Hello. I am a non-binary individual. Non-binarity is on the genderqueer spectrum meaning that I do not identify myself within the binary gender categories of man or woman. Although genderqueerness might seem like a foreign concept to you, it is actually not all that rare. Stars you may know like actor Ruby Rose, screenwriter and director Jill Soloway, and drag queen Sasha Velour all identify as non-binary.
Having your period when your gender identity does not align with your biological sex can be very hard. For me, it is when my body feels the most female. It bloats, looks rounder and softer, my breasts get bigger, my reproductive organs hurt. The pain makes me hyper-aware of my female body. I am once more reminded that my body is female, and that I do not pass as androgynous. The hormonal imbalance and my aching, painfully soft body, both consequences of me menstruating, challenge my mental health, as they make my gender dysphoria flare up. Dysphoria is “a distressed state arising from conflict between a person's gender identity and the sex the person has or was identified as having at birth” (definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary). Short, it makes me uncomfortable in my own body and has me feeling like shit.
I am not alone
I spoke with two people assigned female at birth, who identify as non-binary, who both use the pronoun “they/them”, commonly used when one tries to avoid “she/her” and “he/him”. Our conversations featured questions about them experiencing dysphoria, their gender identity and their relationship to their bodies, all in the context of menstruating as someone who isn’t a woman.
Bez is a nonbinary lesbian who just came out recently. The term “nonbinary lesbian” might be confusing for some, but it’s actually not
Genderqueer-ness is experienced differently by every person.
that complicated. Bez tells me that they still strongly identify with the label because of its history, similar as for the word “dyke”, a word that was used as an insult against them a lot. Dyke is a slur used for lesbians, similar to “faggot”. Both terms that are now being reclaimed by the people it was used against for decades. When Bez is not in the mood for a conversation about their gender and sexuality, they call themself “queer”, now reclaimed as one of the most practical umbrella terms for people that aren’t cisgender , meaning they identify as the gender they were assigned at birth, and heterosexual, short cis-het.
They suffer from PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), caused by elevated androgens, which makes their relationship to their body even more peculiar. It makes their period rare, accounts for difficulties regarding weight loss and causes them to grow facial hair, all factors that leave them with the feeling of having no control over their body. Something Bez first struggled with and now has come to terms with. “Even though it doesn’t feel like mine, it still has to work.” They have recently started getting their period again, just as they have come out as non-binary; it is now a monthly occurrence when it used to happen twice a year. Bez doesn’t suffer from dysphoria, but that changes once they menstruate, a feeling they describe as “debilitating”.
Juliette is different. Although their gender identity deviates from their biological sex, they do not experience dysphoria. For them, having a “woman’s body” is not what defines them. The only change they’d like is smaller breasts, but for practical reasons like sports. Their experience during their period is similar to mine, it acts as a reminder of their biological reality, since menstruating is such a common female experience. Juliette doesn’t do anything to make themself more feminine instead of actively trying to make them less feminine.
This really shows that genderqueerness is experienced differently by every person. For me, it means that I want to look androgynous, not clearly male nor female. I am uncomfortable with the fact that I have breasts, and I wish that i didn’t have female reproductive organs, as I don’t intend to ever use them for their original purpose.
One of the harder things for me, is feeling like a stranger in my own body. I look in the mirror and see a distorted image of myself.
So how do I deal with the dysphoria?
I dress more masculine. Countering my more feminine body with what society codes as manly clothes helps me.
I take the contraceptive pill, which means my period isn’t as long nor as heavy as it used to be, a great plus for someone who sinks into a pit of gender-despair every time they menstruate.
I use a diva-cup, instead of tampons, so that I’m only confronted with my period every 12 hours instead of every 2-3 hours.
I try to kill time. This a remedy I use for all sorts of aches. Being busy distracts me from my brain-pain.
I wait. This hurt is a temporary one. It is only a question of days until my body feels mine again.