Exclusion of non-binary and trans voices is an all too common occurrence. Transphobia ensures that our experiences are constantly questioned, especially when it comes to a taboo subject like period sex.
Although society has made progress in removing the stigma from period sex, they way these conversations are discusses in mainstream media still largely excludes anyone who isn’t cisgender.
The perfect case in point? A recent survey by Mama Mia collected the experiences of 1,000 women about their sexual habits, preferences, etc.
Right from the beginning of their article, they make references to period sex associated with cis women – and cis women alone. If anyone else is included, it’s about cis men and how they see period sex. The emphasis is put on period pleasure being “women’s health”, rather than a discussion inclusive of everyone with a vulva, regardless of their gender identity.
The sense of being overlooked and left out of the conversation persists as much as the taboo of period sex itself. When we’re repeatedly removed from the topic, does it really come as a surprise that 66% of people with vulvas feel poorly represented in masturbation discussions?
A recent survey conducted by sex inclusive brand Self & More found that the vast majority of their non-binary and trans followers felt underrepresented. Although their findings come from a small group of participants, it still does well to highlight how this part of the LGBTQIA+ community feels excluded.
Yes, there’s vulva related content everywhere you look online, but it’s often very specific to cis women. Even in the instances when non-binary and trans voices are included, the discussion is normally around the acceptance of periods as a bodily function, without any connection to pleasure. The lines of what is and isn’t acceptable are still rigidly drawn in the sand, even despite us pushing back and demanding change.
For those of us who have periods, it’s one of those topics that has been a part of our lives since we started bleeding. We whispered about it among friendship circles, curious to learn more, yet unable to because society saw periods in a restricted, linear way. There was a sense of wonder regarding menstruation, largely due to the way the education system limits our understanding of sex and sexual health.
Demi, an online sex educator behind S3xTheorywithDemi, comments on the unusual way we’re introduced to periods.
“From the moment we were told about periods in year six, that’s all we could talk about. Every break and lunch time we would sit and discuss it – mostly because none of us had started their cycle yet and we had been given very little information on the subject. All we had was one pocket-sized period handout and we used that as if it was some sort of Bible.”
Unfortunately, while many of us sat in groups and talked about our periods, masturbation was a different creature altogether. “The topic of masturbation was taboo – no one wanted to admit that they did it (if you were AFAB) even though we all knew internally that we all had,” adds Demi.
“There certainly was a huge taboo around period sex and one I still believe is very present today – from personal experience, it something people fear and are embarrassed about.”
This embarrassment is certainly a factor that kept me out of the period pleasure conversation for many years. I didn’t want to be seen as disgusting or different in any way. An ‘othering’ that’s only emphasised further when you’re uncertain of your identity and still trying to learn more about yourself.
Mari, a non-binary intersex influencer, details the way in which language surrounding these topics keeps marginalised voices from being heard.
“While I previously felt like I could join in these conversations easily, identifying as trans prevented me from relating to my cisgender friends and family. Not only were such topics clouded by my own dysphoria, but the added layer of being trans meant that a topic that was already bordering on taboo was completely off limits.”
The dysphoria Mari speaks of is something I’ve experienced myself, as have countless other non-binary and trans individuals. It goes beyond the simple definition of unease that the NHS website references; it can be crippling.
Not only do you have issues with your body that come from societal views, you then have the criticism you cast on yourself because your body isn’t what you expected, wanted, or feel connected to.
Adding both masturbation and periods into that turbulent experience – two topics which are already seen as taboo for cis women – can leave you feeling extremely disconnected and alone.
Despite being older and having better access to inclusive sex education, I still feel the taboo of period sex maintain its hold. A hold that deepens due to a lack of content that reflects my experiences as a non-binary person.
Society claims inclusivity and progression, yet we don’t need to dig deep to see that the feminism attached to these conversations only applies to a certain demographic. Unfortunately, this intentionally serves to keep non-binary and trans people out.
“You can click on any ‘feminist’ social media account or news outlet and nine times out of 10 you will see periods being tied to having a uterus or being a woman or some variation of ‘girl power’,” Mari later shares, perfectly summarising how so-called feminist spaces fail us because it comes from a commercialised stance of what feminism is.
The emphasis is on girls coming together, a sentiment that comes from a well meaning place, born from centuries of women’s oppression. But those good intentions don’t stop the language from alienating those of us who don’t fit this label. Many use women as an inclusive term, but it’s a gendered label that isn't one-size-fits-all; the danger in using it as such is that you continuously misgender those you’re trying to include.
Non-binary and trans voices shouldn’t be provided as tokenism, they shouldn’t be included as an afterthought. We should be included from the beginning. Period pleasure of any kind, whether partnered or solo, is part of our experiences too.
The shift in how these topics are shared and talked about is beginning to be felt, with us able to see our challenges bringing about change. Nevertheless, there’s still much work to be done before the taboo of period sex is no longer one that excludes non-binary and trans voices.