heather corinna fresh hell

Heather Corinna has had a hell of a time with menopause. In their new book What fresh hell is this? perimenopause, menopause, other indignities and you, they compare their experiences to the 2016 election and in “a relationship-I’d-invested-all-of-myself- in-blowing-up-in-my-face—one I’d tried at three times over thirty years no less, with my heart, spirit, and life broken exponentially more each time—kind of way.”

So, really, really, bad. 

And Corinna struggled to find useful information around how to manage their symptoms and take care of themself:

“I didn’t know what my options were or that the options were far more than just estrogen therapy or no estrogen therapy. I didn’t know the ways the healthcare providers I’d tried to talk to had wrong, outdated, or incomplete information, and I didn’t know the right things to ask for.”

Lucky for us, Corinna’s personal hell led to a really useful book: What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities, and You.

Corinna is a long-time sex educator, creator of Scarleteen and author of s.e.x.: the all-you-need-to-know sexuality guide to get you through your teens and twenties, among other books and other projects. So, this is not their first rodeo when it comes to writing about and researching sexual health.

Now, Corinna could’ve just written a memoir about their experiences going through menopause as a nonbinary person with chronic pain and sexual, emotional, and physical trauma. And that book would’ve filled a much-needed gap in the market.

They could’ve just written a history book about the impact of patriarchy on our understanding of what menopause is and how it has been approached by the medical industry. 

Or they could’ve just written an updated guide on going through menopause, including a comprehensive explanation of why things are happening, what to look for when seeking medical help, new research on treatments, various biological ways one can enter menopause, the impact of pre-existing conditions, and so on  — all told from an empathetic and empowering perspective that one’s sexual or romantic life doesn’t end with one’s menses and there are actually powerful examples of post-menopausal people keeping society wiser and cooler. Yeah, they could’ve just written that book, and it would’ve been great.

Instead, they wrote all three in one.

What Fresh Hell is a hybrid history book with loads of cultural criticism and a guide for anyone in perimenopause using Corinna’s own experiences. 

Some examples of the contents you’ll find in the book are:

  • A detailed history of and explanation of hormone replacement therapies (HRT) or menopausal hormone therapies (MHT), including: why hormone therapies rose in popularity, the various studies that have shaped common understandings of it, and how MHT has drastically changed in the past 20 years.
  • An entire chapter on neurological issues, including the types of pain that might occur and what might help. (Did you know that people in menopause are twice as likely to experience chronic pain?)
  • Advice around dating, managing kids and partners and other interpersonal relationships.
  • An ode to a cooling pillow.

This is a true feminist take on perimenopause which offers a deep-dive perspective not only about how our sexist, racist, ableist culture has shaped our understanding of it but also how to have control over one’s choices during it. And like any topic that has been long held hostage by patriarchal standards, a feminist take on menopause requires breaking down so many beliefs we didn’t even know we held and have accepted as true. Like the falsehoods: menopause is something you need to just endure, or hormone therapy is the only possible treatment, or that postmenopausal women have lost part of their womanhood or that that only women experience menopause. 

If you’re currently going through menopause, I think you’ll feel better after reading this book. If you haven’t found some useful tips to help manage symptoms and relationships, you’ll at least have found a kindred spirit and someone who’s cheering you on to the other side where, Corinna promises, things get better.

Join Heather and Rebellious Magazine staff for a free virtual menopause rant party — July 1, 6-8pm central. RSVP here!

Jera writes about sexuality, spirituality, and social justice. They are the author of Just the Tip, a queer-friendly, sex-positive, relationship advice column and the editor of Sacred and Subversive,...