If you ever need to inform a hearing-impaired or deaf person that you’re on your period, look here for the correct signs. But beware: the country – and even region – you’re in makes a huge difference.
Just keep your right hand in front of your tummy, fingers facing down and to the left. That’s the sign for menstruation in the UK. Over 70,000 people, most of them deaf or with a hearing impairment, will get what you mean as British Sign Language (BSL) is the most common form of sign language within Great Britain.
Punch yourself in the face
However, just like spoken languages, sign languages aren’t international. And although most words in British English and American English are the same, with sign language this isn’t the case as the two English sign languages have a completely different origin. If you want to tell someone in the United States that you’re on your period, you gently punch yourself in the cheek twice, using your fist. It doesn’t matter which hand you use. That’s the sign for menstruation in American Sign Language (ASL), which is the fourth language in the USA.
Other sign languages
There are 130 different sign languages in the world. In the Netherlands, Nederlandse Gebarentaal (NGT) is used which has five variations, all originating from the region the institutes for deaf people have been set up. Just like spoken languages, sign languages have dialects as well. Also in Belgium they have variations of their sign language: Flanders, East-Flanders and Limburg all have completely different signs for menstruation. Have a look at those different Belgian signs here.
Illustration of the Dutch standard sign for menstruation: keep the palm of your hand in front of your face, with your little finger near your chin, and make an anticlockwise circle – by Het Nederlands Gebarencentrum.
The last Sunday of September is World Deaf Day.