“There are women that don’t have periods, and there are people that aren’t women that do have periods.”
What are you raising awareness for?
I want to de-stigmatize periods that non-binary and transmasculine folks have. It’s not only women and it’s definitely not something that makes womanhood legit. There are women that don’t have periods and there are people that aren’t women that do have periods.
How did it come to be that you are fighting for menstrual equity?
Being a transmasc enby myself and coming from a more traditional Eastern European background where people don’t talk about periods. My mom would whisper “these days” in public. I would always question – isn’t menstruation something natural and common? Why whisper? Why hide it? Of course, I started to feel ashamed, too. Hiding pads in the darkest corner of my backpack so that no boys would make fun of me (they did regardless). It can be even harder for transmasculine folks since you don’t want to give people reasons to call you a woman or associate you with one. Internalized misogyny and transphobia can be very powerful together. No one needs to hide their period.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in this fight?
I cannot speak for everyone, but I feel like the biggest challenge for transmasculine people to talk about their periods is transphobia and biological essentialism. There are trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) and transphobes in general that trivialize women to their biological functions. There are women that feel like us (non-binary and trans people) are coming for their space and changing the definitions of womanhood, taking something away from them. We are adding, instead. Women are so much more than just their biological functions or absence of thereof. We need to start addressing this first.
What is wrongly believed and needs to be dispelled about inclusive menstruating?
That only one gender can menstruate and promoting the opposite is sexist and threatening to womanhood. If to you a woman is someone who menstruates and is capable of giving birth, how about all the women that, for some reason, cannot perform this function? Do you exclude them from sisterhood? No one denies that menstruation is a biological function/process designed to give birth and is natural for assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB) individuals. Similarly, no one is trying to change this and prove biology wrong. However, we are so much more than our assigned sex. You choose what womanhood is for you and I choose what transhood is for me. I still menstruate but do I feel or live my life like a woman? No, I don’t. Does it mean I deny biology and suddenly want men in your bathrooms? No, I don’t.
What do you hope to achieve by speaking out about menstrual equity?
I hope that transmasc and non-binary folks will be becoming more comfortable talking and having their periods. In the short term, I would love to have a more open discourse with transmasc people about experiencing periods, which can also be something very dysphoric and “meaningless”. I would love for our focus to switch to making periods less shameful and more accessible instead of fighting for our rights to identify as non-binary or trans while still having menstruation. In the long term, I hope to make people aware that periods are not solely something women experience but other people too.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned so far on your journey?
To start with myself. I was, for a while, avoiding talking about my period with others because I thought they would immediately think of me as feminine, womanly. There is nothing bad about being that, but that’s just not who I am. So I started with opening up about it. At first, with other AFAB non-binary/transmasculine folks. Then, with AMAB people, too. It was also important for me to set boundaries around this topic and let others know that I can be in extreme pain and feel gender dysphoria and therefore not talk about it.
What is something you would like to say to people who relate to your story?
All transmasculine and non-binary people are different. Some aren’t bothered by their periods, others experience a lot of gender dysphoria and discomfort. I cannot actively encourage people to talk about something that reminds them of their assigned sex. I would love for all of us to talk to each other first. We are chosen brothers and siblings and we have each other’s back.
What advice would you give to people who want to contribute to a solution or better circumstance?
If you are a cisgender man, *please*, do not contribute to the shame and stigma around menstruation. Do not make fun of little girls and teenagers in schools. Work around your disgust.
If you are a cisgender woman, I would love to tell you that we are not taking anything away from you or denying womanhood. We are fighting against the same enemy, let’s join each other.
For anyone in general, use inclusive language when talking about periods. This is very important.
Feminine hygiene → menstrual care
Feminine products → menstrual/period products
Women (when talking about periods) → women and assigned-female-at-birth individuals/people that menstruate.
What is something that people can do to help increase inclusivity around periods?
Do your research, talk to transmasculine and non-binary people, come with an open heart and mind, train yourself to become more self-aware when talking about periods and what comes with that (do you feel shame? Do you feel disgusted? Do you have biases? What emotions come up?), use more gender-inclusive language.
Why do you think it’s important that people like you are heard and amplified?
When browsing websites with menstrual products or about menstruation, a lot of them have sections “for women” and use a lot of terminology that is exclusive of trans and non-binary people. It’s tiring! Imagine trying to spend years to build as much comfort in your body and surroundings that would affirm your gender identity and expression and then being suddenly reminded that “your period makes you a woman”. I very rarely see transmasculine people when it comes to period products or websites in general. There are more and more gender non-conforming and non-binary people, which is amazing. But have you ever seen a male-presenting person on their period on any campaign? This might be the first one yet.
Want to connect with Sam Rink? Reach out via @sam__rink on Instagram.