Maggie Di Sanza
Grappling with Femininity
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
I have always lived with the term ‘gender fluidity;’ I appreciate the non-committal nature of the identity. Throughout my entire life, I have expressed myself physically, emotionally and interactively in both masculine and feminine ways. This constant shift between masculinity and femininity has made dealing with my female body frustrating at times.
I do not have the intention of procreating, nor am I incredibly ‘in tune’ with my femininity; thus, having my period can be a battle. This conflict does not come from the period itself; sure I find it a bit annoying and painful - as most menstruating people do. Rather, my frustration comes more with the societal association. Having a period is an inherently girlish experience; one that does not inherently exclude trans or non-binary people, but certainly does not embrace them. Having a period is already hushed to the point of making cisgender females feel oppressed; when coupled with feminine stereotypes, it makes those who do not fit comfortably into this box feel not only oppressed, but ignored.
While not traditionally feminine, I am not transgender. I do not experience the despotism and cruelty as if I were trans when it comes to having a period. Though, having one can feel dysphoric at times.
Each month I am reminded of my supposed femininity with my period. This constant reminder can be a bit discouraging while I am simultaneously trying my hardest to neglect more feminine aspects of myself. The monthly shedding brings on other emotions and personal experiences as well. While experiencing PMS, and other symptoms (up to five days before my period), I am once again reminded of my femininity. Simply experiencing cramps or headaches can provoke a sense of emotional discomfort and dysphoria within me, not to mention the emotional baggage that comes along with simply experiencing a period.
Like many people, I tend to be more temperamental and emotionally reactive before menstruation. This, of course, is no reason to treat a person differently; despite these strong feelings against an incredibly problematic stereotype, I am constantly putting myself down.
That is the real danger of societal stigmas and constructs: despite objecting to them, they still find a way to contribute to conflict and strife within you. This negative perception of myself is also reflected in how I present my femininity. I find that I dress far more traditionally feminine when menstruating, as opposed to my more regular state of being. This includes wearing more traditionally feminine clothes, putting on makeup, or wearing jewelry.
In theory, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this; but like most occurrences, things that happen ‘in theory’ always seem to make sense. Presenting femininely should be a choice for people; feeling pressured to do so is never good. Having a period occasionally forces me into this binary.
I am certainly incredibly privileged when it comes to having a period: I have access to menstrual products, am not physically transgender, and have grown up in a family who is for the most part supportive. That is not to say that struggles don’t come along with it. While grappling with femininity has been a personal challenge, my period has only made this worse.
I continue to challenge the status quo, and work towards a presentation, identification, and form of expression that is not determined by my menstruating body.