My Queer Menopause

My Queer Menopause

The Precursor

This is my story, everyone’s story is different. I have tried not to list medications or ‘too much detail’ because what works for me might not for someone else, or visa versa, but I have included some detail because I think it’s relevant here.  Also, this story is true to me at the time of writing it. I’m still raw. This will probably change in time, with distance and perspective, and one other thing, this is not ALL my story, but one version. There’s more I left out.

Some thoughts before the story

My menopause was shit.  It was a horrible experience  I never felt I had any decent warning of.  This is despite being a sexual health educator for a number of years.  This being the case I feel compelled to write about my experience so other people with uterus’ can perhaps have an understanding of some elements of menopause. It is, of course a different experience for everyone, however, on speaking to my friends and acquaintances it seems that no one really knows what to expect, good, bad or indifferent.  Why is this the case?  I think it’s the case for so many reasons, largely there is stigma around talking about ANY sexual and reproductive health topics, plus, it’s largely cis gender women I am talking about and hello, it’s still hard for women to be heard.

I want to acknowledge while largely a gendered experience menopause effects many people in different ways.  Menopause is something that happens to people who have a uterus, cervix, vagina and have a menstrual cycle, usually each month.  This covers many people on the gender spectrum. It’s my understanding that trans men, if using hormones as part of a transition process will go through menopause in a very quick and intense period of time.  One trans friend of mine told me he went through it, it took about 6 weeks and he mostly stayed locked away in a room sweating the whole time, if he keeps his uterus, cervix and vagina he will need to look after them by having pap smears and whatever other sexual health check-ups are required for these body parts.  Not everyone identifies as being gender binary and some people will experience menopause who don’t solely identify as women.

There will also be women who don’t experience menopause because they do not have a uterus.  Women without a uterus could be trans women, or they could be women who have had hysterectomies at some stage.  There are people who suffer from medical conditions like Endometriosis and Polyscystic Ovaries and other horrible medical conditions. I know many people with these conditions who are looking forward to menopause, because it will be a time that doctors or medical professionals will stop acting as gatekeepers to the person’s health and finally let them have a hysterectomy the person has been wanting for some time.  The reason they aren’t ‘allowed them earlier in life being they might want children, and even though they say they don’t want them they might change their mind.  People with these conditions often have to live a life full of pain because the type of medical treatment they want, and understand, is being held back from them.

I also want to acknowledge people with Intersex conditions.  I have no understanding of the experience an Intersex person has around menopause, but I am sure it is as unique as the individual person.

In my experience most people who are going to experience menopause have no real idea about what it means until it starts to happen to them and sometimes well after it has started.

My Queer Menopause

Menopause had a massive impact on my identity, as it does with a lot of people.  I am currently 48 years old (in 2016), I will start my story from my 40th birthday party.

At my 40th birthday party I identified as a cis gender, polyamorous, lesbian.  I had come out at age 36 as same sex attracted. I left my male partner of 7 years (who I was also married to) and began to pursue what it meant to be gay.  My 40th birthday party had a boy band theme, I had started to perform as a drag king and was known in the lesbian community as a drag king.  I had a cis gender female partner, and was exploring or working out what it meant to be polyamorous.  Life was one big adventure.  If you look at my party snaps, they consist of lots of women having fun.  Around this time, I began to experience a bit of moodiness which I took to be changes in hormones.  I knew this, I should have known this, I am a trained sexual health educator.  I took myself off to my local family planning organisation for some check-ups.  Cis gender women’s bodies begin to change after the age of 40, hormones do begin to shift, whether you notice it or not.  I knew this.   It was identified, yes, there was some changes going on, not much I could do, the changes weren’t dramatic, it was all good.  I continued on my merry way, still having lots of fun.  Feeling fabulous, working out different aspects of my identity.  I had found ‘my people’, I had more confidence than I had ever had and life was grand, I ran lots of events within the lesbian community, both social and educational.  I was at the centre of the local LGBTI community, I even won several local awards for my work over a period of a few years.  During this time, somewhere in there, it had been suggested to me to try a natural medicine called ‘Remmifemmin’ I had been told it was really fantastic by numerous women.   This did help with moods for a bit.

