We Need To Talk About The Lgbtq+ Menopause Experience
Members of the LGBTQ+ community and healthcare experts explain the importance of inclusivity.
Going through perimenopause and menopause can be a difficult time for many people, with debilitating symptoms and stubborn stigma attached. Theres lots to be done to improve menopause care, including making it accessible for people of all genders and sexualities. Its vitally important as the number of people who identify as LGBTQ+ is increasing. For clarity, LGBTQ+ is shorthand for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and more minority gender identities and sexualities.
The government estimates there are currently 200,000 to 500,000 trans people in the UK. In 2016, The Guardian found the number of people undertaking gender confirmation treatment had risen dramatically in recent years with some clinics experiencing case increases of several hundred per cent. More people are also identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual, rising from 1.6% in 2014 to 2.2% in 2018. These figures suggest that in the future, there will be more people who identify as LGBTQ+ experiencing menopause.
Menopause conversations are often had in a way thats heteronormative assuming that being straight is default. When symptoms can directly impact relationships and intimacy, this can exclude those in same-sex relationships from receiving support thats right for them.
is more about penetrative sex, and obviously lesbian sex isnt just around that at all, she said.
What Are The Benefits Of Hrt
Benefits of hormone replacement therapy for post-menopausal women, include:
- Increased elasticity of the blood vessels, allowing them to dilate and let the blood flow more freely throughout the body
- Improved short-term symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and mood swings, as well as vaginal dryness, dry skin, sleeplessness and irritable bladder symptoms
- Possible decreased incidence of Alzheimers disease
- Possible improvement of glucose levels
Taking Testosterone For The Menopause
If youre using a cream or gel, rub a small amount onto clean and dry skin every day or every other day. Choose a non-hairy area such as your abdomen , the top part of your thigh or a buttock. Change the place each time you put it on.
Let your skin dry before you cover it with clothes. Dont shower or bath for two or three hours after youve put the cream or gel on. Wash your hands as soon as youve put the testosterone on your skin and be careful not to let anyone else touch it.
You may be given a tube or sachet which has more than one dose in it. You will need to divide this up into the amount you need to take each time. The usual dose is 5mg a day or 10mg every other day, but your doctor will tell you how much you need to take and when. If youre not sure how much you need to put on, always check.
Testosterone doesnt usually work straightaway. It can take up to 12 weeks for your symptoms to improve. So, your doctor will probably suggest you try testosterone for three to six months to see if it works for you.
Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine. If you have any questions, ask your pharmacist or GP for advice.
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What Do The Statistics Tell Us
- 650000+ people in the UK are estimated to experience some degree of gender non-conformity. This is equal to 1% of the UK population who are on the gender identity spectrum.
- In Europe, this figure is 4%. The US says 12% of Millennials and 20% of Generation Z identify as non-binary.
- 60% of trans and non-binary people have experienced harassment or mistreatment in the workplace.
- It can often be hard for us to get into blue chip companies many trans and non-binary people end up working part-time.
- International unemployment in the trans and non-binary community is 15% .
- 53% of the community are hiding their gender identity in the workplace because they feel it is unsafe to be visible.
These statistics tell us that the trans and non-binary community are struggling in the workplace, often being unsupported, and yet we make up a significant part of the population.
Since I transitioned 20 years ago there have been workplace improvements, however, we cannot take our foot off the gas in regard to trans and non-binary inclusion.
The Three Stages Of Menopause
Menopause actually occurs in three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause is a period during which the ovaries slow down the production of hormones and ovarian reserve nears zero. This period can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. Common symptoms are irregular menstrual cycles, mood changes, hot flashes and night sweats, and PMS-like symptoms.
This period ends at menopause: no menstrual periods for 12 months. After this point, someone is considered postmenopausal. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels will be at a constantly low level.
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Rod Stewart Says Teaching Men About Menopause Could Help Save A Marriage
The 76-year-old rock star described how frightening it was to see his wife, Penny Lancaster, deal with severe menopause symptoms last year.
Speaking on ITVs Loose Women, Stewart said: I googled and googled and googled. I googled menopause so much when she was going through it.
She was in a fragile situation. I just had to listen and learn and get ready for saucepans being thrown through the kitchen.
It was frightening, because this really wasnt the person I married. We talked about it, which I think is the most important thing a couple can do, and she explained to me through the tears, as Penny likes a cry and talked it through, and thats what couples do.
When asked if menopause lessons should be introduced for men, Stewart said: Absolutely its a very good way to go.
Men have got to get on with it, understand and come out the other end.
He told the show that although he had yet to talk about menopause openly with his male friends, he would tell them to be understanding if it was brought up, adding: Some of them should have that talk right now.
