Photo by Federica Merante
When I first got my period, I was so embarrassed that I snuck into my mother’s bathroom, took her pads and didn’t tell her until the next day. It was a Saturday, my friends had slept over and I woke up feeling like something was wrong and had changed. Slowly slipping out of bed, I went to the bathroom and discovered that the thing that I’d been warned about actually happened. I was the first in my friend group of eight girls to get it and I felt like I suddenly became something different — as if I changed from being a horse into a zebra overnight, and everyone would be able to tell I was no longer one of them.
I didn’t want anyone to know — especially my mother — because I knew she was going to make a big deal about it and even worse, she was going to tell my father. Of course, a period wasn’t anything new to my father — since he only grew up with a sister and had two daughters. But I knew that — like my mother — he’d make it into some big event and I would have to sit and act like this pool of red had suddenly made me someone else.
For many, there’s a similar experience of feeling fear and shame when discovering they’ve started their period. Going to the bathroom now meant waiting until someone flushed the toilet to skillfully rip into menstrual hygiene products or explaining to a male teacher why you “took so long” to go pee. All these inconveniences reinforce the notion that periods are something to be ashamed of and hidden.
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But... why? Isn’t a period just something a body does when experiencing puberty — like growing taller or a voice changing? Shouldn’t we just consider it to mean that you’re getting older? Instead, people with periods are told that they’re “ready to bear children” and that this now suddenly makes them a “woman.”
For young trans children, a period or the lack of one can make them feel dysphoric and alone. Having to sit in classrooms where teachers define women by their genitalia and menstruation is uncomfortable and detrimental to young children's mental health. The ability to have kids should not and does not determine your gender. Many cis-women are infertile and are unable to reproduce, but that doesn’t make them any less of a woman. It's the same for trans lives. A period is not what classifies a gender.
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These phrases and beliefs force people into gender confines and sexualization from an extremely young age. Periods are sadly something that defines an aspect of ourselves that we should be able to explore freely without contempt or humiliation. It shouldn’t be anything more than a bodily function.
I’ve never really hated my time of the month. What I disliked is how people would judge my actions, feelings or who I am by this one part of my biology. Like how my anger is suddenly unjustified or that I’m too emotional for certain career positions. But with more inclusive sexual education and people vocalizing their experiences within these issues, hopefully, our society will progress past these archaic definers and a period will just simply be a period.