Menstruation Ain’t (Always) Female

First, it is important for me to say that everyone relates to their bodies and their gender differently.  For some people, menstruation is going to be a totally female thing and they may want to associate with others who consider menstruation totally female. For others, menstruation is going to be totally female and also something they do not want happening to their body. It might be a non-issue for some other people. Second, there is going to be lots of talk of bleeding, menstruation cycles, and all that comes with it. If you’re grossed out by that or just don’t want to be reminded of it, don’t read.

I sit halfway between ‘non-issue’ and ‘ew’. ‘Ew’ because that is my default reaction to most body-centric things in my life – exploring immanent spiritual paths has helped tone that down, slightly – and the ‘non-issue’ because, for me, the menstrual cycle isn’t gendered. I’m a boy, and I’m a boy that has a period, and that’s that. That’s why I don’t contribute to conversations about the cycle – in most (every conversation I’ve seen) it’s been coded as female only, and I have no place in that discussion or anything useful to add. I don’t think I belong in those conversations either. I don’t think a place should be made for me in female-spaces since I’m not, ya know, female.

Red by ~Ania-Riz

For me, menstruation just is. There isn’t some great spiritual significance to it. There isn’t even mundane significance for me. I started bleeding earlier than most people do, and it was usually just an uncomfortable, awkward experience. Of course, I eventually encountered the far too popular idea that if we only accept our cycles and learn to love them than the pain of bleeding from inside your body and the spasms of your body shedding parts of itself will vanish. That works for some, but it didn’t work for me. I just decided to roll with what my body did. And on the pain scale, debilitating cramps were not the worst thing my body could hand me.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to other trans* individuals. I’m big on new gods in the first place, so I’d love some exploration of deities that reflect trans* realities. We already are getting more exploration of ‘differently’ gendered deities, no doubt, and it’s incredible to see where we’re going. We’ve had debates and debates and more debates about gender.

And we’re going to keep having debates. I’m going to keep hearing people tell me that my existence (pardon me for breathing) is just too ‘politically correct’. (Neil Gaiman has a wondrous idea – replace ‘politically correct’ with ‘treating people with respect’. Gosh, ‘treating people with respect’ has just gotten so out of control!) Just my stating that menstruation isn’t solely female is probably raising a few blood pressures. I’m daring to exist, unapologetically, as a man. And I’m not ‘nice’ or ‘polite’ about it. I just am. And because I’m not trying to explain away my existence, I’m mean.

I won’t apologize for being alive, nor will I apologize for being alive – as a man, a boy who also happens to menstruate.

We’ve got interesting rituals and theologies built around menstruation-as-female. I look forward to seeing what theologies and practices bloom from people that experience it differently.

About Aine

Aine Llewellyn is a 20 year old girl creature currently mucking about in southern Arizona. She enjoys the winters and rain but can’t stand the heat. She is a difficult polytheist that natters on and on about her faith.

  • The Other Lee (from tumblr)

    I don’t bleed anymore, but… gosh, we’re just totally in agreement here, aren’t we? (And somehow I’d totally missed that we had that whole SEVERAL DAYS OF ALL THE BLOOD thing in common. Oops?)

    I haven’t got a copy of the lone book not by R. Kaldera on trans mythologies, so I don’t know if there’s anything in All-Soul, &c. about menstruation, but… yeah, it’s the 21st century, science has marched on to the point where we need to make our own myths about this.

    • Aine

      Oooh I am so thrilled for when I get my hands on that book – hopefully soon! (And finding time to read it…that’s part of the challenge.)

      I would love to see some…how to say, sci-fi inspired or esque stories coming around, especially around ideas of the body and such. It would be interesting to see what spiritually or religiously minded folk came up with. (Or have come up with, as the case may be!)

      • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

        I hope you like the book! :)

        There isn’t anything on male menstruation in that book.

        That having been said: that doesn’t mean that menstruation isn’t a part of Panhyle’s life as an ftm deity. And, I think you might be the perfect person to give voice to that part of his myth in the future (hint, hint, hint…!). We shall speak more about it in the near future, eh?

  • Urban-Pooka

    Modern myths for modern ideas about gender–what a challenge that would to take up! Thanks for this. Makes the gears in my head turn.

    • Aine

      I can’t wait to see what those lovely gears turn out ;)

  • Sobekemiti

    I’m in the middle of thinking about writing me some queer myths myself, and I hadn’t even considered this aspect to it all. But this post has given me some neat ideas to play around with now. Thanks!

    • Aine

      Awesome! I look forward to reading whatever you write :3

  • Sarah Whedon

    I don’t know whether your post is a response to mine yesterday or a happy coincidence that we’re thinking about the same topic. In any case, I appreciate yours. It made me go back and look at mine to see whether I was making unhelpful gender assumptions. I don’t think I was but people I quote may have been and the way I put it all together could be taken to mean menstruation = female, so I apologize if I framed things in a way that disinvited your discussion. I often struggle with how to write well about pregnancy and birth (the subject of my blog) without falling into gender essentialism or restrictive gender binaries. Not only can a person menstruate and not be female, but also a person can be female and not menstruate!

    Anyway, hi! I don’t often comment on anybody’s blog, but it’s nice to have thoughtful blogger neighbors like you.

    • Aine

      Hi! It was partially your post that had my thoughts churning about this issue, and also coincidences in my own life.

      I thought your post was actually wonderfully open-ended and lacking gender essentiallism and assumption, but I also didn’t feel appropriate to stick my nose in either. So my post here isn’t so much in response as is…parallel thinking. I often feel it just isn’t my place to comment in most discussions of menstruation, and I’m never sure when I’ll be sticking my foot in my mouth. I suppose what really solidified my writing about this was remembering past Pantheacons and my own life situations.

      Thank you for the comment! I look forward to reading more of your blog, though I may also be rather quiet P:

  • GarlicClove

    My relationship with my SO, a tradeswoman has really made me change the way I think about my own menstrual cycles. I was so used to people considering them as something icky and taboo, and for a while, tried very hard to keep her from knowing when I had mine. But then she began to ask questions, wanting to know what it was like, what it felt like. I soon realized that in some ways, she envied me the monthly experience that I dreaded. She did not mind my talking about it, in fact she wanted me to talk about it! Until that point I had often joked that she was lucky she never had to get a period. But now, I think about all of the things that getting my period means, that I have a healthy reproductive system, that I have a body that naturally matches my gender identity, that some day I will be able to have children. I’m lucky that I have the relationship with my body that I do, and these days I try not to take it for granted.

    • GarlicClove

      sorry if the typo made things confusing.

  • GarlicClove

    P.S. Hermaphrodeities by Raven Kaldera is a life changing book about transgendered, inter-sexed and third gendered deities. It also contains some amazing stories by trans and inter-sexed Pagans.