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Rethinking the Gender of Menstruation

As we continue to destigmatize menstruation and reclaim the reverence for moon cycles, you will often read or hear a member of Pua Mohala use the term “menstruator(s)”, or even the phrase “people who experience periods”, in reference to this community and the people we are trying to engage. We will not address menstruators as women or girls for two very simple reasons: not all people who menstruate are women and not all women menstruate.


Not all people who experience periods are women, for example, people of various gender identities born with a female reproductive system, especially trans-men. Without judgement, we understand that many people aren’t aware of or actively thinking about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people, but it’s never too late to start being more inclusive in your thoughts and in your language. Using a term like “menstruators'' is an example of gender inclusive language. Not only is speaking in this way easy to do, but it’s also incredibly important and affirming. Refusing to think or speak inclusively when in discussions about menstruation can lead to the denial of not only identity, but of access to resources like menstrual and other hygiene products.


For people who don’t identify as women, getting one’s period can create a lot of shame, even self-hatred, especially if it feels like their body is going against them. But these negative feelings towards menstruation are the reality for many cisgender women as well. This shame is only possible because of the intricate connections between menstruation and womanhood.


Not all women menstruate – trans-women, postmenopausal women, women with PCOS, just to name a few. We think it’s time to separate menstruation from womanhood. Menstruation is indicative of the capacity to reproduce, but hasn’t it been long established that a woman’s ability to reproduce does not (and certainly should not) define her? Flippant phrases like “periods are what every woman goes through” is simply not true, and the last thing we want to do is isolate women who either don’t get a period or have complications with their period. They’re left to reconcile with their identity as women, and often have to scour to find what could possibly replace what they’re supposedly “missing” in order to prove that they are, in fact, still women.


They don’t have anything to prove. And non-women with periods don’t have to feel shame. Ultimately, periods are a bodily process, and since biological sex does not determine gender, naming menstruators as simply “women” and “girls” is too narrow to capture the scope of experiences of everyone who menstruates. And contrary to what some believe, this specification in language is not implemented to erase the plight that cisgender women have faced in regard to their periods, but rather to build a stronger community and mutual support systems. Part of destigmatizing having a period, which is one of our main goals at the upcoming retreat, involves destigmatizing moon cycles for everyone involved.


For more information about Mahina + Me, a virtual retreat dedicated to reclaiming indigenous practices in order to celebrate menstrual cycles, visit our Instagram page.


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