On June 6, the day before my transition party, I began my first post-testosterone period. I found it very ironic that I should be on the rag for a party celebrating my transition from female-to-male. I figured I would have 1-2 more periods after that. About two weeks ago, I started the familiar PMS. First, I had a sore throat (I know, weird, but that’s been going on for about a year.) Then cramping and vaginal dryness (TMI?). Then moodiness. But then . . . no period! I’m still waiting with baited breath in case it’s just late. But it’s quite possible that my first post-T period was my last. Time will tell.
As I contemplate a future without menstruation, part of me is thrilled at not having to deal with the various inconveniences associated with feminine monthly bleeding. The expense of female sanitary products as well as the ambiguous “safe” nature of white-washed pads and tampons are things I won’t miss (I tried a menstrual cup a few years ago but the tip of it kept poking at me from inside no matter how short I cut it. I have a weird vagina though and I hear it works really well for most women so I encourage menstruating females to at least try it. You save money and save your inner genitals from harsh chemicals. But I digress.) Nor will I miss the constant paranoia about leaking and showing, or the disappointment when one’s period starts a day or so before something fun such as a trip, a hot potentially matressable date or . . . ummm . . . one’s transition party. What I will miss the least is PMS. For the past 6-7 years, I’ve had horrible PMS. For a few days every month, I’ve suffered from extreme feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and loneliness (i.e. I look horrible, I can’t do anything right, I have never accomplished anything of worth, no one loves me, I have no real friends, etc.)
However, part of me will miss what I came to see as an empowering process. Studying anthropology and conducting fieldwork with a Native Canadian family that viewed menstruation as something powerful helped me see that it wasn’t the vile, disgusting process that I was raised to see it as. Rather, it’s a purifying and cleansing process. People sometimes hear stories about societies where women were isolated during menstruation and assume that this meant that women were oppressed. Well, maybe the men in those societies saw it that way (or maybe not . . .maybe they were misinterpreted by Euro-centric and androcentric anthropologists) but according to some of the comments coming from women themselves, menstrual seclusion is far from degrading. Instead, it gives women a break from the daily grind and a chance to peacefully commune with other women. If I were less lazy, I would dig up some actual references but . . .I’m feeling lazy.
In spite of the above-mentioned hassles, then, I had come to see menstruation as something powerful. I found meaning in it. It gave me a certain connection with the earth. And now, as I wonder if I will have one last period, I look for ways to maintain that connection.
Now that I’ve experienced PMS with no immediate period after, I realise that menstruation, for me, was also about release. All the frustrations and sadness disappeared once I started bleeding. So now I’m in this weird liminal state induced by PMS but not alleviated by menstruation.
There is society called the Wogeo in New Guinea where men would cut themselves on a regular basis to mimic menstruation. (I’m not sure if they do it today as many Indigenous peoples around the world have abandoned customs due to colonisation and globalisation. I’m not familiar enough with that part of the world to make any guesses.) But regular bleeding, I think, is something that I would want to maintain in my life somehow, like these menstruating men of Wogeo. I’m not doing the evil cultural appropriation thing, of course, as I would not do their rituals but I’m incorporating the idea of bleeding into my worldview. In my case, though, it’s about continuity and connecting to my female past. It’s about maintaining something that was a part of my life for about 24 years but, this time, on my own terms.