The result of the constant barrage of trans ideology and inclusion is that the media talks about periods way more than they used to. Once the purview of women’s medical journals and whispers, the state of modern menstruation has taken up lots of pixel space, but only in the context of trans men’s experience with it. The new claim is that periods are more painful for female-bodied trans men than they are for female-bodied female persons because, in addition to the physical discomfort, they experience mental anguish as well.
A new report by NBC News speaks to the conundrum of women who believe they are men but are still saddled with women’s reproductive systems. In addition to not wanting to deal with menstruation, trans men find it troubling to use tampons and pads in men’s public bathrooms. There’s concern about the sound of the packaging, where to wash hands, and where to dispose of the used materials. While an easy solution would be to use the women’s bathroom, this, too would be a problem for trans men who would be viewed as men, not women. No matter where they use the washroom, there are problems.
Kenny Ethan Jones, a transgender model and activist, found that having his period after his transition was remarkably difficult, and wanted to speak out to help others who experience the same problem. He told NBC “I didn’t believe that having periods would be a part of my lived experience. I felt isolated; everything about periods was tailored to girls, yet me, a boy, was experiencing this and nothing in the world documented that.”
It’s interesting how much more dialogue there is about periods now that people who present as men are having them. Period products are changing to be more accommodating to people who don’t like pink, and products are being made available in more locations. What’s missed in all this inclusivity is that there are loads of women who loathe the pink buttercup infantile quality of women’s menstrual products. But companies never asked or cared to find this out, so women had no choice but to buy the overly girly products for a condition that feels anything but feminine.
Jones notes that trans and gender non conforming people can feel alienated by the menstrual products currently available on drug store shelves. And while this is undoubtedly true, it’s also true for most women. No woman likes buying menstrual products. Walking up to the register and proclaiming that you are now or will soon be bleeding feels humiliating. The same is true for use of public washrooms. No one wants to be heard ripping the plastic off a tampon or caught red-handed at the sink. It’s embarrassing all around, not just for women who have beards. But it’s only since women with facial hair and six-packs started talking about it that anyone is the least bit concerned about how uncomfortable this is.
With an interest in normalizing menstruation for trans men, Jones helmed an advertising campaign in 2018 for Pink Parcel, a subscription service for period products. In doing so, he said that “During my transition I did have to deal with experiencing periods each month and many of the negative stereotypes that can come along with it. Assuming periods are inhibiting to people tends to perpetuate period shame even more, and makes people even more reluctant to talk about them.” Jones had attended an all-girls school, came out as trans at 14, started socially transitioning at 16 by shaving his head and changing his name, and began hormone treatment at 17.
His outspoken words on periods and their discomfort, however, apply equally to trans men and to women, because despite the rhetoric saying that periods are so much worse for those who present as men and don’t want them, periods are literally just as awful for everybody who has them, because no one actually wants to experience them. The division between trans men and women with regard to period pain, body dysphoria, and the difficulty in dealing with the logistics of it is entirely arbitrary. All this language does is isolate women into a category where it’s assumed that they like all the weird things that happen to their bodies, simply because they know they are things that are supposed to happen to healthy bodies.
Women and trans men are not different when it comes to experiencing menstruation, and all this division does is box women in cutesy pink packaging of acceptance. Separating trans men who bleed from women who bleed reinforces gender stereotypes, and while trans men may feel lifted by new period products with trucks and rifles on them instead of bows and duckies, this does nothing but further ghettoize women who accept the inevitability of their femaleness.