His comments come after The Daily Mail reported that the South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation Trust had started running menopause courses for men in April this year.
Why Isnt The Medical Community Looking Into This Phenomenon
Theres one thing cis and transgender people agree ontrans women and transfeminine people dont get periods.
Those of us who were assigned male at birth generally came out of the womb without ovaries or a reproductive system that can support a pregnancy, so we dont bleed every month in preparation for one. Its generally seen as one of the net positives about being a transgender woman as opposed to a cisgender gal before and after I started transitioning, my cis girlfriends came to me with their tales of woebloating, cramps, violent mood swings, nauseaall sometimes too intense for them to reasonably get out of bed. Youre so lucky, theyd moan, and I would shrug sheepishly, implicitly agreeing that I was fortunate to never share in those experiences. That would be impossible. Right?
Imagine my shock, then, when I talked with my friend Ashley last month, just before she went into the hospital for a few weeks. Nervous about the length of time she would have to stay, she told me the reason for her reticence: Im due for my period in a couple days, and thats going to really suck.
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Types Of Testosterone For The Menopause
There are a few different types of testosterone that you may be prescribed in the UK:
- A cream or gel to rub onto your skin .
- An implant which is put in just under your skin.
Androfeme and testosterone implants arent available through the NHS, but you may be offered them if you see a doctor privately.
Trouble Focusing And Learning
two-thirds of women may have difficulty with concentration and memory.
Keeping physically and mentally active, following a healthful diet, and maintaining an active social life can help with these issues. For example, some people benefit from finding a new hobby or joining a club or a local activity.
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Common Ages To Experience Symptoms
According to the Office on Womens Health , the average age for menopause in the U.S. is 52 years, and it usually occurs between the ages of 48 and 58 years. It may happen earlier if the person has never had children or if they smoke. Birthing parents and their children assigned female at birth often experience it around the same age.
The changes usually begin in the late 40s, and periods stop on average around 4 years later, but the transition can last between 2 and 8 years. When there has been no menstruation for 12 months, menopause occurs.
Sometimes menopause happens early. Doctors call it premature menopause if it develops before the age of 5% of females.
Symptoms such as hot flashes can start before menopause and may continue for several years after, but each person is different.
Menopause And The Effects Of Testosterone
Monique Rainford, MD, is board-certified in obstetrics-gynecology, and currently serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor at Yale Medicine. She is the former chief of obstetrics-gynecology at Yale Health.
When we think of testosterone, we usually think of it as a male hormone, a marker of men’s inherent masculinity. But testosterone is actually one of six hormones produced by the female reproductive organs as well. It is often not until women enter menopause, however, or experience dissatisfaction in the bedroom, that they start to look more closely at their testosterone levels.
Back in 1999, researchers appearing in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommended the addition of androgen to estrogen for all women undergoing surgical menopause.
Today, it’s still a treatment that healthcare providers offer to women struggling with the natural effects of menopause. And some research has shown that testosterone can, in fact, provide the following benefits to women:
- improved relief of vasomotor symptoms of menopause
- increased energy levels
- increased frequency of coitus
- enhanced orgasms
How Can I Support My Body As I Go Through Menopause
Dr. Seibel recommends the age old advice of healthy eating and exercising, both of which can go a long way to reduce menopause symptoms. Dr. Phillips recommends weight bearing exercise in particular. “This is important to maintain bone and muscle massâboth of which are important to minimize the risk of osteoporosis,” she says, which is a common struggle for menopausal women.
For those who are experiencing trouble sleeping, Dr. Minkin recommends not drinking alcohol before bed . “It may help you fall asleep, but it won’t help you stay asleep,” she says.
What Are The Earliest Symptoms Of Menopause
Part of the reason some in their 30s and 40s don’t realize they’re starting to go through menopause is because they don’t know what the earliest signs are. Besides disruptions in your menstrual cycle, moodiness, hot flashes, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, skin dryness, inability to lose weight, and brain fog are all classic menopause symptoms. “These symptoms are all caused by an imbalance in hormones, primarily estrogen and progesterone,” Dr. Seibel explains.
Dr. Minkin says trouble sleeping is another big one. “It’s not uncommon to be able to fall asleep, but then wake up in the middle of the night with a hot flash, then you fall back asleep and wake up a couple hours later with another one,” she says. Not being able to get a good night’s sleep can of course lead to feeling moody or experiencing brain fog the next day.
Dr. Minkin also emphasizes that different people have different experiences of going through menopause. For example, she says 20 percent of people won’t experience any symptoms at all, other than not getting their period anymore. It’s another reason why there’s so many misconceptions that surround this life stage.