A few years later I went through a tough time.  I found the lesbian community who I had felt so happy with could be quite nasty (like any community), I had had my first ‘other’ girlfriend, apart from my longer term female partner and many people were really challenged by this.  At the same time one of my best friends, another lesbian took her life, this was followed by a series of quite unwell friends within the lesbian community.  This was hard for all of us. At the end of that year I kept getting this sense that something was going to go wrong, something bad was going to happen and I wondered when all the ‘horrible’ stuff was going to stop and someone was going to have time to look after me.

Time ticked on and I removed myself somewhat from the local LGBTI community, I didn’t feel that I belonged and I just felt anxious whenever I was around large groups of (mostly cis gender) women. I also had a very unhealthy relationship with another woman, which, ultimately made me feel worse and more anxious.  I moved jobs a few times because I felt something wasn’t right, something was missing and I wasn’t happy.  I realise now that this was the beginning of my bad health issues, which slowly crept up on me.

Throughout this time, I had been with my female partner and I had done a number of drag king performances.  I continued to think about and explore my identity around sexuality and gender.  I felt I had a strong libido and knew who I was attracted to. Performing as a drag king was teaching me a lot about gender, about people’s perception of gender, how they were around me when I was in drag and how I felt in drag. Despite some things being hard, and job changes I was basically feeling good.  I felt like I finally knew myself and the world was my oyster.  I had skills and confidence to go out and grab what I wanted, I had not many fucks to give.

During this time, on a couple of occasions, I felt like I was experiencing hormone changes, I kept getting moody, which was unlike me.  I went to doctors and asked for blood tests and check-ups, but they revealed nothing.   I was also wanting to be prepared for body changes, so I went along to several ‘Menopause’ styled seminars.  The first one of these I went to was extremely heterosexist, white and not at all inclusive.  It included information on health and well being – all of which was fair enough, but the information around libido and how to ‘manage your husband’ was not relevant (to me).  Needless to say this was really annoying and just screamed ‘you are queer, you are queer, you are queer, different, different, different’.  Because of my extensive experience within the Community Sector, and the fact that I was well and truly ‘out’ in my sexuality,  a couple of the people who organised the seminar asked for my feedback. Which was something like ‘yep, very heterosexist’, which they knew anyway.  The next year I went to the ‘same’ seminar which had some improvements to it.  This time there were sections on health and eating….yeah righto, get regular exercise, try real hard even if you don’t want to. You’ll put weight on regardless because hormones change you need to eat less.  Then there was a woman who was proclaiming to be the only person or business who sold sex toys specifically for women in Australia.  She gave advice on how to handle libido…actually more like how to handle ‘his’ libido when he wanted sex and you didn’t.

She was showing the people at the seminar (primarily what appeared to be cis gender women, over 40) sex toys.  She explained they don’t all have to be enormous ‘things’ and told the audience how great bullets are.  Now, I thought, this is a load of shit.  She wasn’t the only person to sell sex toys for women and the way she spoke was heterosexist.  All about him.   Again a few people asked me about it afterwards and all I could say was that it was an improvement on the previous year.  The next year I went to another one of these presentations.  After that I gave up.  I knew to exercise, eat less, eat crushed linseeds and I forget whatever else, and the information on sex and intimacy was next to useless because it was excluding me.  Time is blurred, I was about 44 by this time.

A couple of years before this, in 2011, I had been in one of my jobs that I just wasn’t happy with, I had just finished studying a Masters of Education, handed in my thesis and had gotten to thinking about what I wanted to do.  I decided the job wasn’t a good fit and I wanted to do something more suited to the study I had spent years doing, I was working in policy and covering a massive range of topics. I was feeling very tired and worn out and wondering what the hell I was doing, I remember having this moment of ‘OMG, everything is fucked, the world is fucked, the future is bleak’.  I had just come out of my abusive relationship and was fragile. In my job I had to understand what was happening across a wide range of human services. The big picture looked very bleak.  At that moment I remember thinking, ‘everything is fucked, I can’t do this, it’s too much, I can’t deal with it’.  I basically shut down from then on and went into a self-created padded, bubble.  I left the job and I stopped reading any news articles anywhere. I actually just couldn’t listen to anymore ‘bad stuff’ and that’s all there seemed to be.

