbearable.

      There’s also intersex people. People who were born neither male or female, and some intersex people can get their periods and get pregnant. Also you talking about this nature and spiritual bullshit, you know there are species in nature who are able to change their gender such as the clownfish, not to mention there are species who have more than just two genders. These are natures creations not man so for you to be so transphobic is to honestly disrespect nature itself.

  3. Not even in your wildest dreams! WE don’t need to do anything, but YOU need to start respecting women and to seriously grow some common sense. This article is so insane it looks like a parody. Menstrual cycles are a WOMEN thing. This is obvious and you know it. So stop this nonsense and start respecting women.

    1. How is this article disrespectful to cis women? its just saying periods aren’t a cis women thing never have been. Intersex people are people who are born with both male and female genitalia. Some, not all, can get their periods. Intersex people exist and the earliest record of an intersex person was in the 17th century.

  4. This has to be the most ignorant, uneducated, self-righteous piece of virtue-signaling bullshit I’ve ever come across.

    Your attempts to change our societies parlance by you and your ilk is akin to a petulant, weak, insipid little child trying to bully stronger, more intelligent children with good personalities.

    You and your ilk are far too stupid, vapid, and self-absorbed to get the most moronic “movement” in the history of mankind and womankind to make even the slightest dent outside of your own flimsy Twitter bubbles.

    You’re all so stubborn and shallow you can’t even see how you hurt the greater LBGTQ cause through your constant, feeble attempts at micromanaging the aforementioned parlance. None of you has even a modicum of self-awareness.

    So I beg of you all, take the foolish ideas you have, such as is written in this article, and shove them up your collective asses. Shove your neopronouns up there while you’re at it, too. Please and thank you 💋

    Tito 🖕🏽🤎

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