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.
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.
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.