Menstrual Blood Art Proves Women Aren't The Only Ones Who Get Periods

Getting your period already carries a lot of stigma. Images of people menstruating are banned from Instagram for "breaking community guidelines," being on your period is used to insult you and discredit to your emotions, and we're told from a young age that discussing your "monthly bleed in public is indecent and gross." Between all this, the pink tax, and periods just being uncomfortable to endure, where does it end?
For transgender and non-binary people, periods bring even more complications. Cass Clemmer, creator of the much-loved, gender inclusive coloring book The Adventures of Toni the Tampon, recently shared a poem on Instagram about the difficulties of menstruating as a trans person.

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

Clemmer, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns, paired the poem with a photo of themselves bleeding to reiterate that people of all genders can get periods, a reality that is wildly under-acknowledged. Clemmer's poem addresses the ways their period affects their identity and how they view their body.
As they told HuffPo, “I remember sharing for the first time with a friend of mine that I wasn’t able to wear my binder that day because I was on my period and my boobs had swelled up so much that it made it hard to breathe."
For someone like Clemmer, not being able to wear the clothes that affirm their identity can lead to being misgendered, as well as gender dysphoria, the distress experienced when a person's assigned gender does not match their actual gender.
As Clemmer's work has long pointed out, talking about periods is important, and that includes addressing the fact that periods are not just for women, and not all women have periods. Whether or not you get your period is not determined by the gender you were assigned at birth or by the gender with which you identify — and getting a period does not, in any way, confirm that someone is or is not a certain gender.
With menstrual health products such as tampons, pads, and diva cups being marketed in gendered floral and pink packaging, the assumption that menstruation is a joy only women get to experience runs deep. Changing the gender stigma around periods can begin as easily as designing period apps to be more inclusive and less feminized, for example.
Of the response to their post, Clemmer tells Refinery29 that "there definitely is a lot of support, but there are a lot of cisgender gay men who have been attacking the post as an 'embarrassment to the LGBT community.' What they forget is that queer activism has [been], and always will be, about pushing the boundaries and reminding us to question what powers are policing what bodies and why."
"I had no idea that this post would go viral and I'm excited for the eye-opening conversations that I see being had in the comment boxes (among the threats of violence and transphobia of course)," Clemmer continued in their comment. "I originally didn't have plans for a larger, formal campaign but now I think that is where I am headed — hopefully with the help of some more influential voices in the trans and queer community."
We'll be looking forward to it. Until then, if you're interested in following Toni the Tampon's adventures, learning more about Clemmer's mission, or getting yourself a coloring book, check out their website, Instagram, and Twitter.
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