• Cass Clemmer is a menstrual health activist, and posted this photo to educate people that 'periods are not just for women'. (ToniTheTampon / Instagram.)Source: ToniTheTampon / Instagram.
"Not all people who menstruate are women, and not all women menstruate.”
By
Chloe Sargeant

24 Jul 2017 - 1:11 PM  UPDATED 24 Jul 2017 - 1:11 PM

Content Warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of menstruation and the loss of children, as well as staged images of persons menstruating. These images and descriptions may be confronting or triggering to some readers. 

Artist and menstrual health activist Cass Clemmer has gone viral after publishing a poignant image of themselves experiencing menstruation.

Clemmer, who is transgender and uses 'they/them' pronouns, posted a self-portrait to Instagram of them 'free-bleeding', which was accompanied by a poem that they performed at a spoken-word event at a menstrual health conference last year. 

The poem is a personal and heartbreaking account of Clemmer's experiences with menstruation, as someone who does not identify as a woman. Their poem speaks of how mentally damaging having a period can be as a transgender person, and how it can feel as though gender identity is erased or harmed by the process. 

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Clemmer works as a menstrual health activist, and is the brains behind 'The Adventures of Toni the Tampon: A Period Colouring Book' - a colouring book that introduces children of all genders to menstruation, sanitary products, and the concept that menstruation is not tied to gender. It introduces children to the concept that people of all genders can experience menstruation (and alternatively, just because someone is a woman, that doesn't mean they definitely will or can experience it).

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

Clemmer told Huffington Post that they created the book after realising that many people were ignorant to the idea that it's not just cisgender women who experience menstruation. 

“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.

"We had been friends for awhile and she’s a feminist activist, but when I realized that not even she had considered what it was like for people like me to experience bleeding on a (ir)regular basis I knew that I had to go public with my story to help shift the mindset around tying periods to womanhood and femininity.

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

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To learn more about Clemmer's work as a menstrual health activist, you can visit the Toni the Tampon website, or see more photos on Instagram

Cass Clemmer's full poem is below:

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. 

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