The Most Important Thing For A Menstrual Cycle Educator To Know
Okay sweet babes, it’s time to clear something up, again.
Womb work is not women’s work.
What is the most important thing for a menstrual cycle educator to know?
I have been getting this question frequently. The answer that always comes is, 1. Each person is the expert and authority of their own bodies and 2. Not all who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate.
I genuinely believe that the most important thing for anyone who wants to share menstrual cycle education to understand is that gender is a spectrum, with infinite expressions, and is not defined by the menstrual cycle. This is so important because everyone deserves access to information that will help them make empowered choices, regardless of their gender identity. And, because strict gender binaries (genitals = gender = societal role and privilege) is patriarchy, which needs to be deconstructed, first within our own lives and bodies.
Strict gender binary roles came with patriarchy, and men rising to power in a way that is out of balance with their place in the web of life. I personally identify as a woman and as nonbinary. Nonbinary (NB or enby) means that I am not strictly a man or a woman, and is an umbrella term that includes many different gender nonconforming identities. Gender “nonconforming” people have existed long before any binary that defined them as “nonconforming” ever did.
Our bodies are so wise and wild, and they express in an infinite amount of ways. Though gender is not sex, it is often equated this way, yet those who see their sex as something static that then defines their static gender are not seeing the whole picture. Even sex is extremely fluid, as what our endocrine systems are doing can change, and hormones are really powerful. Though not all gender nonconforming people’s identities are defined by their hormones, it feels important to note that even our scientific understanding of what is male and female is distorted by moralistic and religious views on what it means to be in body on this earth. Also, if having the hormonal composition that matches one’s gender identity is something that feels imperative to one’s health and/or wellbeing, then one as a right to that. That is reproductive justice.
When it comes to cycle education or womb centered spaces I have seen the use of “womxn” being used as an ambiguously “inclusive” term yet I don’t think the people using it realize that if you are doing work that is centered around the uterus and weaving that with woman then you are not including anyone but cisgendered women, right? I have always understood womxn to mean all who identify as women, explicitly including trans women. This is the way that I have used it. There’s a great thread up in @britchida‘s story highlights titled “womxn” discussing the confusing use of womxn among people who aren’t really conscious of why they’re using it, and if it is truly any more inclusive, or if it is a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist) word to differentiate between cis gendered women and trans women. Is a different term really necessary if we are all women? Is this just more of my own internalized patriarchy? Because I am not a trans woman, this is not really for me to decide.
Menstruation is neutral physiologic process. And I want to challenge that this makes it any less powerful, fascinating, moving, awesome, or whatever it is for you. I also feel that the force of the universe is a relatively neutral one as well - creating & destroying, creating & destroying - does this make it any less amazing, purposeful and wise? I argue that it does not. Can we begin to learn about the menstrual cycle, the universe, or anything at all without needing it to fit inside the limited confines of how we’ve societally decided to understand ourselves?
My experience as a woman is certainly informed by my experience of menstruation, from menarche to present, and it will continue to be. Yet, I have had to disentangle that from being the DEFINITION of my womanhood, and ask what woman really means - what I’ve been told it means, what definitions of it have been passed down to me and what is my own truth, how do I want to define my identity. It is a great idea to question any identities or roles that we take for granted. And to question the authority that tells us who we are in relation to ourselves, others and life, without giving us the space for this to authentically emerge. I think this is important for anyone with a body, to question what identities have been handed to you, and where they are out of alignment with your own spirit, and re-adjust accordingly.
I know that these conversations can be confusing and bewildering for people, and there’s a reason for that. To challenge the gender binary is something that makes people deeply uncomfortable because we’ve been shown that there are consequences for stepping outside of society’s confines. I do believe in spaces that are just for women, inclusive of all those who identify as women. And, perhaps some spaces that are just for cis women, who share the identities of being socialized in childhood as a girl and identifying as a woman in adulthood. Yet, I see so many of us creating spaces and not really understanding ourselves who they are for. This can ultimately create more harm, especially when we are using the menstrual cycle as the definition of womanhood.
I am going to continue to have these conversations in this space. They won’t be perfect, they will likely be messy. And we will never have it figured out. This is something that keeps us from learning and something we can release altogether - that we will ever have it all figured out. It is alive and in process and creative and regenerative and does not exist to be statically figured out. This post is nothing in comparison to the breadth of work that exists where we can learn more about gender, and the myriad of experiences that make up the gender nonconforming or trans experience. One resource I will offer is the Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism & Transgender Rights by Deborah Rudicille.
Please share your resources or practices in the comments that support a deconstruction and decomposition of a life-suffocating gender binary into a paradigm of gender identity and expression that uplifts the regenerative spirit and allows life to thrive in all of our glorious expressions.