A brilliant thing did happen in 2011.  I met my partner. Not the first partner, who I was with all along and are still with, but a new one, The International Lover.  I had met her previously through friends but had not had a lot of time to be out socialising. After the ‘bad’ relationship I had hunkered down to finish writing my thesis.  The International Lover, had posted on facebook that she wasn’t doing anything much for the long weekend, just playing computer games, unless someone had a better offer.  So, I offered her coffee, at a local cafe.  When I went to meet up with her I was being a bit sneaky, I did, at the back of my mind think that she probably had a preference for more feminine kind of women.  So I wore a short shirt.  I never wore short skirts at this time, I never wore skirts.  I had taken to dressing in a more masculine kind of way. Men’s clothes.  This time I didn’t wear men’s clothes.  We had a nice time meeting for coffee and had arranged a future date.  Let’s just say that it was on for young and old after that.  Thing is, she’s a Kiwi, and she had already made plans to leave Australia after 7 years and go back to New Zealand.  Three months after I met her, she left. It was hard, really hard, we had both developed feelings for each other which we hadn’t expected.  We decided when she left, we would continue with ‘something’, but we weren’t sure what that something was.   About 18 months later she moved back to Australia.

In 2011, the year I met her, I had also become involved with a local burlesque group. Miss Kitka’s House of Burlesque.  My opportunities or places I could do my drag performance had dried up and I approached Miss Kitka and asked her if I could be in a show.  I performed in her mid year show, in drag.  This was the first time I had been around a bunch of ‘straight’ women for some time.  I was cautious.  Yet it was being around these (cis gender) women that I felt inclined to begin to look at my feminine side again.  I had never been ‘queer’ feminine.  I had become accustomed to wearing men’s clothes and I liked that.  I hung around the burlesque crowd and was involved in the end of year production as well, I did this in drag too.  I had started beginner burlesque classes, but wasn’t ready to perform burlesque yet.

So, at the end of 2011, I had left my job, had a period of not working and not knowing what was next, met the International Lover and become involved in burlesque.  These were pretty key to the happenings of the next few years.

At the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 I started working in my ‘dream job’.  It was the job I had worked for so many years to get, or so I thought.  I was a sex/sexuality and sexual health educator.  I was with this employer for a couple of years.

During 2012 I started to get pain, a lot of pain in the uterus and my menstrual cycle became less reliable.  I went to see my GP about the pain, she ran a series of blood tests and everything came back fine.  She suggested I try one version of the contraceptive pill to help me out.  I did this and it did nothing.  My pain increased and by the end of the year I had tried three different pills each doing nothing.  I had also seen some of the GPs at my workplace and with all the professionals unable to see a reason as to why I had such incredible pain.  The pain got so bad that it was a daily occurrence with only a few days in the month where it was a tiny bit better. The only pain killers that worked were prescribed and when I took enough of these to not feel pain I was also in bed doing nothing, I basically lived with the pain so I could vaguely function and go to work.

I found that I was thinking in terms of ‘just get through this day’, nearly every day.  At the end of that year I saw a gynecologist and had minor surgery which also involved the insertion of a hormonal contraceptive device (merina). The gynecologist asked me if I had suffered any severe stress, or anything bad, that sometimes a person’s body can react to stresses by producing pain.  I told her that I didn’t think so.

By the end of that year I had seen about 8 doctors and tried several medications.  I had also had about 10 sinus infections and 5 urinary tract infections.  I’d had numerous blood tests and internal ultrasounds.  The sinus infections and the urinary tract infections often taking a while for me to notice, because the other pain was so bad and I was on an intermittent cocktail of pain killers which masked the symptoms.

After I had the surgery and my body had stopped cramping, which took a few weeks, I felt much better. I seemed to be nearly pain free.

