An introduction to People Who Menstruate

I originally published this over on my Medium page here.

Last week Good Morning Britain hosted a panel discussion with two trans hostile cis women and a “good kind of trans” trans women (ie a trans woman who agreed with the trans hostile cis women) about the phrase “people who menstruate” and whether JK Rowling was right to say it “erased women”. What they failed to acknowledge at any point in this discussion was that the reason phrases like “people who menstruate” are used isn’t about trans women, it’s about allowing trans men and afab non binary people to be included in discussions about their own gynaecological healthcare. But as always trans men and non binary folk are erased from the conversation, and our needs aren’t acknowledged or spoken about.

I was very angry about the erasure of trans men from this conversation by Good Morning Britain, though it’s not exactly a rare occurrence. It’s very common for trans men and non binary people to have their gynaecological healthcare needs ignored or pushed aside to the detriment of our health, sometimes catastrophically so. I’m reminded of the case of Robert Eads, the subject of the 2001 documentary Southern Comfort, who died of ovarian cancer because he struggled to find a doctor who would treat him because he was trans. These doctors were so worried about how it would look for them to acknowledge that there were men with ovaries that they let a trans man die rather than treat him.

Here in the UK trans men and non binary people often miss out on important health tests - letters telling patients they are due cervical smear tests or breast cancer screening are sent automatically based on the gender marker you have on the system rather than according to need, so it’s easy for trans people to fall through the cracks.

There has also been a lot of talk recently about trans men becoming pregnant and giving birth, with the documentary Seahorse and a recent BBC podcast series about queer parenting starting with an episode on trans men who carry children. This is presented like it’s a new thing, but of course trans people have always given birth.

I’m really not the person to speak about this - I haven’t menstruated since I started testosterone 16 years ago and had a full hysterectomy in 2009 - but I feel it’s really important for trans people’s experiences accessing gynaecological healthcare to be heard, especially if we’re now having discussions about phrases like “people who menstruate” in the mainstream media. Because of this I’ve started a blog to collect and share these stories, both positive and negative. I wanted to use the title “People Who Menstruate” to highlight how the phrase exists to protect the health of trans men and non binary people, as well as to connect the project to the controversy.

If you would like to share your story of accessing gynaecological healthcare whilst trans, whether positive or negative, you can submit it here