Not all trans men menstruate. Not all trans women ejaculate. Some cis women do ejaculate. A significant portion of women don’t menstruate. So, probably none of those people would want to be referred to that way.

On the other hand, if it were about a health issue that effects people in different ways depending on one or more reproductive characteristics, I find it hard to imagine less precise language would be appreciated. For instance, since I am not a man and don’t have male reproductive organs, I would disregard something addressed to men. If it was addressed to all people with a prostate, though, that would apply to me because I do have a prostate (albeit probably pretty small at this point). If it said just men, or even men with prostates, it wouldn’t apply to me.

Substituting the word “men” for people with prostates would imply all men have prostates and only those with prostates should be considered men. That’s not true, just as not all women menstruate and not all who menstruate are women. Implying otherwise erases a lot of people.

I have already said I agree that it is demeaning to reduce women to their reproductive capacity. Women are more than their reproductive systems. Also, not all women menstruate. In fact, most of the cis women I’m close to in my life — my wife, the rest of my family, friends — are in post menopause. They are not menstruators, so would not be included in a group of people who menstruate. If we substitute “woman” instead of “menstruators,” we are doubly demeaning all women who don’t menstruate, first by implying their worth as a woman is tied to their ability to menstruate, and then by implying that they aren’t really women because they don’t menstruate.

The problem is that only one person called all women menstruators: Rowling, in her tweet. By doing so, she implied that only women capable of menstruation are really women. And considering she has already implied many times trans women aren’t really women and trans men aren’t really men, it is obvious she was asserting that in order to be a woman, one must menstruate (because trans women don’t), and all who menstruate are women (because she considers trans men and AFAB non-binary people women).

So let me ask you again: what should the headline Rowling was responding to have said? If, as she suggested, it were to instead say women, I’ve already explained how that’s demeaning to all women who don’t menstruate, and other genders that do. I think we can both agree it would, in fact, be demeaning to all women, because it reduces women down to their reproductive capacity, which is sexist. If it said all women who menstruate, then it’s excluding a lot of people who aren’t women but do menstruate.

As I’ve said, I think most people would be fine with “women who menstruate and others who menstruate,” or the linguistically less awkward “women and others who menstruate.” The only people who would not be ok with that are people who think only women menstruate, and that all women menstruate.

A couple more questions: do you think trans men who menstruated and AFAB non-binary people who menstruate are actually women? Do you feel trans women are actually men?

If you answered yes to either of those — or even a qualified no — then I will have to bring this conversation to a close; saying someone born with a vulva is a woman and someone born with a penis is a man is transphobic, and I don’t have time for such bigotry. As previously stated, I’m a woman and everyone knows me as such. The only ones who call me a man are randos on the internet who don’t even know me and whose opinions mean nothing to me.

If your answer is no, then please, once more, tell me what word fits only those of any gender who menstruate.

Thanks for your commitment toward open and honest dialogue.

Written by

Educator, writer, LGBTQ+ advocate, avid reader. Novelist in progress. Website: http://janelleswritemind.com/ Empowering the LGBTQ+ community one word at a time.

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