During that year my mental health was also quite ‘bad’.  I realise retrospectively just how bad.  Whilst seeing the various doctors about my physical health I did mention that the pain was ‘doing my head in’ and I wasn’t coping, but each time the doctors went back to focusing on the physical.  I remember feeling very overwhelmed and had regular and persistent thoughts of not wanting to exist, of taking my own life.  I knew this was bad, but I kept it to myself. It was hard enough trying to work through the day to day physical pain to even try to think about the mental pain as well.

One of the key things that kept me going was burlesque.  I undertook ‘intermediate classes’ and then the production class with Miss Kitka’s.  Mid 2012 I was in my first burlesque show ‘Jungle Fever’.   Being part of this gave me a little bit of joy each week.  Every time I went to a class in the lead up to the show I felt good, it made me laugh, even on the days where I really didn’t want to go along.  It was also really hard and challenging.  I hadn’t been queer femme ever and I was learning how to do that for the show.  It was also hard to access the sexy femme with a ragingly painful uterus constantly reminding me that I had female ‘parts’.  My parents, brother and ex-husband attended the show, my ex-husband and mother not even recognising me the first time I appeared on stage because I looked so different.  I found it hard to be fully ‘immersed’ in the show and didn’t have the first time performer ‘high’ experienced by most.  It was more like a ‘thank god I got through it and I did it’.  I found out much later that I was deeply depressed, which was making everything much harder with little joy.  I can honestly say though, that burlesque saved me, without those weekly practises to bring me a small amount of social interaction, combined with exercise and just getting out of the house I would have become much, much worse.

I need to add, to this year I was also conducting a long distance relationship across the ditch with the International Lover, seeing her every couple of months and maintaining a relationship with the Live in Lover (who was also dealing with her own health issues).

At the beginning of 2013 I was feeling a lot better, I had had my surgery and the pain was greatly removed.  But I still didn’t feel right.  I went back to my GP and asked her for further blood tests.  I had started to see a counselor. My ‘instinct’ telling me that I really needed to do something about my mental health. I hadn’t seen a counselor up until then because I was so busy, with the little energy I had trying to deal with the physical health. I was also wanting to see a counselor or access a service from someone who didn’t know me.  Working in the community sector meant this was hard for me to do.  After some efforts I had managed to get back in to see a counselor I had clicked with in earlier years.  I hadn’t actually seen my GP for some time, I had accessed doctors through my work.  I told my GP that things hadn’t been good, that I had had the surgery, but was questioning my general health. I was also wondering about those 10 sinus infections I had had.  She referred me to an immunologist.

I waited about 5 months to see the immunologist.  My health still wasn’t great.  My pain was reduced.  I still felt ‘not right’ and throughout this time I was also getting experiences of hot flushes and of generally feeling hot all the time.  If people asked me if it was cold or not in the middle of winter inside a heated room I couldn’t tell.  I had become my own hot water bottle.  These symptoms became more apparent when the pain had been lifted. I’d also had a couple of different kinds of headaches which were quite debilitating.  I went to the immunologist and he went through the series of pin prick tests, he asked me other questions about other symptoms I had been experiencing but there didn’t seem to be anything wrong, I didn’t appear to have any allergies.

Eventually he asked me ‘why are you here today?  What is it today that you want solved?’ and I said ‘I’m so tired, all the time’.  He started asking me other questions and I knew he was going down the mental health track, because, hey, I’m trained in this ‘stuff’.  He asked me ‘Does everything just feel a bit hard?  Is it like walking through pea soup?’ to which I was nodding and saying yes, yes.  I was so relieved, finally someone had asked me these questions. I wanted to cry with relief. I didn’t realise I was wanting someone to ask these questions until they were asked.  We went on to discuss things in general, I told him that I did lots of things regularly to help myself feel good, but the feelings didn’t last.  They only lasted as long as I was there doing the ‘thing’.  He suggested that I was depressed and I needed to go back to my GP.

I left the appointment with a sense of relief. I had some kind of answer.  I made an appointment with my GP and went back to see her.  She suggested I try medication, so I went down the track of trying medication.  I also had to ‘come out’ to my parents, this time as having a mental illness, which was hard.  I wasn’t expecting a favourable response because my family are very much of the ‘pull your socks up and get on with it’ variety, but actually they were fantastic.  I still don’t think they understand mental illness, but they are learning.

I had to try three medications before I hit on the right one for me.  In my experience with medications, I found my body had to get used to them, and in the first stage I got side effects.  All kinds of side effects that were be pretty awful and lasted a number of weeks.   Once I got past the first stage they began to work. I found that if the side effects were still bad after about 6 weeks it was time to try a new medication.  I tried three.  So for about six months I was on a roller coaster of physical and emotional responses.

It was about halfway through the same year I realised I couldn’t do my job anymore.  I had reduced my hours and tried a number of different tactics but I couldn’t do my job.  This was an enormous blow and hard to digest.  The job I had worked towards I had to walk away from.  I had no sick leave or any kind of leave left by this stage and so my Live In Lover and I had to take the plunge and she had to support me for a period of time so I could recover.  There was no kind financial support available.  I tried to look into getting some kind of insurance but I wasn’t covered and my partner’s income was too high for us to think about getting government support.

By this time I was feeling well and truly isolated and I had had much of my confidence stripped away.  I was anxious at work all the time. I had lost a number of friends who didn’t understand I was unwell.  There was a perception I had many things going for me, was capable and able and what I was I complaining about.  These are the myths of mental illness. That I just had the wrong ‘attitude’ and look at all my achievements what could possibly be wrong?  Social media can be a fabulous tool to connect people, but it also isolates and this was an example of it.  I had often ‘voiced’ my pain on social media.  People didn’t know or understand what was going on so they soon hit that delete and block button, which only made me feel worse.  Once I started to feel better and more coherent I did gain friends though, people who understood where I was coming from, people who congratulated me for speaking up.

For six months I concentrated on myself.  I walked my dog, I had baths, I got out into the sun.  All basic things I came to understand as self- care which really helped me.  I also lived in pain and confusion. I felt isolated, I didn’t feel anyone understood. I had to leave burlesque for a bit because it was too hard to participate.

There’s some things that go on with mental illness that people don’t talk about.  Depression slows things down.  It slows everything down. Apart from feeling unable to even get up off the chair it can also give you constipation, which adds to the physical discomfort. Anxiety on the other hand can often give you diarrhea.  If you have both it alternates….joy.  By this point in time I had also become a blithering mess around large groups of people. I had never been great, but now it was at a point where I just couldn’t do it. It’s like the bubble I had decided to create for myself a couple of years earlier when I decided the world was fucked, got smaller and smaller.  It was all about protecting myself, but it also shuts people out.  The illness and thoughts around people not wanting anything to do with you possibly becoming self- fulfilling.

My sexy self was greatly diminished.  Medications for mental illnesses can have massive effects on libido.  I am not sure that mine did. But a bit of weight gain, the constant battle with trying to understand my body and then my brain had significant impact on my libido.  I felt like I was completely covered in heavy blankets and unable to move. Sex, sure, if you do all the work and instigate it, because I literally, can’t be fucked. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to, underneath, somewhere at the core of me it was there. It just made me feel worse.

When I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety I went back and reported this to my counselor. She felt bad. She felt bad she hadn’t picked it up, she said I wasn’t the ‘usual case’.  I told her that I thought it was because I had become so good at putting on a mask and I had had so many medical appointments etc and that really , it was often very confusing to work out what to say on the day. As a consumer of medical services you begin to tell the professional what you think you need to, to get the result you might want (on that day), all through a constant fog of confusion.

Anyhow. I got through.  I had my six months off, worked on my mental health and became much better.  At the beginning of 2014 I needed a new job, so I found one. Part-time, working in a alternative education program for students in year 10.  A small number of students who, for whatever reason, just couldn’t do main stream school. Now, I love young people and this job reminded me of that. It reminded me that I love teaching. I love teaching ‘hard to teach’ people.  They are usually more interesting, in my opinion!   Now, yet again, feeling much better, but like I still needed that bit more I started to investigate some other type of support/help. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted help with diet, or what. There were some things coming back to hormones, it could be that. A number of pathways lead me to try a new GP,  she was apparently quite open minded and holistic.

I got past her gatekeepers, by telling them it was ‘definitely hormonal’.  On my first appointment with her we went through my whole history and my current symptoms, which I had written down over weeks before, so I wouldn’t forget. My memory had also gone over time. Things were always hazy and I couldn’t remember a thing  I had a variety of symptoms.  The first thing she did was send me for further blood tests, because I was still so tired all the time.   I went back a couple of weeks later to see her.  I had an under active thyroid.  I had had an under active thyroid for some time and this hadn’t been picked up.  My thyroid tests had always showed as ‘normal’ within a special scale thing that doctors look at.  However, she had looked at mine over a period of time because the laboratory sends through previous tests with the new tests, so not a difficult thing for a doctor to do.  Mine showed, over a period of time my thyroid function had been declining.  I was so angry at my previous GP for not picking this up, especially since I had asked her for blood tests numerous times.  I went onto thyroid medication and within a short space of time was markedly better.

My blood tests were also showing that I was definitely in peri menopause.  Something that doctors had previously been uncommitted to.   I have kept seeing this doctor and over a period of time we uncovered some of the finer details of my health issues.  I saw an ear nose and throat specialist because I still kept having the sinus issues, this revealed nothing. I was getting hot flushes with avengance and had started to gain weight.  Later that year the pain I had in my uterus returned and was getting worse.  I ended up getting the device removed.  After I had it removed the pain subsided.  The whole time I had had it inside my body, I had not menstruated, which is not uncommon.  My body started to return to ‘normal’ and I started to menstruate again, but it was all over the shop and unpredictable.  Several months after the removal I had a ‘period’ where I bled very heavily for about a month. I thought it wasn’t going to stop.  I was leaking all over the place and had to change my sanitary protection about every hour, and I had to use multiple types of protection all at once.  I didn’t feel protected!…and this was all happening on a trip across the ditch with the International Lover.

I kept gaining weight and with each season would try to fit into my clothes to find they were yet again too small. After I had the device removed my body settled down a bit and started using progesterone cream.  There seems to be a number of ideas about progesterone cream being some kind of vaginal lubricant.  It’s often referred to in some kind of filthy way in television and movies. Well, it’s not. It can be applied to the vulva for quick ingestion, but I have been applying it to my inner arms every night for about the last three years now.  It is another way a peri menopausal person can ingest much needed hormones without swallowing them, or having them stuck on using patches, or stuck up into their uterus.  I was getting awful hormonal headaches, and bad hot flushes but using this cream stopped all that and made life comfortable for me.

2015 arrived and I had sorted out a lot of things.  I was still sorting however, I found myself yet another new job, as my beautiful school had been de-funded by the government and I no longer had a job.  In 2015 I found myself starting to see a dentist.  This was no ordinary dentist, and no not Little Shop of Horrors style,  but one who looks at the jaw, and jaw placement.  We basically worked out I have sleep apnea due to my weight gain and bad jaw and have been working on using splints and things when I sleep.

At the end of 2015, when I was all ready to come back to burlesque, I had had a number of breaks and was feeling good I slipped over on ice at the back of my house and broke both the bones in the lower part of my right leg.  Very nasty break. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital, where I spent 5 days.  I had surgery and currently sport a metal rod and a combination of six pins/screws.  I couldn’t walk for three months and then had to go through intense physiotherapy to get the movement back.   It was hard. It was hard because I had been so unfit physically, I had gained lots of weight and then with my break I had to lug myself around.  Thank gawd my friend lent me a little electric scooter which helped me a lot, but I still had to get about on crutches. Having baths/showers was hard and it meant further time off work.

On the fourth of April this year, it was a year since my last period.  That means my last period was my menopause.  Menopause, by definition being the last menstrual bleeding (I don’t think you can call them cycles by this time) I had had. I have done menopause.  Thank Fuck. No more of that gawd awful pain and, in theory my body should ‘settle’ a bit more now.

