I have a doctor who doesn’t really know what she’s doing.
To be fair, I’ve shopped around with my doctors, and none of them have really known what they were doing. But I stuck with this one because she was the least of the evils. I mean, there were only so many of them to sample, anyway.
For those of you who don’t know, when you’re on government insurance, it can be hard to find a doctor that gives you proper attention.
When you’re on government insurance and need hormone therapy, your pickings dwindle even further. When you’re on government insurance, need hormone therapy, and those hormones are a controlled, Schedule III drug (i.e. testosterone)?
Well… good luck.
Basically, when it comes to doctors, you get who you get. If you want your hormones, you unfortunately need to take what they dish out at you. Some of us are quite lucky in this regard, but plenty of us aren’t.
With all that bashing aside, I guess you could say it’s technically my fault for my period dutifully returning every month for the past year.
You see, I decided I wanted to switch from needles to cream. No medical reason, I just wanted to. I’m not wild about needles, and successfully sticking myself an estimated 150+ times was enough adventure for me, thankyouverymuch.
But the fact nonetheless remains that, unbeknownst to me, my doctor decided to start me on a cream dose so low that it would’ve created virtually no effect on the raging estrogen of my body, now super-pissed because I’d caged it for so long.
And so, after so many blissful years of being blood-free, my cycle returned with a vengeance.
And because my doctor had flubbed as hard as she flubbed and I didn’t find out until significantly later – there was a fantastic while there where I was convinced something was seriously wrong with my body until she admitted that I had, in verbatim, been her guinea pig – the war is still waging as she ever-so-slowly ups my dosage back to cis levels.
Because—you know—no rush, right?
Suffice it to say that she never got how mentally debilitating man-struation is to me. No matter how much I tried to explain it to her. I can handle quite a bit in life – trans or otherwise – but I always stumble when I try to handle this.
But the fact of the matter is, I’m still alive.
With these past twelve or so months hitting me over the head, I’ve learned to reevaluate man-struation, what it means to me as a guy, and what I can do to make sure I don’t lose sight of my identity.
I’ve come up with some theories and basic practices – stuff that’s helped me.
Maybe there’s something here that’ll help you, too.
1. Pretend You’ve Been Wounded
Kind of kidding, kind of not.
Look, there are pretty much two reactions a guy has when he sees a most horrifying splotch on his underwear: 1) “Holy fuck, I’m dying!” and 2) “Stop panicking, this is normal! Stop panicking, this is normal! Stop panicking, this is normal!”
Reaction 1 can be nonchalantly labeled as irrational to an outsider, but they’ve forgotten the important fact that we’re trans guys because we see ourselves as men. If any guy sees blood on his underwear, he’s within his right to hit the panic button. Ergo, trans guys are pretty normal on that front.
One way to combat the panic is to embrace it. Don’t fight your brain and be all, “Well, it’s actually a simple, natural sloughing of the uterine lining due to a lack of fertilized egg…”
No. Don’t fight the trans part of your brain by being a textbook.
Recognize that yeah, you’re bleeding; and yeah, it’s in a place that makes no sense to you; and yeah, it therefore causes feelings of panic because something’s happening that shouldn’t be happening.
Why wouldn’t you have an emotional reaction to that?
If you don’t have an emotional reaction to such a thing, then your survival instincts aren’t working right. And if you try to suppress such a reaction, it’ll make you feel sick.
Blood is blood is blood. And if you see blood coming from any part of your body it shouldn’t be, your brain concludes only one thing: Something’s wrong.
In essence, you’re injured.
Your body needs help, so help it.
Treat it like you would any other malady. Rest is necessary for the weary, pads are like gauze. Done deal.
2. Take Pain Meds (Or Other Relief Factors) If You’re Hurting
As said above, your body is hurting and needs help. So help it.
It’s not somehow effeminate to take pain meds, nor is it somehow masculine to tough out the pain.
If you’re hurting, take an over-the-counter pain med, use heating pads, or do whatever else you know will work for you.
Because with the pain gone or lessened, you can hopefully stop focusing so much on what your body is doing right now. And with you focusing on it less, you can go back to being more like yourself until this crimson terror ebbs.
Taking pain meds doesn’t mean you’re admitting defeat and paying homage to your cycle. It means you’re doing what you can to continue being you despite this little hiccup in your life.
3. Consider Switching to a Menstrual Cup
Stop! Stop screaming! Hear me out!
I recognize this one isn’t for everybody, but there are some props to consider with this method. If you’re able to handle tampons or otherwise putting things up there, as well as the sight of blood, a menstrual cup might be your best bet.
