Short answer: yes, they very likely do, if they are on hormone replacement treatment (HRT).
It is right. Not all trans people – women, men, or non-binary people – want, or are able to go on hormone replacement treatment or undergo any other kind of medical procedures, for that matter. That doesn’t make us any less of our gender, or “not trans enough”.
Long answer: many trans women and transfeminine, or AMAB people (people who have been assigned male at birth), get period symptoms after several months on hormonal treatment. Trans women and transfeminine people don’t bleed like cis women and AFAB people do, since their reproductive system doesn’t allow them to get pregnant and they don’t have ovaries. However, many AFAB people on hormones experience exactly the same symptoms that cis women and transmasculine people may get at the end of their cycles: cramps, bloating, chest pain, mood swings, nausea, migraines, fatigue, even diarrhea. Generally, we’re talking about typical PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms.
Sam Riedel explains trans periods through a research the results of which came from other trans AFAB people who were questioned. Their cycles last about a week, and occur regularly, about once a month; the same thing that happens with cis women and AFAB people. Not all trans women and transmasculine people on HRT get those symptoms, but many do. Most respondents reported having similar experiences, some really intense, some barely noticeable, just like it happens with cis women, since bodies and genetics are all different.
These symptoms seem to be resulting from the hormonal change that is caused by medical transition. As Riedel reminds us, what we call “male” and “female” reproductive systems, are in fact very similar, and ovaries are separated from testicles by just one gene. It is the Y chromosome that prevents AMAB embryos from developing ovaries during the course of pregnancy. Cis women who are prescribed HRT after having their ovaries removed experience the same symptoms, periods with “everything but the bleeding”.
Riedel points out that the scientific explanations and studies on this issue are almost non-existent, and that is a real issue that should concern the medical community more, since it is something that real people go through and often do not have the essential tools and sources at their aid to raise awareness and visibility for their experiences.
Cis women may often express jealousy for their trans friends, as they assume AFAB people do not get their periods, but expressing those feelings in general isn’t the most thoughtful thing to do, as it may spark dysphoric feelings, while at the same time probably being inaccurate.
Trans people often describe their experiences online, and while there are some supportive spaces where ideas and experiences may be exchanged, there is still a lot of completely unjustified hatred and transphobia. Trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) who declare themselves feminists but most clearly are not, since they believe that feminism must only be directed towards cis women and claim that trans women are not real women, are adamant that trans women can’t be experiencing period symptoms – that’s of course something that they couldn’t possibly know, and the source of this claim is pure transphobia. AFAB people online have often been at the receiving end of general bigotry and threats from TERFs, who somehow think that trans people invade their space. That is exclusionary and discriminatory in a horrible way, and should not be allowed in our feminism, that should be intersectional and include all women.
Thankfully, Alaina Kailyn who posted online on the forums of the program she uses to track her period to raise visibility, and then received questions that she answered in a very informative article, titled “(AMA) I’m a Trans Woman and I use Eve to track my cycle. [yes we have those]”, states that she received welcoming and affirming comments, as well as some uncomfortable and invasive questions.
Trans people must stop being denied the proper care and visibility they deserve, in the media, the medical community, LGBT and intersectional feminist spaces. Exclusion can only harm both the LGBT and the feminist movement. What we need is solidarity, and that can only be accomplished if we all make a step back and listen to the first-hand experiences of different people and identities instead of assuming and attacking – only they know best about their bodies, minds, and journeys.