My relationship with my period is complex. On one hand, I value it. It is pretty fucking cool that so much blood comes out of my body and I do not die from it. It makes me feel fierce and strong. It can be a time of deep and soft reflection with myself. On another hand, I hate it. I dread it. I fantasize about taking enough T for it to go away. I feel weighed down by it. I want it gone.
Now, I understand that all people conditioned by western, colonial, cis-hetero patriarchal society have been taught to be disgusted by the very natural process of regular (or irregular) uteral bleeding. As an AFAB person (assigned female at birth), I have experienced firsthand the ways this has negatively impacted my relationship to my body. I don’t even remember being told that one day I was going to have blood rushing out of me for approximately four days every so often. No one ever told me. It just came one day, and shit, was that terrifying for an eleven year old. Or however old I was. I don’t even really remember how old. All I remember is dark red blood on underpants.
So, I understand the healing necessity when modern cis-women healers call for the reclamation of a relationship with bleeding cycles. Having internalized hatred and disgust at a bodily process that happens for some people pretty frequently can be deeply traumatizing and self-harming, and I support the wanting to uplift and empower things that have been cast as chtonic and therefore banished as a result of the patriarchy. As a non-binary person, what is also traumatizing, is when these same cis-women healers do not leave much space for all kinds of feelings and perspectives about periods. Or when they completely forget that not everyone who bleeds is a woman. Or that some women will never bleed, and that does not make them any less of a woman (by the way). Or they “recognize” or “name” these things, but still continue to center themselves and their experiences in conversations about menstruation.
How many times have I seen modern cis-women healers say things like: “It’s so important to come into a sacred relationship with your cycle. If you were taught to hate your period, I can help you heal that.” For trans and gender creative folks, it is more complicated.
Why do some of us have such intense and hate-filled relationships with our cycles? This answer differs according to who you ask and their unique story, and what I have found in my own self-investigation processes is that hatred for my cycle is connected to what it represents to me. Or what I have been taught by cis-heteropatriarchy that bleeding is supposed to be about.
It’s about “womanhood”, and every time I get my period, I am confronted again with my own dysphoria and gender trauma. I am not a woman, though, and so somehow I must be wrong. People assume that I am a woman though, and that hurts. All the fucking time (seriously, stop doing that). I cannot fit into the mainstream conversations that happen about periods. They are not written for people like me. They are actually written to erase and make invisible my identity or any identity that is not cis (and usually also white/straight) women.
The people who would have taught me what it is like to be non-binary/gender creative and have a period have been killed long ago. Now, I am talking about the mass global genocide of transgender and gender creative folks that has happened (and continues to happen) at the hands of white supremacist and patriarchal colonizing forces. Something that is hardly ever talked about. Hell, most people do not even know that there is a concept beyond a gender binary, let alone that cultures all around the world typically had more than two genders before european christianity and colonization arrived.
I often day dream about what these queer elders would tell me. How they would validate my unique body and my unique orientation to it. How they would praise the liminal space I occupy and give me secret and special rituals to do with my blood. How they would offer instruction about how to change, alter, and shape shift my body and its bleeding processes if that is something I wanted to do. Sometimes friends in my queer community show up as these elders, offering me words of wisdom and solidarity that can only come from the pains of shared experiences.
My bleeding and my relationship to it cannot be contained or explained by a heteronormative gender binary. When I am bleeding, my sense of time shifts into a deep and vast slowness. I enter a state of no beginnings, no endings, no words. An ambiguous place between the worlds of rising and falling life force, pleasure, and feeling that has no destination or impulse other than to flow. This slow liminality is one of my favorite aspects of being a bleeder, and it is also something that I experience as intrinsic to an anti-capitalist and queer love. This practice of bending time is for me very similar to the art of gender bending, finding one’s selves between and of many different landscapes and textures of feeling with the capacity to flow, shapeshift, and re-create selves in any moment.
I feel that it is time that trans and gender creative folks give ourselves permission to carve our own pathways to sacredness when it comes to bleeding and periods, and that these pathways are centralized, even in cis-het spaces. We need more complicated ways of holding bodies who bleed and bodies who don’t want to. We need to come together more as a queer community to talk about these things and support each other through them. We need to make sacred our pain and our hatred and our enjoyment of our cycles. We need to redefine periods on our own terms. Stripping away its “inherent connection to womanhood” and queering it the fuck up.
Society can learn from the permission we give to each other to say “no” to having a period, to being a boy and having a period, to being agender and having a period, to being a woman and not having a period, and to every possible combination that can happen in a human body. To me, that is what queerness is about. Exploring the edges. Endless multiplicity of horizons and varying forms.
I believe we need to stop shouting at cis-women to try and understand, seeking validation and inclusion into their moon circles or into their practices and healing modalities that are only designed for themselves. Perhaps they will never understand. Some of them will try. And some of them will develop into consistently counted upon accomplices, which is vital. But, I feel we need to focus more on creating and feeding our own circles. Share our stories with each other more and hold space. Create queer-operated and owned health clinics. Create access pathways to health and healing and spirituality for queer folks by queer folks. (Queer Asterisk is an amazing and powerful example of this, and I have been deeply supported by their services and community offerings ever since they began).
In many ways I feel that trans and gender creative folks have much to contribute to the fields of health and healing, especially when it pertains to matters of the body and its shapes, forms, and processes. We are, each in our own ways, playing with our bodies, finding thresholds through them, and making and re-making ourselves. I once had a cis-person tell me that taking testosterone is ecologically “not safe”. It was a twisting of chemicals inside the body in a way that no human should ever do. I remember feeling upset and unheard when this person shared this with me. We take chemicals to alter our bodies and consciousness all of the time in modern society, and humans have been participating with and experimenting in alteration for a long time. What makes this any different?
I believe that trans and gender creative folks are edge walkers of imagination, whether we take hormones or not. We imagine ourselves in ways that other people won’t allow themselves to. We experience our bodies in ways that other people do not. We have so much to teach, to give, to offer. We deserve respect, space, and autonomy.
I’m tired of bleeding in secret. I’m tired of feeling disempowered when I bleed because there are no mainstream narratives that affirm my experience. I’m tired of cis-privilege and the way it wreaks havoc, harm, and genocide on trans and enby bodies. I’m ready for something different. I’m ready for something complex, revolutionary, and liberating. I’m ready for queer leadership, representation, and celebration. I’m ready to live in a world oozing with queer self-love and empowerment, and I’m ready to create that world inside myself. When we transcend the gender binary, everyone benefits. Everyone benefits from a world and a culture that prioritizes autonomy, consent, and authenticity. One that says: you get to decide who you are. No one else but you.
co-steward of bleeding thunder: a zine exploring genderqueer menstruation