I was introduced to periods at the ripe age of 14 when my father took me to the doctor. Earlier, I had heard about it in hushed tones and jokes that girl in my class use to crack. There was so much discomfort surrounding this topic, that I succumbed to the taboos and illogical explanations that came with it.
Now, with experience, knowledge, and social awareness, there is a lot of unlearning that I did. And here we are again, busting a myth of “Menstruation = Womanhood”
There is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about sex and gender. So, let’s go back to basics here. What is the difference between gender and sex?
Sex is defined by biological characteristics and genetics. It is composed of five main elements- chromosomes, hormones, hormone expressions, internal and external genitalia. In simple terms, sex is something that is assigned to an individual at the time of birth depending on the biological characteristics and has nothing to do with the gender one identifies with.
Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions, and identities of girls, women, boys, men, and gender-diverse people. Gender is a broad spectrum; it involves how a person identifies. A person may identify, at any point within this spectrum or outside of it entirely.
So, how is menstruation termed as a “woman thing”?
While growing up, we all have experienced that getting your period was a sign of “becoming a woman." However, menstruation is not what defines being a woman. Menstruation is not exclusive to just the female gender; people who identify as women, men and non-binary can all experience periods. Cis-gender (a person who identifies with their biological sex) women can experience conditions like amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) due to PCOS, Menopause, stress, etc. The dialogue around menstruation, marketing of period products, the packaging is all women-centric. They are often termed as “feminine hygiene” products, which categorizes cis-gender women. Thus, excluding the transgender and non-binary community, which leads to discrimination and violence. They may even avoid purchasing them altogether.
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 femininity. It can be a reminder of the gender assigned at birth and using menstrual products can trigger gender dysphoria.
Gender-neutral bathrooms are very imperative, unfortunately, they are barely available. People who appear to be one gender, but identify in another way essentially are forced to “out” themselves each time they select a restroom. Choosing and using the restroom can be extremely difficult and highly anxiety-provoking.
Therefore, to summarize-
“Not all women menstruate and not all people who menstruate are women.”