Let’s talk about menopause and how it affects the transgender community, especially in the workplace. The NHS explains menopause as the moment when your hormone levels start to drop, and your menstruation ends. This usually impacts people between the ages of 45 and 55. While the discourse around it focuses primarily on cis women, menopause is not exclusive to them. It is vital we continue to be as trans-inclusive as possible in the language that we use when describing medical conditions.
Recently, our own Dr Helen Webberley was asked to deliver training to Suffolk County Council, explaining in detail what menopause is and how support can be provided in the workplace. One of the key points Dr Webberley outlined was the lack of trans-inclusion in the workplace when supporting those affected by the medical condition. We learnt a lot from this course and thought it was useful to share some of its contents.
Millions of people with ovaries and some with testes are affected by the hormonal changes of menopause and struggle in the workplace because of it. A 2019 UK survey explained that almost 900,000 people with ovaries lost their jobs because of menopausal symptoms. While it is an inevitable part of life for some individuals, the lack of adequate and inclusive support can lead to early retirement, long-term leave, as well as a reduction in productivity at work. Employers risk losing valuable workers that with better support would be able to maintain their jobs while attending to their physical and mental health.
As Dr Webberley discussed in her training to Suffolk Country Council, it is important ‘we don’t just tick the box in terms of menopause training but actually do think about … what we can do’ to improve employees’ working environment when they are experiencing symptoms of menopause. For example, organisations could provide more information, offer flexible working hours and normalise the conversation around menopause.
The most common symptoms are:
- Hot flushes and sweats
- Sleep disturbance
- Sexual problems: libido decrease and increased dryness
- Memory and concentration issues
- Mood swings, depression, anxiety
- End of fertility
Similar to cis women, trans women who are on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) also experience symptoms of menopause. While the two may not be exactly the same, because menopause is caused by the body’s lower production of hormones, trans women on HRT can experience similar side effects if they interrupt their hormone treatment.
Menopause is often talked about in relation to people with ovaries. The word itself is related to menstruation (‘meno’ pause). However, some cis men and people with testes also experience a form of menopause. While it is often referred to as a ‘male menopause’, everyone with testes is affected by it. Symptoms can include lower libido and decreased sexual function, sleep problems, loss of strength, fatigue – all symptoms that can be found in people with ovaries who are experiencing menopause. Whether we are discussing ovarian or testicular menopause, both experiences are very real and valid. Essentially it is less tied to menstruation and more related to hormone levels dropping. This approach to the subject allows for a more gender inclusive language when discussing it.
‘Whether you’ve got someone whose ovaries or testicles are not producing the amount of hormones they used to produce … it doesn’t really matter, actually the symptoms are very much the same’, Dr Helen Webberley explained.
The Royal Society for Public Health launched a menopause training course
The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), an independent health education charity, launched a one-hour online course on ‘Navigating Menopause: Supporting Yourself and Others’. We are very proud to have been approached by the RSPH to review their training course and ensure that they were trans inclusive throughout. A number of our wonderful team members, including Dr Helen Webberley were able to provide positive feedback to the charity and make the materials more suitable for the trans community.
The course content includes:
- Awareness of menopause symptoms, their impact on support, and treatment for people who experience it.
- Recognition of the relevance and importance of misdiagnosis and stigma.
- Building confidence and skills to have a comprehensive conversation.
- Awareness of legislation and the impact of menopause symptoms in the workplace.
RSPH aims to provide fundamental information on the medical condition and empower you to make a change in your own life as well as that of others. If you would like to know how to best support people who are experiencing symptoms of menopause, make sure to register for the RSPH’s course.