Gender dysphoria and your cycle
When you get your period but you’re not a woman, this can cause discomfort and anxiety
Gender dysphoria happens when a person experiences distress because of a mismatch between their anatomy and their gender identity. Getting your period as a person who doesn’t identify as a woman can cause discomfort and anxiety—especially when many people equate menstruation with femaleness. Not all women menstruate, and not all people who menstruate identify as women.
We reached out to the trans, non-binary, and gender-nonconforming community of Clue users to ask about their experiences during the menstrual cycle. Here are their thoughts on gender dysphoria and menstruation:
“I normally end up dressing more masculine. I prefer to use tampons as there is no visual reminder that I bleed.” - Anonymous
“I typically disassociate to escape from the dysphoria. I also bind regularly whenever I go out and sometimes my androgynous appearance and flatter chest helps." - Sam
“Sometimes I feel ‘not trans enough’ because period dysphoria feels like such a common experience among transmasculine people. I’m dysphoric about my physical appearance and social perception, but my bodily functions don’t bother me.” - Grey
Everyone has a different experience and different needs. What helps one person might make things worse for someone else. Not everyone who is trans or gender-nonconforming feels dysphoric when they menstruate, and not every trans person wants to have surgery or take hormones. Only you can know and decide what is best for you, but if you are struggling with gender dysphoria during your menstrual cycle, here are some things that might help:
Find the perfect period supplies.
Want to avoid the pink and flowery section of the supermarket? Reusable pads or a menstrual cup can be a good option. Cups only need to be changed twice a day if your flow is not heavy. Pads don’t need to be inserted, and if you use reusable cloth pads you can change them quietly without that telltale “wrapper sound.” You can buy or D.I.Y. pad-friendly boxer briefs. If you find standard pads and tampons convenient, you can always buy them online, shop for them on days when your dysphoria is at a low point, or find other creative solutions to make the process less stressful for yourself. Try a few different products and see what makes you feel the most comfortable.
Ease the pain.
You can manage cramps with a hot water bottle or heating pad, painkillers or a warm shower or bath. Masturbation is another popular remedy, as is chocolate. Stretching or exercise can ease pain and give you an endorphin boost.
At difficult times of your cycle, or anytime you feel dysphoric, try doing or saying things that affirm how you identify, such as wearing your favorite outfit. Clothes that you feel good in and that affirm your gender can make a huge difference, as can binding (using a binder to flatten your chest) or packing (padding your underwear to give the appearance of having a penis).
“I’d wear my binder at home and try on different clothes. Sometimes I’d go for a walk, and accidentally bump into someone, and they’d say ‘Sorry, man!’ That was always nice.” - Anonymous
Reach out for support.
Share your feelings and get reassurance from other trans people to remind yourself that you are not the only one going through this. Or, reach out to a supportive cisgender friend, family member, therapist. Additionally, you could write in your journal or blog, cuddle a furry animal, play music that uplifts you or chat anonymously with someone at a LGBTQIA helpline like The Trevor Project. Remember that having a period doesn’t make you female any more than having nipples makes someone a mother. People of all genders can and do have periods.
Stop your period.
You might decide to stop or reduce the frequency and heaviness of your period by using hormonal birth control. This could be in the form of pills, the Depo-Provera injection, a hormonal implant, hormonal ring or hormonal IUD. Some people find that taking testosterone stops their menstruation, but others continue to get their period or spotting even after months of treatment. You can read more about testosterone and your cycle in a previous article.
A more permanent way to stop your period is a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus) although it can be difficult to find doctors that will do this and health insurance that will cover it. Talk with your healthcare provider to find the best option for you. If you need help to access appropriate healthcare, we wrote a guide to finding a trans-friendly OB/GYN.
Maybe you want to call them “brovaries” instead of ovaries, or perhaps you prefer to use scientific terms. Use the words that work for you. Menstruation isn’t a “women’s issue,” it is an issue for people who menstruate. Bodies and body parts don’t need to be gendered. Let’s just say “people with periods” or “people who menstruate.” It’s that easy!
“I don’t see the need for coded language. I usually just refer to it as ‘I’m dying.’ That’s just my fatalistic humor rearing its head.” -Anonymous
Within the Clue app, we do our best to remain gender neutral, but in some of our marketing we’re still using the term “female” to describe what we do and be accessible to people who are not familiar with evolving language around menstruation and gender.
Be kind to yourself
There’s no need to put too much pressure on yourself to figure this out right away, so focus on finding solutions for yourself one at a time. Growing up in a society that (mostly) conforms to the gender binary makes it seem as if gender is intrinsic to our body parts. It takes time to undo the social conditioning that has brought us here, so be patient with yourself as you start to unlearn that link.
Try to remember that your period is not male or female, and it does not make you male or female. It just is. And that is okay.
Want to find out if your dysphoria fluctuates at certain times of your cycle? Did you start or change hormonal medication, and want to keep a record of any changes in bleeding, cramps or mood? Download Clue and start tracking today.
This article was updated on May 14, 2020.