The Undeniable Ruth Rotating Header Image

gender dysphoria

Switched to a Menstrual Cup

If talk about menstruation (periods) or blood makes you squeamish, you might not want to read this post.

Seven months and eight periods ago, I traded in my tampons for a menstrual cup. I’m so glad I made the switch. Note: This post contains affiliate links, each marked with an asterisk (*).

I had two motivations for doing this:

  1. Cost: My Lunette menstrual cup (Model 2)* cost $28.99 on Amazon. It will easily pay for itself in less than a year, and may have already.
  2. Environment: There’s no trash when you use a menstrual cup, just empty, clean, and re-use. Tampons, pads, applicators, and wrappers, on the other hand, pile up in landfills.

Day 1: It Got Stuck

It didn’t get stuck-stuck, but it took a bit to figure out how to slide the cup out of my body. Getting the cup in to my body was easy – squeeze one side in so the circle at the top looks like a “C,” and slide it in. It re-expands back to its circular shape and the little holes near the top create a suction against your skin. You have to break this seal to get it back out, which is challenging when you have tiny hands and short fingers like me. The first time I tried to get it out after wearing it a few hours (you can wear it up to 12 hours) was a complete fail. I got it out that evening, but it took 20 minutes to figure it out.

Leaks Happen – But Not Often

Before switching to a menstrual cup, I dealt with leaks all the time. I have designated underwear for this week. Doesn’t everyone?

I have way fewer leaks with the menstrual cup. I’ve had two leaks because I didn’t quite get the cup into place, and I think I overflowed it once. I just wear black underwear and that seems to be enough. I don’t need to wear a pantyliner or anything for backup.


My Own Horror Movie

Tampons and pads work by absorbing your blood. You can’t tell how much fluid they’re actually holding. Cups are the opposite. It’s just a silicon cup that catches your blood. When you empty your cup when you’re in the shower or sitting on the toilet, it looks like a horror movie. You know exactly how much you’re bleeding.

Thank goodness men don’t get periods. If teenage boys used menstrual cups, they’d be throwing blood at each other in high school bathrooms.

What about Public Bathrooms?

When you empty your cup, you’re supposed to at least rinse it before putting it back in. I’m lucky where I work only has single-user bathrooms so I can easily rinse my cup in the sink.

With multi-user bathrooms, that’s not the case. Thankfully, I’ve only had to deal with this once. I emptied my cup, wiped it out with toilet paper (and dripped blood on my shoe), put it back in, and wiped the blood off my fingers before exiting the stall. It wasn’t a big deal.   

No Rogue Strings (Yay!)

Tampon users know this one: sometimes your string “goes rogue” and pulls in the opposite direction from where it should be. And it hurts. And there’s no discreet way to fix it. You have to reach into your underwear and put it back in place.

When this happened to me, it was usually when I was out running, far away from a bathroom. It happened so frequently, I switched from tampons to “period panties” when I was running. With the cup, there’s no string to worry about.

Equally convenient, I don’t have to worry about having a visible string when I go swimming – which is currently twice a week. (Yes, there’s a true story from my gymnastics days when I was competing in a black leotard with a visible white string!) When I’m at the pool, I always worry that I didn’t put my cup in properly and it will leak. I have a fear of finishing a lap and being confronted by a lifeguard who tells me I’m bleeding in the pool. So far, that has not been an issue at all.

Helps with Dysphoria

Using a menstrual cup* helps with the dysphoria I have about being non-binary and trapped in a female body. When I was using tampons, I had to change it five times a day or more on my heaviest day. That meant I had to have tampons with me, carry them through the office on my way to the bathroom, dealing with the string, and being confronted with my period each time I changed my tampon. Cups are designed to be worn for up to 12 hours, so I only have to deal with it twice a day, three times on my heaviest day. Otherwise, I can “set it and forget it.”

Well, except for the cramps part.

Am I Non-Binary?

Earlier this year, a court in Oregon let a person legally change their gender to “non-binary.” It’s fantastic that the law acknowledges that there’s more to gender than merely male or female.

europa rainbow by  ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

europa rainbow by ** RCB ** from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I thought about this ruling, I began to reflect on my upbringing. When I was growing up, children were classified as a “boy” or a “girl” based on their genitalia. By the time I was in preschool, I understood that boys and girls were told to use different bathrooms, play with different toys, and wear different clothes. As I got older, I learned that some people are homosexual and bisexual. I also learned that some people are transgender, meaning that they were born in the wrong body, and probably wanted a sex change; and some people are intersex, meaning they have both male and female genitalia. In all these situations, gender was represented as a binary characteristic.

I wondered, if I grew up in a culture that acknowledged gender as a spectrum, would I self-identify as non-binary. I’ve never fit in with the “girly girls” in school, and I didn’t want to be like them. In fact, I got in trouble when I was nine because I refused to talk to most of the girls in my class because I thought they were annoying. I find it delightfully ironic that I was a gymnast – a sport that is so inherently feminine and has drastic differences in men’s and women’s events. It’s also fierce as hell which is why I love it so much. I asked my teammates, who I spent years with, seeing each other at our best and our worst during our tween and teen years, to describe me. Some of their descriptors were “strong,” “powerful,” “determined,” “focused,” and “true to yourself.” I definitely wasn’t one of the balletic athletes in the gym.

Learning about this ruling made me the question my gender identity. I have no issues with being biologically female except that I think tits are overrated, and I would have an ablation in a heartbeat if it came with a guarantee. I have no desire to have a penis. If pushed to declare which pronouns I want, I can see myself choosing he/her – don’t ask me why, and, to be honest, I really don’t care what pronouns you use for me as long as you use them respectfully. As a model, I prefer poses and looks that are somewhat androgynous and portray me as strong – or at least possessing an inner strength.

I shared some of my thoughts about questioning my gender with my friends, and it was comforting to hear that I’m not the only one who doesn’t fit in a stereotypical box. Some are agender. Some have biologically male parts, no desire to change that, but feel they are more feminine in terms of their personality. The best response I got was from a friend who says she doesn’t identify as a “lady” or a “man,” but rather an engineer, an inventor, a housewife, an athlete, a seamstress, and a parent. I think she’s right in that what we do is more important than which bathroom we use or which gender box we check.

If you’re questioning your gender identity and/or gender expression, you’re not alone. We may not talk about it much, but a lot of us don’t feel like we fit into the male/female binary. You don’t have to decide on a label for yourself today and if you select a designation for yourself, you’re not stuck with it for forever. For me, for now, I’m content to classify myself as gender non-conforming and continue to be open to further self-exploration and experiences.