Menstruation: A Conversation Beyond the Binary

Menstruation: A Conversation Beyond the Binary

Nikita Srivastava, Arun Kumar, Priyanka Soni, Rajat Singh
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5088-8.ch006
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


In recent years, conversations regarding menstruation are becoming more potent than ever before. Activists and media together have been trying to do away with the stigma towards the natural and biological phenomenon of menstruation. In the popular media, this can be seen with more advertisements and movies surrounding the topic being openly created and viewed. However, despite the momentum the topic has gained for women's health, it still remains a taboo for many. Transgender people in India continue to suffer violence, denial, and unequal treatment. In such an environment it becomes difficult to raise the topic of menstruation as a health concern that is encountered and faced by transgender individuals as well. The lack of literature on their health speaks volumes of the extent to which we have alienated the transgender community from our everyday conversations. The chapter aims to highlight the concerns and problems of menstruation faced by the transgender community, keeping in mind the dysphoria they experience and the stark lack of inclusive policies and facilities in the nation.
Chapter Preview


Menstruation refers to the biological process which is associated with the ability to reproduce. In the event of no pregnancy, monthly vaginal bleeding occurs on a monthly as the uterine line sheds. The name menstruation is derived from the Latin word “menses,” which means month. Despite menstruation being a natural process, its occurrence has a history filed with stigma and shame for those who bleed.

In India, menstruation has had a history worth mentioning. Periods in India have evolved from being a topic that was never openly discussed and used as a tool of discriminating against those who bled – most commonly women – to now a topic that is becoming more commonly spoken about in popular media and in personal channels as well. Despite this development, it cannot be said that India as a whole has accepted menstruation as a natural biological phenomenon. This was visible during the COVID-19 pandemic in India when the government failed to place menstrual hygiene products like sanitary napkins, in the essential items list. Our country still lacks sufficient menstrual education and a huge chunk of our society do not have access to quality menstrual hygiene.

Across cultures, religions and ethnic groups, the biological process of menstruation has faced different reactions. In many countries, during the monthly cycle, women are not allowed to freely venture outside, and their behavior is restricted. There are often cultural taboos and feelings of shame, uncleanliness and secrecy associated with menstruation. It is no surprise that even in the 21st century, menstruation continues to be a topic not openly discussed but whispered in hushed tones as a secret between the mother and daughter. Similarly, in India the myths surrounding periods are still very much prevalent today. Certain regions in India consider menstruation a gift from God and celebrate it as the start of womanhood. However, there is certain regions in India where menstruating people are not allowed to step foot inside the temple, not allowed to cook food in the kitchen, attend public functions such as a wedding etc. (Thakur, Aronsson, Bansode et al., 2014). Menstruation has become a means for labelling those who bleed as ‘impure,’ ‘dirty,’ among other harsh words (Upadhayay, 2019).

On an equally contrasting hand, is an India which celebrates the attainment of menarche – the first menstrual cycle – beholding it as the transition to womanhood. In Tamil Nadu the grand celebration of ‘Manjal Neerattu Vizha’ takes place where the girl is celebrated for becoming a woman. Invites are distributed to neighbors, relatives and the like. It’s a woman-only event and it ends with a priest cleansing the house after the Punya Dhaman. In Andhra Pradesh and Telengana, the function ‘Peddamanishi Pandaga’ takes places. Celebrations are held on the first, fifth and last day of the cycle. The girl is bathed by five women and kept in a room of her own, provided with separate mattresses and utensils to use. She is given plenty nutritious food. On the last day, gifts of jewelry, new clothes and other items are given by the uncle. The girl during this time period is not allowed to move outside (Goled, 2019). There are more such festivals and celebrations to be noted such as: the ‘half saree’ function in Bengaluru and ‘Tuloni Biya’ in Assam. All the celebrations are somewhat similar in nature with certain cultural and regional differences in them. Furthermore, they are all laden with the theme of keeping the girl separated from the others, celebrating the attainment of her womanhood, gifting her grandly and dressing her up the way women are expected to in a females-only celebration.

However the reality that greets us in majority is of a nation where menstrual literacy is not rampant and till date shopkeepers continue to wrap menstrual products up in black bags or newspaper. It is still very much the hushed discussion for many people. In such an environment, it is no surprise that transgender menstruation is not widely spoken about or even realized as an actual topic of significance.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Menstruation: The monthly discharge of blood and endometrial tissues from the uterus through the vagina that occurs in women as a part of the menstrual cycle.

Queer: The term is used to refer to gay and lesbian individuals.

Gender Binary: It refers to a system that regards all population into two genders, typically males and females.

Gender Dysphoria: The psychological unease felt due to a perceived mismatch between the biological sex and gender identity.

Transgender: The term denotes a gender identity which does not coincide with the sex assigned at birth.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: