Cass Clemmer is a Washington, D.C.-based trans, queer artist who uses "they/them" pronouns. Because they were born with female reproductive parts and have not completed a full medical transition, they still menstruate. If that disturbs you, well, grow up, weirdo.
Earlier this month, Clemmer posted a photo of themself on Instagram and Facebook, which shows them free bleeding while holding up a sign that reads "periods are not just for women #BleedingWhileTrans."
The powerful photo, and an accompanying poem in the caption, have gone viral.
The poem, which the artist wrote for a spoken word event at a menstrual health conference last summer, reads:
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
Wow. Many have responded to thank Clemmer for sharing their story.
But unfortunately, the pics have also sparked a backlash. "Free bleeding" tends to make people very angry for some reason, as we learned last year when this yogi bled through her white pants and the internet had a collective panic attack.
Others completely missed the point Clemmer is trying to make about being trans, leaving transphobic comments, calling the photo "gross" and "offensive" and claiming "periods are just for women."
This person is particularly confused:
Clemmer told the Huffington Post that they decided to "go public" with their story as a way to educate people about the fact that periods are not something only women experience (clearly, this education is sorely needed!). They said:
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.
It can be confusing to learn something new—like the fact that people who do not identify as women sometimes menstruate. It can also be confusing to be confronted with the reality of menstrual blood when society has hidden it from you your whole life, you lucky guy. But spoiler alert: once upon a time, we were all nearly a period.
Deep breaths, everyone.