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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

MEN-struation at Carleton

I’ve been feeling terrible all day. My stomach is hurting, my head is pounding, and I haven’t gotten a peaceful night of sleep in days. As I hurry to my PE class, I think I must be coming down with something, or maybe I’m just sad or stressed about all of the reading I have to do tonight. I make it into the building with just enough time to use the bathroom and…oh crap. 

I just got my period. Like billions of people like me who menstruate, it happens roughly once a month. And while it would be bad enough if menstruating didn’t come with yet another reason to be dysphoric, being trans adds a whole new level of discomfort to an already painful five-to-seven days. 

I sit for a minute, knowing that I don’t have much time to spare. I have menstrual supplies in my backpack — students can barely count on there being pads and tampons in the women’s restroom, much less the men’s room, and it’s not like I can just walk up to the nearest man and ask for a pad — but I’m wearing men’s underwear, and none of the supplies I have are compatible. 

After suffering through an hour of PE with a strange configuration of toilet paper instead of a pad, I trek all the way from the Weitz to Watson as cramps start to set in. I reach for one of the pads in the back of my closet — pads that I had to work up the courage for several days to buy in person, only to be asked by the Family Fare cashier if I was buying them for my sister. As I open the orange, floral-scented packaging, a female symbol and the words: BE BRAVE #LikeAGirl stare me back in the face. 

Throughout the week, I am uncomfortable and in pain, but I don’t know what to do. It’s hard for me to communicate my needs or feelings with pretty much everybody but other trans people. Even though I’m out as trans to a lot of people, trying to talk about menstruating with cis women is usually an awkward conversation, and one that could lead to misgendering and confusion on their part. And when my cis guy friends ask me if I’m feeling alright,  I just don’t know what to say. If I told a professor that I couldn’t participate in something because I was on my period, they would look at me like I had three heads. And don’t even start on bathrooms — not only do men’s bathrooms not have the in-stall wastebasket for menstrual products, some don’t even have a landfill bin at all. So even in the best-case scenario, I am carrying a pad out of the stall with me, hoping no one notices, and in the worst-case scenario I have to carry it outside of the bathroom until I can find a garbage bin. 

All of this awkwardness and isolation are coupled with an intense sensation of gender dysphoria that is uniquely heightened when “that time of the month” rolls around. Menstruating reminds me of the body that I was born into and demonstrates just how much of a tension there is between my physical body and my soul. Many trans people who menstruate share in my struggle — periods, with their physical and hormonal changes, bring a unique sense of discomfort because we recognize then more than ever that something is not right, that our body is doing something that our mind doesn’t like. 

The lack of period supplies in public bathrooms is something that we talk a lot about at Carleton and in broader policy conversations. But many times, people interpret menstruation — and all reproductive issues — as women’s issues, when that is simply not true. Menstruation is not something that all women do, and it isn’t something that only women do either. My use of “people who menstruate” is not only just to be trans-inclusive; even if I was only talking about cisgender people, “cis women” and “people who menstruate” are not equivalent. 

But I am specifically not only talking about cisgender people. Trans and non-binary people who menstruate deserve the same common decency as women who menstruate. We deserve access to menstrual supplies in our bathrooms — and those menstrual supplies shouldn’t only be marketed to women. Trans and non-binary people who have periods hate them just as much as the women who have them do, and we just want to be able to manage our bodily functions and get on with our day. Making conversations and resources about menstruation trans-inclusive hurts no one, and it can help trans people with periods — like me, and like many people on this campus — feel a little less alone.

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About the Contributor
Isaac Kofsky
Isaac Kofsky, Viewpoint Editor
Hi there! I’m Isaac (he/him) and I’m a first-year prospective religion or geology major. I’ve been described as “the chapel’s press liaison” and I love eating dinner at 4:45pm, reading non-fiction, wearing sweaters, and drinking two cups of black coffee at every meal. When I’m not in Carletonian pitch meetings or in religion class, you can normally find me doing homework in the chapel or drinking tea in the religion lounge.   Isaac Kofsky '27 was previously a Beat Writer.  

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