Trans women and menstruation: it's a touchy subject. For trans women, navigating conversations about menstruation can be difficult. If we come off as too interested, we also come off as creepy or even fetishising. If we seem to be uncomfortable or uninterested in discussions involving Aunt Flo, then we can often make our cis friends uncomfortable with our presence in women only or women dominated spaces. Go too far in either direction, and you're bound to highlight your trans status in a way that is othering.
Most of my friends since starting (restarting?) my transition are women. This did not happen on purpose. In fact, it happened rather organically. I still have a number of male friends, but most of them are not in Japan or are fairly far from me in Japan. I honestly haven't been able to go three days without being involved in a conversation online or in person that involves menstruation, even as an offhanded comment, in months. The vast majority of these are not ones I start (although I do sometimes post amusing videos related to menstruation on my facebook page). Instead, women often feel surprisingly free to discuss with me their particular circumstances quite openly. Sometimes this includes women who know I am a trans woman but to whom I am not particularly close.
I've spoken about my one coworker who is sort of a friend sort of not, and I've had some quite detailed conversations with her about the subject, at her instigation.
When I first discussed my idea of having an adult slumber party, my friend H immediately said, "Oooh, we can talk about boys and periods!" in a sing-song voice. I looked at her in horror, absolutely sure that she was making fun of me, or even accusing me of being terribly stereotypical about female socialisation and upbringing. Luckily, she read my expression correctly and reassured me that, no, this really just was what teen girls talked about, and that the only difference with adult slumber parties is the addition of sex talk and booze. I wasn't entirely sure I believed her. But she wasn't lying. I had three friends over, H, SG, and R, two of who are members of the Diva Cup Army. We probably spent hours in conversation involving menstruation, and it carried over into our trip to downtown Tokyo the next day and later on the train ride home.
But do I want to discuss menstruation? That's a really odd question to ask. I guess, no, not particularly. But I also don't not want to discuss it if it comes up. I recognise it for what it is; a set of experiences nearly all women have. The exceptions don't just include trans women, but altogether, the exceptions are rare. To be part of a women's space, or even a circle of friends which is all women, means that discussions of the red tide are inevitable.
As for how I personally feel about my lack of uterus and ovaries and my inability to menstruate? Complicated feelings are complicated. Iron Mam recently asked me this:
Do you lean more towards the "yay! At least I never have to deal with all that crap" mindset towards periods or is it more a matter of regretting not getting to have that experience that the majority of women have? I was wondering because I could imagine feeling both ways if I was not a cis-lady.
The simple, yet complicated answer is both.
I think it's possible to recognise what a shitty experience it often is, and yet still have lingering feelings of resentment that it seems so primary to the female experience. I don't think any rational trans woman really wants to experience the negative effects of menstruation. I am sure as hell positive no rational cis woman wants to experience those negative effects either. After this much time being in and around discussions, some of them complex and detailed, I can't say I much look forward to those effects.
That said, after a rather pointed discussion with a friend of mine who does not have issues with her own periods (they're apparently textbook regular, low flow, not terribly problematic, and other women despise her for it), and quite a lot of thinking, I realised in the event of an affordable, normalised transplant procedure for uteri (which I often point out is being developed, although we are just in the initial stages), I would probably choose to get one. I've actual cis friends who claim to be just as serious about getting rid of their uteri, that they seriously do not want them, will not have children, and think they would serve a much better purpose being given to trans and cis women without uteri. I think in some cases, we can take such comments with a grain of salt, but I am sure there are genuine examples. Not to mention trans men.
And maybe, just maybe, my mother would get off my back about kids.
So, no, ladies, I'm not going to ask about your period, but yes, I'm always willing to listen to you about it.
[Image from Life of Wall.]