This Photo Makes Clear That 'Periods Are Not Just For Women'

"Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate."

You can't go 10 minutes without seeing a commercial for tampons, and more often than not those commercials feature women in bikinis playing beach volleyball, women in bikinis going down a waterslide, or women in bikinis on a jet ski. Though commercials for feminine products are getting more honest, they have yet to acknowledge that women aren't the only ones who get their periods.

That's where Cass Clemmer comes in. Cass is a transgender artist who works as a menstrual health advocate and uses they/them pronouns. They are the creator of Toni the Tampon, a "little tampon with big dreams" which documents its travels on Instagram and aims to, according to its website, "help menstruators of all ages and genders reclaim pride in their periods." The genderqueer tampon is also the star of a coloring book and strives to put an end to period shaming of all kinds though a slightly different lens.

Last year, Cass told Mashable of the coloring book, "I'd rather help just one genderqueer or trans menstruator feel like they were seen, than sell a thousand copies only to reinforce the boundaries society draws by gendering periods in the first place."

Though nearly all of the photos on Toni's Instagram page feature the tampon out and about in the world in a playful way (see the picture above), Cass decided to take things in a slightly different direction earlier this month. On July 12 they posted a photo of themselves sitting on a bench, menstruating. Cas holds a powerful sign that reads "Periods are NOT just for women" and features the hashtag "#BleedingWhileTrans." 

Their goal in sharing the photo was not unlike the one they had in releasing the coloring book.

Y’all know I’m trans and queer, And what that means for me all around, Is something that’s neither there nor here, It’s a happy, scary middle ground. So when I talk gender inclusion, And I wrote these rhymes to help you see, I’m not tryna bring up something shallow, Periods are honestly pretty traumatic for me. See my life is very clearly marked, Like a red border cut up a nation, A time before and a time beyond, The mark of my first menstruation. So let me take you back, To the details that I can still recall, Of the day I gained my first period, And the day that I lost it all. I was 15 and still happy, Running around, all chest bared and buck, Climbing trees, digging holes, And no one gave a single fuck. I mean I think my ma was worried, So I went and grew out my locks, A sign I was normal, still a girl, A painted neon sign for my gender box. So, the day I got my period, My god, a day so proud, This little andro fucked up kid, Had been bestowed the straight, cis shroud. The relief got all meshed up in my pain, In that moment, I sat down and cried, Just thanking god I was normal, While mourning the freedom that had died. Everyone told me my hips would grow, I looked at them and couldn't stop crying, "What's wrong with you? You'll be a woman!" They kept celebrating a child dying. See my body had betrayed me, That red dot, the wax seal, On a contract left there broken, A gender identity that wasn’t real. Most people deal with blood and tissue, And yet my body forces me to surrender, Cause every time I get my cycle, Is another day I shed my gender. My boobs betray me first, I feel them stretching out my binder, I send up questions, "am I cursed?" And wish to god that she was kinder. The five days it flows, I try to breathe, I dissociate, While my body rips outs parts of me, Leaving nothing but a shell of hate. The blood drips from an open wound, Of a war waging deep inside my corpse, The battle between mind and body, Immovable object; unstoppable force. #bleedingwhiletrans #menstruator #genderinclusion #mencanmenstruate #protectranskids #periodpride #genderdysphoria #menstruationmatters #ifmenhadperiods [PLEASE SHARE!🌈]

A post shared by Toni the Tampon (@tonithetampon) on

The accompanying personal poem delves into the emotional pain Cass experienced upon getting their first period. It begins by defining Cass's gender identity. "Y'all know I'm trans and queer, And what that means for me all around, Is something that's neither there nor here, It's a happy, scary middle ground. So when I talk gender inclusion, And I wrote these rhymes to help you see, I'm not tryna bring up something shallow, Periods are honestly pretty traumatic for me."

Later, Cass details what they felt when they menstruated for the first time, explaining, "See my body had betrayed me, That red dot, the wax seal, On a contract left there broken, A gender identity that wasn't real. Most people deal with blood and tissue, And yet my body forces me to surrender, Cause every time I get my cycle, Is another day I shed my gender." 

HuffPost reports Cass chose to share the rather intimate snapshot in response to some negative feedback they'd received regarding Toni's coloring book. "Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate," they say.

A post shared by Cass Clemmer (@cassclemmer) on

Reading the comments on Cass's photo is tough, as there's a plethora of hate speech easily visible, but thankfully Cass is well aware of the positive impact they've had on others as well. "There are a lot of people who have never considered what it's like to get your period while not identifying as a woman and I have seen a lot of educational and respectful conversations between commenters on my thread that give me a lot of hope for the future," Cass told HuffPost. 

A post shared by Cass Clemmer (@cassclemmer) on

For a trans person, the ability to feel included, understood, and even just visible can make a world of difference. According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, trans kids and teens are subject to high levels of bullying at school. Of the kids in grades K-12 who identified as transgender or gender non-conforming, 78 percent reported harassment, 35 percent reported physical assault, and 12 percent reported sexual violence. 

We applaud Cass for openly discussing a typically taboo subject, and for their valiant attempt at broadening the menstruation discussion. Here's hoping others take note and catch on soon.

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