This Trans Artist is Trying to Change How We Think About Periods

July 25th 2017

Discussions about periods are still widely considered taboo, and often center strictly around women's experiences when they do take place.

One artist is trying to change that. 

"Periods are NOT just for women."— Cass Clemmer, artist 

That's what's written on a sign held up by transgender artist Cass Clemmer, who is seeking to broaden the conversation about periods on their Facebook page, Toni the Tampon

A photo of Clemmer in all their "freebleeding" glory recently went viral. 

periods are not just for womenToni the Tampon/Facebook - facebook.com

"I came up with the idea to do a freebleeding photoshoot of myself as a trans menstruator back in March when I was being attacked by right-wing media sites for creating a gender-inclusive period coloring book," Clemmer told ATTN: via email. 

"I paired the photo with a very personal poem about what it was like to get my period for the first time to provide more context and help people understand why it can be such a struggle for people like me to menstruate every month or so."

"Periods are honestly pretty traumatic for me," Clemmer writes in their poem.

They continue, writing about the trauma that came when everyone celebrated their first period as stepping into womanhood while they mourned it:

"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."

Clemmer's struggle with their period is a trans issue that doesn't get talked about enough.

As they told ATTN: via email, "There are so many of us who menstruate but do not identify as women–whether we are trans, nonbinary, intersex, and/or identify on any other point(s) on the multidimensional gender spectrum. When we tie periods unequivocally to womanhood we also make a statement about what it means to be a 'real woman' or a 'real man,' though there are plenty of women who do not menstruate and plenty of people who menstruate who are not women!"

tamponBigstock/sassyphotos - bigstockphoto.com

"I don’t think many people have taken the time to really consider what it’s like to menstruate while not identifying as a woman and the various obstacles we have to face on a semi-regular basis," Clemmer explains, "from bathroom safety and period product access to gendered language and access to disposal bins in gender-neutral or men’s restroom stalls."

Furthermore, Clemmer is inundated with personal questions about their body. "I’ve had a lot of people reach out and ask why I haven’t gotten a hysterectomy or started birth control or testosterone to stop my cycle," they told us, "and the truth is that it’s so much more complicated of an issue than that. There’s no magic wand you can wave to stop getting your period without any repercussions (whether physical, personal, or financial) and deciding whether or not to get surgery or take hormones is an incredibly personal decision that no one should make for another person."

"There is a lot of rage and hate out there being directed towards me for sharing my story," they note.

But there's a reason why they do this. "My favorite responses, however, have been from other trans and/or nonbinary folks who have written me to say that they feel a little less alone in their experiences because my post," Clemmer says "and at the end of the day, that has been and will always be my greatest motivation."

You can read Cass Clemmer's entire post below.

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Do you feel comfortable discussing periods?

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