Trans & Bleeding, Period.
I don’t remember exactly when I got my first period but if I had to guess I would say it was around the age of thirteen or fourteen years old. What I do remember however is being met with shame, devastation, and disappointment. There was no grand celebration of womanhood. It was when I stopped believing that one day God would miraculously change my physical body overnight and I would wake up as the boy I always felt I was. It was when I started to feel the worst about myself, feeling like an alien in my own skin. I felt as though my body was betraying me. I had this belief that maybe I would be one of those people that menstruation just does not happen to, but I knew it was coming no matter how much denial I was in. I didn’t tell anyone when it happened. I just tried my best to hide it. My grandmother realized I had started menstruating when she found stains in my underwear while doing laundry. She later pulled me into the bathroom and began showing me how to use pads. I could hear the irritability in her voice as she explained; “Look, when you get your monthly (as she called it) you put these pads in your underwear. When you’re done with it you wrap it up in toilet paper, then you wrap it up in newspaper, and then you throw it away. You have to wrap it up twice so that it doesn’t smell.” I thought there was something wrong with me. I felt embarrassed and wanted to hide it even more after that. I wanted to pretend like it wasn’t happening to me all together, but menstruation is not something that is so easy to conceal. I remember being at a friend’s house when I got my period unexpectedly. At the time I wasn’t aware that I could predict when it would come each month. This was all new to me and unfortunately for me I was not provided with clear information on how to manage my period. It couldn’t have come at a worse time. I was having fun and playing games with my friends and there were even girls around that I had crushes on. I didn’t tell anyone even though I needed pads. So I just wrapped up some toilet paper to use as pads until it was over. It was uncomfortable but I had to keep my secret, at least until I got home. When I got home I told my grandmother I got my period while I was gone and she got angry. “You should know when it’s coming every month, that’s something you gotta do! Get them pads out the bathroom closet, girl…And take a bath!” She yells. Later that night I was woken up by extreme pain in my abdominal area. I woke my grandma to tell her of my pain and she gave me a couple ibuprofen and a glass of water. “Those are cramps you’ll get them sometimes. Hold this heat pad on your stomach and try to go back to sleep.” She never told me about cramps when I got the first one. Needless to say, I was not happy when I found out. Like, I already have to bleed for up to 8 days AND I have to be in pain!?
I didn’t learn how to use tampons until a year and a half after I got my first period. I was at my friend’s grandmother’s house with some other kids my age, she lived in the sticks and there was a big river running through the woods out back. We were getting ready to go swimming and while I was changing I noticed my period started. I stayed back at the house while the others left for the river. My friend’s mom noticed me sitting by myself and she asks why I’m not going swimming with the others. I confessed to her that I was bleeding and couldn’t swim while using a pad. “You can still go swimming, you just have to use a tampon.” She says. “But I don’t know how.” I tell her. “It’s easy, I’ll show you then you can go in the bathroom and do it yourself. Just take the tampon insert it into your vagina, hold onto this part while you push this end up and leave the string hanging out. See, like this…” After she explained I felt confident that I knew how to use a tampon correctly. Before I went in the bathroom I turned around and asked if it was going to hurt. She said no and I shouldn’t feel it at all. So I went in the bathroom and gave it a shot. At first it didn’t feel right so I took it out. I got frustrated because it was so uncomfortable but I had to persist if I wanted to go swimming. I went through 2 more tampons until I got it right. Somehow I felt accomplished and it was at that moment that I believed I could experience “The Period” with fortitude. I had not felt that confident in a long time until then so I took a moment to really live in that feeling of being in control of my own body. I joined my friends at the river and even swam without my t-shirt on that night. It was lovely.
Being a young transgender man experiencing menstruation is anything but easy. It’s exhausting. It’s irritating. It’s painful. However, we can find our strength if we keep living through our periods every month until we can safely make it stop. To get to that point we must keep living through these challenges. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 according to data collected by The Trevor Project. I want all young trans-men to know that they are not alone and they can overcome the difficulty of going through puberty and searching for themselves in a world that denies their existence, invalidates their identity, and treats them less than. There are many resources out there for trans youth and the trans community in general that can provide support for getting legal name changes and gender marker changes. Some are also providing sanitary items such as; tampons, pads, condoms, and STP devices, etc. You can also find assistance with hormone replacement therapy. Trans Lifeline has a number you can call; they are transgender people who understand your experiences and are willing to go the extra mile to help you find what you need, even if you just need someone to listen to your worries. This organization is dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs of our community with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. There is also T-Buddy, which is powered by Trans in Color. They work to provide housing, clothing, food, and support through text, phone, Skype, and in-person contact! You can find them on IG @tbuddy and @trans_in_color. I also recommend contacting them if you are looking for a transgender mentor. I will also leave links at the bottom for your reference. There is help out there, you’re not alone and you will find your tribe amongst the many loving and caring people in the queer community. I want you to be here, I want you to live, I know it seems like you won’t make it past the age of twenty-five because I didn’t think I would, and I’m still here 25 years, 300 months, and 144 periods later. We all have lived through the first one and many more to come. We see you, we hear you, and we’re here for you. We can end the shame of bleeding. I love you.