Following my last post about periods, I wanted to open up your eyes to a side of periods we hear much less about, and if we’re honest with ourselves, mostly never acknowledge. I wanted to include this side of things in my original post, but didn’t feel as though it would be right for me to do so – almost a disservice to those who identify as trans, like trying to talk about difficulties that aren’t mine to have, that aren’t mine to talk about. So here is a wonderful insightful piece from a Trans Male friend of mine, and I hope that you learn from him as much as I did.
My earliest memories begin around the age of 4. I wanted to be a boy. I insisted that I was a boy. Every night I would wish and even pray that I would wake up the next day as a boy with a penis. What 4 year olds are that aware of their bodies? Not many.
Many times I have spoken about my experience being trans, and have been told that there was “no way” I could have known at 4 years old that I was in the wrong gender. I can guarantee you I did. There is photographic evidence of a social gender change within me starting at the age of 4. So trust me, I knew.
Probably around the 4th grade I decided that I no longer was going to try to be a boy, because I wanted to fit in with my peers. Developmentally, that was exactly where I should have been. While I still preferred male clothing, I grew my hair long. I felt that that would make me female, and if I just pretended hard enough, the feelings and desires of being male would go away.
I remember in 5th grade we had our first exposure to sex education. They separated the boys and girls and showed each of us a video regarding puberty. They made periods seem so magical, because once you got your period, you were on your way to becoming a woman and no longer a girl. It was all the raging gossip when a classmate started her period.
I remember the day I started mine. I was in 6th grade, about 12 years old. It was a Sunday morning and my family was getting ready for church and I went to use the bathroom before we left and there was a surprise happening in my underwear. I was so excited I started yelling for my mom, and later my mom told my grandma and she cried. I can tell you the “excitement” and “joy” of having a period quickly wore off.
For one thing, I did not want to wear tampons. I felt such a sense of dysphoria putting something inside of myself, even though I didn’t have a description for what I felt at the time, I can say now that’s what it was. It took me a while to find a product I liked but I stuck with pads the entire time I had my period, and often felt judged for that, because “most” women use tampons. I just didn’t get it.
I kind of was in limbo in regards to my gender throughout high school, but once I got to college I met some genderqueer people and learned about what it meant to be transgender and a lightbulb went off inside my head. I realized that was what I was, and that it was okay to feel the way I was feeling, and it was possible to one day transition my life to male where I would be happy.
However, this led me to a new problem – having my period as a man. It was bad enough while identifying as a woman, but once I found this newfound realization about myself, my dysphoria spiked once a month to a point I didn’t even want to leave my dorm room. My gender continued to be in limbo until my senior year of college when I just couldn’t take it anymore and I began to socially transition. However, socially transitioning doesn’t stop your period.
I found myself extremely embarrassed and humiliated every time I needed to change a pad. I kept a handful of pads in my backpack and would try to be overly discreet when removing them from my bag and putting one in my pocket. By this point I was using the men’s room. No matter how quietly you think you are unwrapping a pad, that pink tissue paper is so incredibly loud! I would have to wait for someone to flush a toilet or start a hand dryer before I opened it. Men’s bathroom stalls also don’t have small trash bins in them like the women’s room, so I had to figure out how to discreetly dispose of my used product in the large trash can in front of other men. There were times I Just wanted to flat out cry. I often felt so humiliated having to purchase new packages of pads I would send my female roommates to do it for me. I just felt I couldn’t be seen in that aisle.
I think now, after 7 years on testosterone, I would be okay with it, as I obviously would be purchasing it for somebody else. But at the time I was only socially transitioning and wasn’t sure how well I was passing, and I didn’t want people to get the idea I was buying pads for myself. When I finally did begin testosterone in 2008, the changes in my body were amazing. But for me, the most important change was going to be the stopping of my periods. After all, at least in the US, periods “define” womanhood, and that was something I was not.
It took about 4 months for them to completely stop, and that was the end of that. Now I am working things outwith my doctors to have a full hysterectomy, as being on testosterone can put me at higher risk for ovarian and cervical cancer.
After that happens, I will never have to worry about having my period again, which is a pretty good deal for this guy.