Musician Freddie Lewis on dealing with periods as a trans man

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Freddie Lewis sitting on a chairImage source, Beth Butcher
Image caption,
"Trans women tend to be a lot more visible than trans men in terms of discourse and public conversation"

Freddie Lewis is a pop musician and poet from Bristol.

He shares his life as a transgender man in his art and on social media, bringing positivity and pride to the trans narrative.

At just 21, Freddie has learned to love and accept his body, including the fact that he occasionally has periods.

In his own words while in conversation with BBC reporter Harriet Robinson, Freddie details his experiences of bleeding, how he found self-acceptance and what changes he wants to see from society.

I came out in 2018 after realising that I wanted to transition.

I'd been exploring gender and what that meant to me for a few years and eventually came to the conclusion that it had to be this way.

My gut reaction was to almost performatively hate my body, which is very sad. But I assumed that was kind of a prerequisite for being trans.

In 2019 I started on testosterone and continued to explore what I wanted physically from my transition. I had top surgery in that year as well.

Top surgery is what a lot of trans men call chest masculinisation surgery. This is usually the procedure medically referred to as a double mastectomy.

But, despite this, I had a big wave of just resenting that my body still did things it had always done.

And don't get me wrong, I resented them before I came out too, but it was just magnified by this feeling of 'this shouldn't be happening'.

Image source, Beth Butcher
Image caption,
"I've got to this point now that whatever happens with my body, I will be like, we'll get through this, it'll be fine, rather than this excruciating resentment for what's happening"

As I learned more about myself and examined where that came from I realised it was something I did almost to fulfil what I thought cis people thought trans people were; that we think we are wrong, our bodies are wrong, that transition is something to get away from ourselves rather than to move towards ourselves.

(Cis is short for cisgender - a term used to refer to people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.)

After a few really intense months of toxic masculinity and self-shaming in 2019 I started to question why? Why do I hate the fact that I've got a period?

It just compounds this really painful time, rather than thinking OK, well this is what's happening and these are the steps I'm going to take to make it nicer for me.

The experience of using a men's toilet and having a period is often one where you have to be a planner. I used to have little sandwich bags for waste disposal on my person because there were no sanitary bins.

A few places are starting to add them, especially in mixed-gender toilets.

It is stressful being in a men's toilet cubicle and trying to quietly unwrap a pad, which seems to be the loudest thing in the world in that situation.

Image source, Freddie Lewis
Image caption,
"I like my new voice and my moustache, but I don't think these should be pre-requisites of the respect I'm given"

I don't have periods super often. I'll have the odd one when my testosterone levels dip if they're changing my injection cycle.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is what some trans people choose to use in order to feel a bit more aligned with their body.

For me, I take testosterone injections every 13 weeks. This keeps my level about the same as a cisgender man of my age.

It's worth noting that not all trans people choose to or are physically able to undergo HRT, and the purpose of this is not to assimilate the cisgender experience.

Image source, Beth Butcher
Image caption,
"People are constantly taught growing up to hide their period but that's nonsense"

Having bins in men's toilets would of course make the experience a lot easier for trans men.

But I would love to see trans men and trans-masculine people included in period conversation more, especially by mainstream period brands.

It's starting to happen but a better general awareness would really go a long way in making us feel included in the main body of society.

Cis people tend to forget when they're talking about periods that there are actually a lot of trans men, non-binary and trans-masculine people who also bleed.

We're not trying to take anything away from their experience by wanting to be part of that chat too.

Be proud

I would also love to see trans people being more proud and not resenting their own bodies.

You can just love yourself and if others don't understand they're allowed to be wrong about you and your body.

I wish I could go back and tell that to 16-year-old Freddie. You don't have to pander to that, you can be proud of everything your body does.

Image source, Beth Butcher
Image caption,
"I use my music and poetry to shed light on my trans experience, and most importantly to show the world my joy in being trans"

Over the past three years, as soon as my body started to physically feel so recognisably me, I felt so much protection over myself and really want to do the right thing by me and for me.

Part of that is unconditionally loving and accepting my body.

Of course there will always be hurdles to overcome and bad days, as with anyone, but I'm myself because of, and not despite of, my body and indeed my trans-ness.

I write to share my story with everyone, in hope that they might see a proud trans man and think they can be proud too.