It’s World Menopause Day today – 18th October 2019
If you have any interest in human welfare, and the welfare of those you love, please read.
I would love to go into detail about the results of my Queer Menopause study, (which I am about to start writing up), but in the academic world you are supposed to keep fairly quiet about everything until it’s coming out in a peer reviewed journal. At best this means likely a year’s time! And that assumes it’s going to be accepted by the journal I will be pitching it to.
So I will simply take this moment to thank everyone who participated in my study. I am very grateful to you for sharing so much on such a crucial topic.
However, it’s safe to say, from my reading online, personal experience, and conversations everywhere that menopause can have a huge impact on life. [Tip for happiness: If menopause has been easy for you, that’s great. But I’m not going to debate with you about why the system needs to change.]
The general response to menopause is a reminder that we are still living in an ageist, ableist, sexist, misogynist society.
Folks desperate for help are going to their GPs, but the response is a lottery. You may get lucky first time, or your GP may realise the limits of their knowledge and refer you on to a menopause clinic. But equally you may be dismissed, gaslighted, and lied to. You may be told ‘It’s natural, just get over it’, or fobbed off with antidepressants.
Of course, hormone treatment is not simple, and it carries health implications, but the implications of oestrogen deficiency are equally concerning. The fact that so little is truly known makes me suspect that if people took the time to look hard enough at hormone function, we would be less hung up on the gender binary, which would make a lot of us very happy, but some other folks, clearly, very upset.
PSA: hormones don’t have genders. All bodies need oestrogen and testosterone to function.
The whole thing is doubly stressful for queer/trans folks, who may end up having to do a huge amount of education work around gender and sexuality while trying to get help from the healthcare system. And the general media narrative about menopause is suffocatingly heteronormative and often incredibly infantilising. We can do better – on a number of fronts.
And if you’re in your 20s and 30s, don’t think it starts at 50 and you can forget about it for a while
Perimenopause (the phase up to when your periods stop) can start in your late 30s or earlier. My periods started to fluctuate when I was 39. Fluctuating oestrogen levels can affect mental health for years before your periods stop.
The effects of menopause can be inherited, so it’s worth finding out, if you can, how your biological mother experienced it. It’s also biopsychosocial, which means, put simply, it’s constructed within the body, the mind, and the world outside. If older women/AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) folks were respected in society, I have no doubt the experience would not be as bad.
Things are starting to change
Workplace policies are being created, and campaigners are pushing for changes in the law. I would like being in menopause to be a protected identity. At worst it disables people to the point where they cannot work due to physical and mental ill health, and they lose relationships and careers. I think everyone should have the possibility of subsidised time off work. I would also like to see menopause pensions to cover this too.
If you run a workplace, please think about how it could be more welcoming to folks in menopause.
If you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence
Go to your GP armed with the NICE Guidelines 2015. If they won’t help you, find one who will, or ask to be referred to a menopause clinic.
I wrote this first thing this morning. As time passes I will add some links. Thank you for reading.