Sunday, October 23, 2016

Menstruation and Reclaiming my Body

This is a follow-up to my essay where I explain the base reasons why I'm going off testosterone.  It contains a lot of stuff relating to periods and my personal preferences for natural healthcare (I'm not anti-pharmaceutical but prefer to avoid it when possible).

"I think this is the first time I've ever seen someone be so positive about having the blood."  This was a thing told to me shortly after I had a spotting incident a few days ago.  I got awkwardly excited, thinking I had my period, and rushed to get my homemade menstrual pad that I designed to fit into boxer briefs.  It went away really quickly, so I wasn't actually on my period, although it gives me some relief to see that going off hormones is probably working the way it's supposed to.

It's not actually entirely accurate to say that I'm, say, happily looking forward to menstruating.  I'm not a 9 year old girl who thinks it will "make her a woman."  I have firsthand experience in the cramps, emotional roller-coasters, and mess.  I didn't get good at managing periods until my twenties.  I could tell you a lot of really awful, embarrassing, traumatizing period stories from my youth.  The answer to why I would be looking forward to it is a little more complex than that.

It has to do with reclaiming my body from the expectations people have been putting on it, and returning to a way of managing my health that is lower maintenance.

"Periods aren't low maintenance!" I can assume people are thinking.  I agree, they're not, and the management of menstruation is a serious women's health issue worldwide.  But there's a different kind of management going on than staying on testosterone.  Testosterone involves medications that are a constant source of stress due to needles, aggravated health issues, physician scheduling issues, and cost (I wrote about that at length in the original article).  Menstruation, unless you're on something that changes it, just happens.  And if it doesn't happen, it's still useful, because it provides a metric that can be used to gauge your own health.  In my own case, starting to menstruate again would be a dead giveaway that my body is reverting back to estrogen dominance, which is exactly what I want.

This reclamation of my naturally-functioning body also makes picking both over-the-counter pharmaceutical choices and natural health choices a whole lot easier.  As a testosterone-dominant trans man anything I picked out that was gendered had to be inspected, separated into things that changed with hormones and things that didn't.  Taking a women's multivitamin, for instance, wasn't a great idea because due to the testosterone I had high blood iron levels.  But a women's probiotic might be more useful than a non-gendered one due to ingredients affecting parts I still had that were fully functional.  A drug that says "for men only" might only be referring to the fact that it has masculinizing side effects, but it also could be damaging to my uterus or breasts.  I don't need to worry about that so much, now.  I can just assume that my body mostly needs what a woman's body needs.  It's a little more complicated with herbal recipes, but most of the women's health based recipes will now apply to me, with the men's recipes mostly being a placebo at worst.  I'll need to look into what individual herbs are being used... but that's something that needs to be done anyway, and it'll still be easier.

More importantly, it'll be much easier to treat the things testosterone made worse.  I already explained at fair length the problem with my blood iron level/red blood cell counts in my last essay on this subject.  That's a very stressful thing to manage.  My blood pressure is stressful to manage because my body, as it turns out, absolutely hates the most effective blood pressure medications.  Having to get such comprehensive bloodwork is a stressful thing to manage.  I'm reclaiming the relative simplicity of dealing with my own body that I had before I had those shots.

I'm not one of those judgmental people who thinks natural automatically equals better for everyone.  But I would be lying if I tried to hide the fact that it's a personal preference of mine.  If it worked (and it doesn't) I may have even tried going to the herbal route for transition to begin with, but it turns out that even for a crunchy natural woo woo guy like me testosterone is the best option to get the full effect of physical transition, an option I don't regret and which I am greatly thankful for.  That doesn't mean that it has to be forever, though, and the idea of going on it for a while and then going back to a more natural transition maintenance routine and especially shattering that cultural expectation that trans men must universally reject our bodies' natural cycles is more and more appealing to me as I get deeper into it.

Spiritually it's hard to explain and have this be universally understandable (after all, even the stuff I've already written will not be relatable for most trans men).  As a Pagan girl and woman (I've been a Pagan much longer than I've been a man), menstruation and body cycles were a big part of my practice.  A lot of Witches use this period to generate more power, as a devotional tool in its own way, as a lunar symbol due to the similarity in timing.  The hormonal changes during menstruation also lead to perception changes that I had been actively using to spiritual ends right up until I went on testosterone... lucid dreaming, sleep paralysis with fascinating apparitions, an almost creepy level of empathy/clairsentience, deja vu, better ability to meditate and visualize, and overall more spiritual experiences altogether.  I've been desperately trying to get this stuff back, learning more lucid dreaming techniques, even trying some low-key herbals trying to regain these abilities.  There is no guarantee that I'll ever get them back, but I'm fairly certain their initial loss was the hormones, just due to the uncanny timing of it all.

The fact is, just like with the bodily function issue, there are plenty of trans men who will feel misgendered and demeaned by honoring their body in this way, but the fact that it's expected is ludicrous, and I'm greatly looking forward to getting that aspect of my spirituality back.