[Image: Pax (pre-transition) stands in semi-darkness in their underwear, in front of closed vertical blinds.]
Menstruation is a taboo topic in much of modern US-American society. It’s a subject I feel uncomfortable reading about or discussing myself, given the serious dysphoria I have over my female-assigned reproductive system. But even though I no longer bleed every month (thanks to testosterone therapy), the hundreds of millions of women, trans men, nonbinary, and intersex people who still do are stigmatized by misinformation and prejudices over this routine bodily function.
A recent Everyday Feminism article debunks many of the myths about menstruation. I greatly appreciate that the author points out that not only and not all women have periods (a point the TERFs constantly misstate to deny that trans women are female). Yet menstruation is primarily a women’s issue, and I speak in this article primarily as an ally to women and girls.
I was somewhat alarmed to read in the above article that the average age for menarche in North America is now between eight and thirteen years old. An eight-year-old is still a young child. As people reach sexual maturity at younger and younger ages, it is imperative that children receive timely and accurate sex education. This education must not put the burden solely on girls and women to prevent pregnancy or defend themselves against unwanted sexual advances.
Our patriarchal society dominates women not only through abstinence-focused sex education and denial of reproductive rights, but also controlling access to sanitary products. This article by a woman who was imprisoned shows how jailers deny basic human rights and decency by not providing adequate tampons and sanitary pads.
Another article by a woman who ran a marathon while on her period, without using tampons or pads, brings more attention to misconceptions and shame regarding menstruation. Having run a full marathon and several half-marathons myself, I can relate to the concerns about cramping, changing pads or tampons, and worrying about stained clothes.
Shedding menstrual blood is a fact of life, and should not be a source of shame. People of all genders should educate themselves about menstruation.