Look, these cups are designed to last up to ten years, making the $30 you blow on it infinitely worthwhile if you can afford it. It quickly saves you a load of money, you don’t have to stand in line handling those things at the supermarket, and they hold significantly more than disposable products.
Even on super heavy days or nights, you can have up to twelve hours with little risk of TSS. Plus, the overall risk of bacterial infection is less, reducing the need for any emergency trips to the unholiest of unholy creations: the gynecologist.
They also work with the mighty power of suction when worn correctly, so your worries of being outed by an unlucky leak are virtually impossible.
And above all, cups have yet to catch on in popularity and therefore are less feminized, particularly by advertising and the media. No pink swirls, no artificial lady scents, no societal shame for somehow breaking your man oath. Using a cup may simply help your brain un-woman the entire thing.
We, as trans men, still have the chance to claim these bad boys for our own (at least partially). So go stake some claim!
4. Recognize This Experience Actually Enhances Your Masculinity – By Dismantling It
Before we go further, a history lesson: There’s this thing called the feminist movement. And in this movement, the motive is to create equality for all sexes and genders, often by dismantling patriarchy one tendril at a time. It’s not a desire to destroy masculinity. It is a desire to destroy toxic masculinity. Because it’s—you know—toxic.
The toxic versions of masculinity have been built up around a hierarchy of men and which among them is manlier than thou.
Lengthier cis penises, more notches on a bedpost, a stronger ability to crush cans on your forehead without flinching; toxic masculinity is a perpetual pissing contest. In short, you’re only a man if you’re manlier than another man.
But seriously, let’s indulge that route a moment. Because you know what? We, as trans guys, still win out over the cis guys. (Fuck yeah!)
Confused? Let me explain.
What you’re going through is far more than the usual cis man has to deal with. What you’re going through is defying all of logic and nature, which in my book means the very fabric of being should be imploding in on itself right now.
You’re bleeding. From an area of your body that shouldn’t exist. Frequently and repeatedly.
But are you still standing? Yup.
“But dear, deluded James,” you say. “Didn’t you just say toxic masculinity was bad, then pretty much argue that trans guys could nonetheless be more toxically masculine than cis guys? Shouldn’t we then, like, maroon all trans man on a deserted island for the good of feminism?”
Shush. I’m not done.
The point of arguing how trans men can not only play, but win the toxic masculinity war is in that it actually dismantles the entire thing.
If trans guys can win out, but were categorized as “female” upon birth, are occasionally still categorized as “female” by ignorant individuals, and often are cis-penis-less and/or have mounds of fat on their chests, it means the primal notions of masculinity are null and void.
Masculinity can no longer be defined by a set of physical characteristics brought upon a person by luck.
It can only be defined by enduring a series of difficult, strenuous circumstances through hutzpah you’ve decided to call your masculinity. Masculinity becomes something earned, not something given. And you earned it by surviving life, not at the expense of gay bashing, cat calling, or slut shaming.
5. Embrace That Man-Struation Isn’t Inherently Female
And just like that, the cis world explodes.
But seriously, menstruation is simply a biological function for people with active ovaries. And man-struation is simply when it specifically happens to men. (Note: Men-struation holds the same point, but is harder to identify in verbal communication.)
There’s nothing female about your body throwing out some unused baby juice. It’s merely society that’s long since confused menstruation with being somehow female or feminine.
Viable ovaries do not a woman make.
Ask any infertile woman, menopausal woman, female survivor of ovarian cancer, or woman who has undergone a hysterectomy.
And if viable ovaries don’t make a woman a woman, then viable ovaries don’t make a man a woman.
That being said, women who menstruate should feel free to embrace the tide and find it awesome and empowering. Go you! Yay for loving your body! Yay for refusing to be silent about your cycle!
Just please don’t do it in the all-encompassing name of female pride and showing your love for all things woman. You’re unfortunately inflating gender inequality by confusing gender identity with biological sex.
Thankfully, this oopsie is a pretty easy fix. Just a small recalibration of the ol’ brain there and you’re good to go! No need to feel bad about thinking you’re awesome!
So that’s it. And here I still sit. Writing. Currently bleeding. Still kinda pissed at my doctor, but significantly less so than when this began a year ago.
Anger and panic on a consistent basis don’t do anybody any favors, and I’ve come to grips with the fact that – as annoying, dysphoria-provoking, and painful this has been, especially when it should never have happened at all or gone on as far as it has – it’ll end one day. It’ll stop.
Sometimes you just have to play the waiting game.
James St. James is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism. He isn’t particularly fond of his name, but he has to admit it makes him easier to remember. When he’s not busy scaring cis gender people with his trans gender agenda, he likes to play SEGA and eat candy. Follow him on Twitter @JamesStJamesVI.