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Extending period conversations beyond cis women

Before you even have your first period, there are certain perceptions that are drilled into us from a young age. Lifestyle journalist and futurist @disha_daswaney looks at how the conversation should be opened up to all genders.

Throughout the years, we’ve all seen the most stereotypical ads to represent a period – all of which show a cis woman. Some of you may be wondering what cisgender means and it refers to people whose gender identity matches their sex at birth.

So, picture this seriously outdated advert: a cis woman wearing white is running around and suddenly she gets period and blue goo is poured onto a sanitary pad. Over the years, there have been attempts to change the narrative – now we see red to represent blood and also the first trans male who appeared in an advert for indie brand Callaly.

And while it is truly admirable to advocate our rights against the pink tax and free period campaigns for schoolgirls, there’s a huge chunk of the narrative missing. Two-thirds (66%) of people don’t feel their experiences of periods are show in media and advertising. So, how can someone who is struggling with gender identity issues at any age truly understand that their period does not define them, if they are excluded from the conversation?

“Periods are taught to you as this woman’s thing and it’s you becoming a woman – you are flowering into this butterfly. But I felt like I wanted to stay a caterpillar. We aren’t really told there are other options [other than embracing that],” said writer and visual artist Vic Jouvert.

Since starring in Callaly’s campaign Jouvert has been writing about the issues as much as he can and sharing his story with other queer and trans people. Talking about periods is extremely impactful for younger trans and non-binary people, who were assigned female at birth (AFAB). Jouvert says: “For people who are going through puberty they need to understand that periods are for all genders.”

After taking hormone-replacement therapy, he knew that his period would stop between six months to a year, but it took a long time to come to terms with his new reality. Jouvert adds: “It was a dramatic thing once a month and every time it would happening – I would have to repeat to myself that it’s ok and it isn’t invalidating everything else – it doesn’t make me less of a man.”  

However, for trans women there’s a misconception that they have periods too. Jacqui Devon is the founder of Not a Phase, which lobbies for change and making a difference to trans lives across the UK via education, financial and material investment.  She says: “Society has a responsibility to be inclusive of all people who have periods. We have to understand that transmen and non-binary people still may have periods even though they do not identify with being a woman. I think it’s really important for conversations to be fully inclusive to the people that it affects so people feel comfortable approaching their problems with health professionals.”

But when having these conversations, we also need to understand that trans women medically transition and change their hormone levels with testosterone blockers and female hormones, so they may experience PMS symptoms. Devon explains: “We experience side-effects, which are the same as PMS symptoms because we are talking about similar chemical balances in the body and hormone replacement therapy is taken on a cycle too.”

On a deeper level, there are huge amounts that society can offer to people with periods. It specifically involves not shaming their actions. Devon proclaims, “We need to learn how to have more empathy towards a situation.”

Written by journalist Disha Daswaney

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