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Meet Nanoah Struik (They/Them)

February 27, 2024 . jessie

“I make menstruation more inclusive by creating awareness on gender diversity within menstrual health.”

Nanoah Struik defines themselves as a creative educator and activist. Through their work as a podcaster, speaker, consultant and writer they create awareness on gender diversity within menstrual health. Trans and non-binary people are often forgotten about and the gendered language around periods excludes them further. Nanoah is here to take up space in the conversation and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. Nanoah’s energy and openness allows people to ask questions about gender diversity and actually listen to the answers. They shared with us the complexities of menstruation from a non-binary perspective and their experience with gender dysphoria.   

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word period?  

For me periods are, on the one side very factual, and other the other side very emotional. I think about how I felt when I was still experiencing periods. Menstruation didn’t fit with my gender identity, and that was a struggle. Now that I don’t menstruate, when I hear periods it’s become more of a concept, a cycle that happens every 28 days. 

How did menstruating make you feel?

I first got mine when I was 11, I remember it very well. I felt physically sick from it but also confused. Not because I didn’t know about periods, I did, but it made me uncomfortable. My mom said, ‘Now you’re a woman!’ but I felt weird. Already I did not really identify with being a woman. Even at 11 I was feeling like this but I didn’t have the words. But when I got my period, and it came back every month, I was reminded of the idea of “now I’m a woman,” and it felt constricting. It made me feel like being a woman meant periods, and periods meant being a woman. It created an extremely uncomfortable feeling in me. 

Can you tell us about your experience of gender dysphoria, and the journey to having your uterus removed? 

This feeling stayed with me. When I was a bit older I discovered what it was called; gender dysphoria. For me, gender dysphoria meant that menstruation didn’t fit with my gender identity, expression or the way that I personally experience gender. It’s a broad spectrum and people experience it differently. I identify as non-binary, meaning that I don’t feel that I am a woman or a man, I am just a human. Menstruation didn’t fit with my identity and caused me a lot of pain, both physically and emotionally. Two years ago, I was able to have surgery to remove my uterus, which means that I no longer menstruate. I would not have been able to get this surgery without my diagnosis of gender dysphoria, so in that sense I am “lucky”. Without a diagnosis it is extremely difficult to get gender affirming surgeries or treatments, and many doctors don’t trust young people to make that choice for themselves. Of course, it is a very big decision, like any surgery, but for me it was easy. For me the biggest struggle was the period itself. 

How does gender language around periods affect you and menstrual inclusivity? 

Because of the way our society is set up, we use a lot of gendered language when we talk about periods. When I was still experiencing periods, it was something that made me feel very uncomfortable, and it still does now. We talk about periods as a woman-centred thing. For example, in the supermarkets it’s called “women’s health”, or “women’s hygiene”, which is not inclusive. There are people like me who might menstruate but don’t identify as a woman. There are people who might identify as a woman, but don’t menstruate. There are cisgendered women who may not menstruate for medical reasons or be menopausal, who don’t menstruate. Are they any less of a woman because they don’t have periods? All of this gendered language constantly confronts you with how society is seeing you. People associate periods with being a woman. I feel like with the language we use around menstruation that being a woman is all about your uterus, your period, your cycle. Being a woman is way more than that. Periods are a part of being a human. 

What inspires you to do your work? 

What inspires me the most to do the work that I do, is the state of the world – haha. The state of people’s minds. Coming from the countryside, I’ve experienced a lot of closed-mindedness. I’m not trying to stereotype anyone from there, but I live in the city now and there is a big difference in attitudes. I really want to make a better world for my little brother. He’s 9, he’s a feminist and he’s the biggest queer ally I’ve ever met. I want a better world for him. I want him to feel the freedom of expression and I want him to treat others like that too. Seeing him become this amazing little man, and we need more amazing men, keeps me fighting for inclusivity. 

How can we help to make menstruation more inclusive? 

We need to start seeing the diversity in people who menstruate to make periods more inclusive. For example, there are transmen who menstruate and would use the men’s bathroom in public spaces. In most men’s bathrooms, usually, there’s no trash can inside the cubicle. This means that for a menstruating person that there is no private way to change and dispose of a period product. It’s something that we just don’t think about, these other types of menstruating people. So, we need to consider and provide basic needs for all genders in the bathroom. We also need to change the women-centred language around menstruation. We need to change the way menstrual care is labelled in public spaces like supermarkets. Brands, especially period brands, can help by using inclusive language around menstruation. Anyone can help to make periods more inclusive in their daily lives by changing their language to be more inclusive. If you have a bathroom at work, or school, or home, you can include period products and bins, no matter what gender they’re for. These small changes can really help to make menstruation more inclusive. 

What is an obstacle that your work on menstrual inclusivity faces? 

The biggest obstacle that I feel in my work, when it comes to menstruation specifically, is that I do not feel comfortable in the conversation at this moment. As a non-binary person who no longer menstruates, I don’t know what my space is. I’m no longer a person who menstruates, but I was for ten years. I don’t know how much space I can take up, but that’s also because of the way society talks about menstruation as a gendered thing. If periods were talked about as something for all genders, then I would be comfortable still speaking about it. I’m trying to find my space in the period community. 

When I was still experiencing menstruation, I was very active about speaking out for gender diversity. Since my surgery I don’t really talk about it that much anymore, which goes against the purpose of what I’m trying to say! I just don’t want to take up space from people who do experience periods still, and I don’t know why, it’s just something that I’ve been struggling with. I feel like even in trans, non-binary or queer spaces, spaces where things are easy to talk about and nothing is off limits, that we aren’t talking about menstruation enough. I think there’s still some uncomfortable feelings around it. As queer and trans and non-binary people it is our right to be part of this conversation. 

Want to learn more about Nanoah and their work?

You can follow them @nanoahh, or visit their website https://www.nanoahstruik.com/   

Nanoah’s work and lived experience shows us the need for more inclusive language around menstruation. You can help to create a safe space for menstrual inclusivity by opening up the conversation with those around you. We can all make space for all gender identities in the way we talk about menstruation. Regardless of how anyone identifies, the taboo around menstruation is harmful, and we should all feel free to talk about it. 

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