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Symptoms Of Testosterone Deficiency
Still, healthcare providers continue to prescribe its usage off-label, and the pharmaceutical industry certainly hasn’t discouraged them from doing so. Among the symptoms they cite are:
- diminished sexual pleasure
- low energy
If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms over a long span of time, and it has been causing you personal distress, you should certainly talk to your gynecologist or primary care healthcare provider. If they can’t help, they may be able to refer you to another medical practitioner who specializes in female sexual functioning, or to another sexuality professional.
Testosterone replacement, howeveravailable in oral estrogen-androgen combinations, injectable, and implantable forms, and in compounded testosterone creams may not be the answer. And the truth is, there is no actual metric by which healthcare providers can measure and determine whether or not your testosterone levels are “low.”
Luckily, there are so many options these days. And the North American Menopause Society has even put together a free app called MenoPro that looks at a woman’s health history and offers guidance for what women can do.
In the end, the best thing you can do is due diligence. Do your own research. Talk to your healthcare provider. Consider all of the risks and benefits.
And then choose the option that’s best for you.
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Labour Member Suspended For Saying Only Women Go Through Menopause
Not sure if it’s anywhere else, but according Guido Fawkes, a Labour member has been suspended for saying on Facebook that only women go through the menopause.
If this is true, the person who made the decision to suspend the Labour member should themself be suspended for transphobia. Every trans person knows that transition does not mean actually changing sex. Every decent, honest transwoman knows that it’s not possible for a male-bodied person to experience or to speak from experience about menopause. People who insist that men and AMAB trans or nonbinary people should be allowed to speak about their personal experience of menopause are blatant AWAs, not TRAs. And they are transphobes, setting trans people up to look like they are categorically delusional and anti-woman/misogynist. These people do not have the firsthand experience, and every single one knows it. If UK Labour have any connexion to its history of defending marginalised and expolited groups, it will speak up for women now.
Are the Labour Party so desperate to suspend someone that they will now do it for simply stating a biological fact?Utterly ridiculous. They should reverse the decision immediately and apologise publicly for being such a bunch of twats.
You really can see why #nodebate was the mantra for so long? Every time they open their mouths out pours delusionary misogynistic drivel.
What’s Going On With My Vagina
If you’re experiencing some vaginal changes or discomfort, menopause could be the culprit. “Lower estrogen levels can manifest as discomfort during intercourse, vaginal dryness, and infections,” Dr. Phillips says. She often suggests patients take a probiotic with lactobacillus, which is linked to supporting vaginal health. Also, major PSA: you definitely don’t have to live with vaginal dryness. “There are several moisturizers and lubricants that you can buy over the counter at the drugstore that work really well,” Dr. Minkin says.
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Estrogen And The Cardiovascular System
Scientists are still learning about the actions of estrogen in the body. Studies have shown that estrogen affects almost every tissue or organ system, including the heart and blood vessels. Estrogens known effects on the cardiovascular system include a mix of positive and negative:
- Increases HDL cholesterol
- Promotes blood clot formation, and also causes some changes that have the opposite effect
- Relaxes, smooths and dilates blood vessels so blood flow increases
- Soaks up free radicals, naturally occurring particles in the blood that can damage the arteries and other tissues.
Estrogen probably affects the cardiovascular system in other ways that are as yet undiscovered. New research continues to give scientists and physicians more information and raise more questions about this important and controversial hormone.
Over the years, evidence was accumulating that suggested estrogen also helped protect women against heart disease. With heart disease is the number one killer among women over age 65, this is an important issue. Women develop heart disease 10 years later than men, but by age 65, their risk is equal to that of men.
Going Through Menopause Changed The Way I Think About Gender
I’ve experienced menopause as a kind of “ungendering.” The transition has been disorienting, thrilling, and freeing.
Without hormones my femininity is fraying. Twice Ive been called sir. Once by a parking lot attendant and a second time by the young man who bagged my groceries. I did not correct them. Instead I tried to sit with the idea Id been misgendered. I dont possess the strong female signifiers I once did. My hair is not long and shiny, my skin is no longer smooth. Plus I do less to support my gender artificially. I wear more androgynous clothing and rarely put on makeup. Ive lost interest in doing my female gender, propping it up. When I do dress up for a wedding or a bat mitzvah, I feel like a drag queen, performing a gender out of sync with my physicality but unlike a drag queen, I dont feel that gender is natural or correct.
Defeminization is not on the list of menopausal symptoms. Even if ungendering were listed, it would be framed as negative rather than as the rare opportunity it is to finally slip outside the brutal binary system. While a few of the women I interviewed felt, in and after menopause, even more like women, most felt a gender shift. For some, like my high school friend, this was a defeat: I feel like a washed-up version of my former self now that Ive lost all my female attributes.
I want to read stories not of propped-up femininity, but of people who are disoriented but also electrified by their new hormonal configuration.
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