And that’s a wrap

Much of my story might not seem menopause related, but it indeed is.  Many things can happen during peri menopause.  After speaking to the numerous doctors I have spoken to, my symptoms and experiences definitely fit.  They range from the physical to the emotional.  Some people are fortunate, they have little or no symptoms.  Commonly, at middle age your body will ‘pack it in’.  Suddenly all the stuff that was okay in your youth, no longer is. This is not just me saying this, but what I have been told by various medical professionals.  My peri menopause and menopause, as compared to some people was short and condensed.  Some people have symptoms that go on for many years, 10-12 years. Menopause or the menopausal timing, usually happens between the ages of 45 to 65. So, I have been a bit early with it all.

I want to wrap up by talking a bit more about some things I missed.  The thing is, throughout this time I gained weight; lost my libido; lost confidence; and became isolated from friends. I lost my sharp thinking and memory, ability to concentrate.  I lost confidence because with every experience of having to walk away from a job I had to learn humility.  My health meant that I had to ‘pull out’ from many performance or artistic opportunities because I literally couldn’t do it.  There is a perception, (I believe) that I am surrounded by friends, but really, it’s hard for me to maintain any friendships these days, because I simply don’t have the energy. No, this is not the kind of ‘go to bed early or sleep in’ kind of energy.  It’s the lack of energy that is often reported by women in peri menopause or post menopause. Not being able to connect with friends is hard. Not being able to participate in the queer community means that I am not getting that part of my identity regularly validated.  Not being able to participate in any kind of community means that part is not validated. There is also the invisibility of age.  At this age there is always a younger person with a new idea. Or a younger person who also has lots of experience in whatever it is, so my opinion or ideas are not sought like they once were, my experience not important as many younger friends patiently explain new fangled concepts to me that I couldn’t possibly understand (I have coined the phrase ‘youth-splained’).

My gender identity and sexual identity also shifted in this time and I now identify as pansexual and gender fluid.  Except, to the naked eye, most people think I am ‘just’ a ‘boring’ middle aged woman about the only benefit to this being that more people offer me seats on buses or open doors for me.  I don’t feel comfortable in any kind of masculine clothing, indeed it doesn’t fit me like it once did. So my masculine side is invisible. I have lost all confidence in my ability to seduce any (future) partners.  There’s also been an enormous amount of guilt about not fulfilling my role as a partner, daughter, friend.  This role of course being something previously constructed by me and not something that fits anymore.

Over this period of time I have also had to contemplate my achievements and they are not what I had hoped for when I was younger. ‘Things’ just didn’t turn out as I expected.  Yes, I am not dead yet and there’s plenty more to life.

In short, the emotional damage of this thing called ‘menopause’ has been horrible, the pain in varying forms greater than anything I ever imagined.  I once had opportunity and purpose. I had drive energy and enthusiasm, now on many days I feel obsolete, and easily replaced. In a fairly short space of time, around 6 years I went from feeling like I finally had an idea about who I was, with lots of energy and drive to have it all ‘cave in’ and now I have not a lot of energy and no idea where l fit.

One thing I have always had though, is determination, and drive. I keep going when others would stop or give up.  This gives me long term perspective, this is something that only comes with age.

And, I am about to compete in Miss Burlesque Australia, and, I believe I am the oldest contestant. That is something to be proud of.

My references/further information    – Sexual Health and Family Planning (ACT) – Jean Hailes for women’s health (you will get most of the helpful information here)  – glossary of terminology – My mate, TranzAustralia their youtube channel with lots of trans resources, including a clip of me talking about gender. –   mental health and menopause  – transgender health

2 responses to “My Queer Menopause”

  1. I just found this. Thank you. At 47, I’m experiencing a lot of what you describe. I’m finding peri menopause both interesting and bewildering. Gender issues mean that I’m out of touch (and favour) with my family so it’s hard to find older women to talk to. There’s so much still to learn about sexuality, gender and bodies! I’m looking forward to my 50s now, hoping that it will be the first decade since I was about 12 where I don’t feel at the mercy of my hormones. You also have a most amazing journey ahead of you. Best of luck x

    1. thank you. I did talk to my mother and grandmother a bit, but not about any of the disorientating stuff around gender. I turned 50 a month ago and unfortunately I have recently been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It and other issues were probably underlying and part of my ‘menopause experience’. I am in the ‘post menopause’ group now and still manage some of the symptoms through the use of progesterone cream. Best of luck to you on your journey.

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