Tracee Ellis Ross Opens Up About Perimenopause At 50

Challenging societal assumptions about women, Tracee Ellis Ross explained that being a woman doesn’t mean having a child.

Alongside her impressive acting chops, Tracee Ellis Ross has emerged as a style icon and role model for younger generations looking to feel empowered in their own skin as they look to change the world. Always one to speak her truth, Ross is now opening up about the challenges of perimenopause, both mentally and physically, and why she looks at her childfree life at 50 with greater curiosity than she does heartbreak. 

In a recent interview on the We Can Do Hard Things with Glennon Doyle podcast, Ross detailed her experience with perimenopause at the age of 50 and how that has changed her idea of womanhood. “Is it my fertility that is leaving me? Is it my womanhood? Or is it really neither? I have to fight to hold my truth, because I have been programmed so successfully by the water we all swim in, by the water we all are served,” said Ross. 

“I feel fertile with creativity, full of power, more and more a woman than I’ve ever been. And yet that power that I was told I must use was not used.”

tracee ellis ross

Ross continued, “My ability to have a child is leaving me, but I don’t agree that that’s what fertile means, I don’t agree that that’s what woman means.”

Perimenopause refers to the time during which the body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years in one’s life. According to the Mayo Clinic, women can start perimenopause at all different ages, with some experiencing it as early as their mid-30s. Typically, it affects most sometime in their 40s, with symptoms including menstrual irregularity, hot flashes, sleep problems and vaginal dryness. Once you’ve gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, you’re considered to have reached menopause. 

For many women, societal expectations around motherhood and having children is hard to detach from – even if one’s personal views don’t align. Women are often made to feel like it’s a natural progression in their life, and to veer away from it can be perplexing to those around them, even when pregnancy and motherhood is a distinctly personal choice. For Ross though, being childless at 50 isn’t something she looks at with heartbreak, but “curiosity instead”. 

“The heartbreak does come up, and I get to hold that gently and lovingly and then remind myself, ‘I woke up every morning of my life and I’ve tried to do my best, so I must be where I’m supposed to be’,” she said. 

As for those body changes that occur in perimenopause – some being more subtle than others – Ross didn’t hold back when it came to enlightening her fans of her own lived experience. “I can feel my body’s ability to make a child draining out of me. Sometimes I find it hilarious, as if there is a fire sale going on in my uterus, and someone’s in there screaming, ‘All things must go!” said Ross.  

She added, “As my body becomes a foreign place to me that doesn’t really feel safe or like home…I don’t know how to manage or control to fight the external binary narrative of the patriarchy that has hunted me and haunted me most of my adult life.”

Now, Ross is focused on “curating” her chosen family as she explains, “I don’t think I realised the gift of that until I’ve started to get older.” For Ross, friendships are vital and while Hollywood will have you believe that you need to find a romantic partner in order to be “successful” or loved, perhaps it’s time we also put friendship on a pedestal and acknowledged those platonic connections that bring us the greatest joys, laughs and get us through immeasurable struggles. 

“We go back to this model that you’re sold, that not only are we sold it, but we are fed it and we have to drink it and it’s everywhere. And if you’re not careful, you actually think it’s true. And it’s the only bit of news for you, which is that my job as a woman is to learn to be choosable,” said Ross. 

As the actor explains, being chosen seems to have “nothing to do with who I am, what makes my heart sing, floats my boat, makes me feel safe, makes me feel comfortable, makes me feel good, makes me feel powerful, makes me feel smart. Any of those things. But really, it’s more about how I might be seen, so that I might be chosen so that my life could mean something as a chosen woman who gets to have a child and then be a mother and do that for a child.”

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