Today I have such dreadful cramps that when I get up out of my chair, I make an involuntary sound of pain. That's pretty pathetic, right? But I'm not going to talk about how pathetic I am - not today. I'm going to talk about what my body means to me.
As a confusedly-gendered person, I spend a lot of time in conflict with my body. Sometimes I hate my breasts, which no amount of binding would disguise, even if binding wasn't so preposterously uncomfortable that I never even made it out of the house whilst sporting it. Sometimes I hate my hips, which are pretty unhappy about fitting into boy-trousers. Sometimes I hate my legs, which remain uncompromisingly short, and which ensure that I have never worn a pair of trousers that I haven't had to shorten, regardless of what gender they're intended for. And yes, sometimes I have hated my periods, hated them to the point of tears. I'm not going to claim that my hatred wasn't gender-related. In a way, how could it not be? In a culture where schoolgirls are shamed for having tampons or pads in their bags, where grown men as well as schoolboys make jokes about PMS and have gross-out competitions about period-sex, where many non-period-having humans genuinely believe that menstruation makes one "crazy", how can I be sure that my resentment of my periods was divorced from that sexist nonsense? I'm sure that it affected me on some level: one can't grow up steeped in misogyny and expect to emerge unscathed.
However, for the most part, my period-hatred was to do with the inconvenience of it all. I was never the girl who belonged in a Lil-Lets advert, dancing around joyfully with nary a rusty stain in sight. I was the girl whose periods were wilfully irregular, turning up at random with no warning seemingly just to toy with me, bringing with them days of disruption, discomfort and pain. Some of that is still true today - they're still painful and annoying, and my cycle is still anything but regular. And I'm still slightly resentful of the extra planning I have to do to accommodate them. But honestly? I actually kind of love having periods. Although I don't exactly enjoy the pain and the clock-watching, I don't hate it. I like the sense of control that I get from dealing with it, even when it's so fundamentally uncontrollable. Okay, so I can't dictate (or even predict!) when my period is going to turn up, but I can predict the kind of steps I'll need to take in order to deal with it when it does happen. And that makes me feel at peace with my body in a way that has very little to do with gender.
I hear a lot of anecdotal evidence from trans-men, trans-masculine folk and the like who hate having periods, much as they hate their breasts, because for them menstruation is incontrovertible evidence of their 'female bodies', which they often don't like to be reminded of. I have a lot of sympathy for that feeling - I have felt it myself, about many aspects of my body. On the other side of the same coin, I've also heard a lot of people describing that "female bonding" thing of having periods: it's something that all women share, and men don't understand! Actually, no. Not all women have periods, for a variety of reasons, and some men do, also for a variety of reasons. I don't really subscribe to either of these views in their entirety, although I understand the drive behind both. I hope that my acceptance of my menstruation stems from a growing empathy with the idea that no biological functions are inherently male or female, meaning that my periods are not an irrefutable sign of my womanhood. They may be an indicator that I'm capable of getting pregnant, but that's an entirely different kettle of fish.
I'm getting so sick of the essentialist language that is used to describe us. Progressives often use "female-bodied" in a well-meaning attempt to show that they know that not all people who have breasts or uteri are women, and I do appreciate the intent. But it's terribly unhelpful for all sorts of people, particularly trans and genderqueer people, who often don't want or need to alter their bodies, and would rather not be put into any particular box due to their personal choices (or lack thereof). I really don't appreciate being reduced to my biology in any case, particularly when it's just yet another stick to be used to beat my supposed gender into me. On a slight tangent, could we stop referring to male-heavy spaces as "sausage-fests"? A) it's gross, and b) it's factually incorrect, disturbingly erasing and personally insulting.
I like my periods ... they don't mean I'm a woman. I don't have a cock ... that doesn't mean I'm any less of a man. I am not female-bodied, and I never have been.