I have a complicated relationship with my menstrual cycle. For all the hardships it puts me through: acne, cramps, headaches, and more, I still love it, stained sheets and all. It makes me feel connected to my body and, in a weird way, makes me feel in control.
However, my menstrual cycle does not enhance my femininity or my womanhood, because I am not a woman. In fact, when I am menstruating I often feel I need to overcompensate in my masculinity. My period, though I love it, makes me often feel less connected to my nonbinary identity. And this is not because menstruating is inherently feminine or female, it is because society and, often, menstruators themselves, perpetuate the idea that menstruation is tied to women.
Yes, the majority of menstruators are women and the majority of women are or have been menstruators; however, not all of us are. The community of menstruators includes a vast array of people: trans men, nonbinary assigned female at birth people, cisgender women, and people of many more identities. However, by using exclusionary terms like “women” and “feminine hygiene” in conversations surrounding menstruation, an environment of exclusion is created, because not all menstruators are women and not all women are menstruators.
If you feel empowered by associating your menstrual cycle with your womanhood, I am not the person to stop you from feeling that way. However, I am trying to stop you from imposing that view on everyone else.
I am afraid about how people will react to a person who does not identify as female being a part of the conversation surrounding menstruation, so I often have to force myself to speak up in those environments. And I often feel excluded from conversations surrounding menstruation because I am not a woman.
Not only am I and other menstruators who are not women hurt by exclusionary language surrounding menstruation, but so are women who are not menstruators. Transgender women, some intersex women, and cisgender women who cannot or who have lost the ability to menstruate also suffer from exclusionary language and actions.
Tying womanhood and menstruation together makes women who are not menstruators appear and feel like less valid women and keeps menstruators who are not women tied to an identity they do not connect with and expectations they do not meet.
In an environment that already oppresses and denies us for so many reasons, it is more upsetting and difficult to be denied by the community we are supposed to feel accepted by simply because we are not cisgender menstruating women.
It is because of these reasons that I call upon all menstruators, all women, and all people to stop referring to menstruators simply as women, and menstrual products as feminine hygiene products, and to expand your minds and your vocabularies to include those of us who do not fit your mold of what a perfect menstruator looks like. We are not all the same, we are not all women, but that does not mean we are not any less deserving of menstrual advocacy than you are.