By Manpreet “Singh is Queer” Virk
Society is broken up into binary options like male or female, black or white, left or right, etc. The creation of binary roles has erased millions of people worldwide for centuries. Erasure causes more conflict than compromise because it creates difficulties for people who do not fit the predetermined binary roles. For instance, accessibility becomes a huge issue that these marginalized groups of people must deal with. Society is obsessed with labeling and boxing individuals, ignoring the fact that Mother Earth is big enough to sustain us all. Why is it normalized to erase people who have different identities outside of this binary ideology?
There exist stereotypes about transgender people that reinforce negative beliefs about us, stereotypes such as: we are unattractive, appear oddly, are evil demons, carry bad karmic debt, look neither man nor woman, are cursed, can not conceive, etc. One of the biggest stereotypes is believing that transgender people can not look cisgender. These stereotypes contribute to a lot of transphobia and erasure that I experience on the daily. Society refuses to accept that my gender-non-conforming (GNC) people have existed for over 4,000 years worldwide. They refuse to acknowledge that my GNC people will continue to be here as long as humanity exists. This continuous reinforcement allows transphobic individuals to take away rights from the GNC community. It also allows only binary options to appear for us, like the separation of bathrooms by male or female.
I started my period when I was 11 years old, the day before my 7th grade year in middle school. I was confused because I had no knowledge of menstruation cycles, so I did not understand why I was bleeding. I told my mother right away, and she explained the purpose of pads. School taught me the rest. I started wearing pads during every cycle because tampons made me uncomfortable.
My flow was always heavy and would last around 7 days. When I started playing soccer and exercising regularly, my cramps were not as bad, and my period would last around 5 days.
Since I was 11 years old, I have noticed that menstruation cycles have always been seen as a “woman’s only” issue, when that is not the case at all. When I was 20 years old, I came out as a transgender man. Since then, I started having periods as a man. I began to notice the accessibility issues immediately, especially when I would use public bathrooms. I experienced several issues with just the bathroom.
For one, gender neutral bathrooms were hardly offered anywhere I went.
Two, men’s restrooms rarely had stalls, but always had urinals.
Three, there was no disposal areas for pads in any of the men’s stalls.
Four, there was no machine dispensing pads or tampons in the men’s restrooms.
I’d use different men’s restrooms, but my experience remained the same. I am a transgender man, yet the men’s restroom was always difficult to navigate. There were times when I would just go into the women’s restroom and use their stalls or their sanitary products, before and after I transitioned. There have been times when somebody has been a “lookout” for me while I use the women’s restroom, just because there are no available stalls in the men’s restrooms.
Every month, I experience the cramps, mood swings, body aches, fatigue and so on. I have PTSD and OCD, which becomes worse during this time. It should be mandatory for people with periods to receive free sanitary products and care for their cycles. Society should create a safe space for people with periods. Our bodies should not be labeled as taboo; we should be treated with basic decency. We do not choose to bleed. Our monthly rituals should be respected and taken care of. If jobs, schools, and government institutions catered to people with periods, the world would be a much more inclusive place.
Erasure begins with our language. Queer and GNC people continue to be erased from these very important conversations, but I’m here to disrupt this erasure. By evolving this issue from a “woman’s only” issue to a “people’s issue,” we can begin to dismantle the toxic patriarchy and queerphobia that has created the current period culture. I have grown weary of others telling men that we can not decide on abortion rights or bathroom rights; these people have no idea that transgender men are affected by the same oppressive ideologies that affect cisgender women. In one’s fight for equity and justice, one must not erase the voices that are often forgotten because our voices are affected by the same exact legislation.
Men bleed too because a uterus does not have a gender. A uterus can belong to anybody, so it becomes crucial to do work that is inclusive. By dismantling binary ideologies, one can begin to create a more nurturing and inclusive society. One can begin to erase the existing powers of oppression, instead of erasing groups of people from the conversation. Equity should not be controversial. We all deserve to live in a society that does not persecute us based off of our identities.