Temporary logo

Cass Clemmer

Cass Clemmer

Cass Clemmer

Cass Clemmer

Bleeding while trans

Bleeding while trans

Bleeding while trans

Bleeding while trans

Bleeding-when-trans-AN-02

Interview by Inés Alcalá Freudenthal and Bisila Noha, December 2017

Interview by Inés Alcalá Freudenthal and Bisila Noha, December 2017

Cass is an artist and digital educator whose work centres on raising awareness for trans menstruators, or people that menstruate who don’t identify as women. Recently starting testosterone treatment – the effects of which Cass is sharing through Instagram (@theperiodprince), Cass is also the creator of Toni the Tampon, a project that aims to help menstruators of all ages and genders (@tonithetampon) reclaim pride in their periods. We talked to Cass about growing up as a missionary kid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, activism, and coming out digitally while trying to figure out gender identity IRL.

Cass is an artist and digital educator whose work centres on raising awareness for trans menstruators, or people that menstruate who don’t identify as women. Recently starting testosterone treatment – the effects of which Cass is sharing through Instagram (@theperiodprince), Cass is also the creator of Toni the Tampon, a project that aims to help menstruators of all ages and genders (@tonithetampon) reclaim pride in their periods. We talked to Cass about growing up as a missionary kid in the Democratic Republic of Congo, activism, and coming out digitally while trying to figure out gender identity IRL.

I was born in Haiti, and raised in Congo, so I was born into the Mission field, to missionary parents. I was surrounded by conservative Christians throughout my childhood and adolescence. I was never given any sex ed; we never talked about periods, at all, and gayness or trans identities were absolutely not a thing. Basically I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God, and I had no choice over myself, what I looked like, or how I wanted to identify. When I moved to the United States six years ago, it was the beginning of a drastic, radical learning curve. I ended up studying Gender and Sexual Studies in college, so could be in a position to do this work.

I was born in Haiti, and raised in Congo, so I was born into the Mission field, to missionary parents. I was surrounded by conservative Christians throughout my childhood and adolescence. I was never given any sex ed; we never talked about periods, at all, and gayness or trans identities were absolutely not a thing. Basically I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God, and I had no choice over myself, what I looked like, or how I wanted to identify. When I moved to the United States six years ago, it was the beginning of a drastic, radical learning curve. I ended up studying Gender and Sexual Studies in college, so could be in a position to do this work.

“I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God.”

"I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God."

“I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God.”

“I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God.”

“I was told my entire life that my body didn’t belong to me – it belonged to God.”

A lot of people ask me if I knew I was trans before I got my period. The answer is no, I didn’t, because we didn’t have that language didn’t exist in the social context I grew up in. I didn’t know that that was an option for me. I just knew I was different. When I was younger, I didn’t see myself as fitting into the categories of girl or boy, I just saw myself as just a kid. I suppose I knew that there was an expiration date to that; when you look at adults, you see men and women, but when it comes to kids, there are different types of gender and gender performance, and we let them experience that, because they are ‘just’ kids. That same fluidity isn’t allowed with adults – you just see two different types of gender, especially in a conservative community. So when I first got my first period, it was really devastating, because I knew that was the end of whatever existence and freedom that I had to be androgynous. So I spent the rest of my high school days fitting myself into a category that I didn’t belong in, and I got really depressed, anxious, and engaged in self-harm activities. It was really difficult.

Toni the Tampon is an actual tampon with googly eyes that I carry with me everywhere. But the character comes in two parts; the other one is a character in a colouring book that I published. I wanted to create something that allowed anyone of any age to engage with periods in a way that they could approach the topic, even if they weren’t ready for some of the information. I wanted a very blank way to approach the conversation, I didn’t want to prioritize certain information, therefore to some degree deciding what a kid should learn. I wanted to give a tool to parents and educators to start the conversation, so that they can choose at what age their kids are ready to learn. I named the tampon Toni very intentionally, because I wanted a gender neutral tampon and name, as a way to start discussing gender. The colouring book has received a lot of criticism for this – there’s nothing in there that talks about trans identities. There aren’t actually any words, because it’s a colouring book. That means that if the parents, guardian or educators don’t want to engage with gender identities in a colouring book they don’t have to – it’s a colouring book, there’s no words on it. I wanted it to be accessible, and to have representation.

I hope that people working involved in this kind of activism will create space, and to start changing the language. So instead of using women to assume that we are talking about people that menstruate they will use ‘people that menstruate, or menstruators’. Activists are trying to change the ways people use pronouns, instead of assuming that everyone who menstruates is going be a ‘she’. The hope is that companies making these products – and the ones that make the ads – will start recognizing that their branding is very gendered, and it’s harmful not only for trans people, but also for cis women (people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth), because by associating femininity with flowers and pink, we are removing the option to be free in within your gender. I’ve actually spoken to a couple of companies about their messaging and their branding, and how they can start adjusting some of their advertisements. There’s a pervading message that about femininity, that it’s a rich white woman, wearing all white, floating in a pool – like it’s the only kind of person that menstruates.

A lot of people ask me if I knew I was trans before I got my period. The answer is no, I didn’t, because we didn’t have that language didn’t exist in the social context I grew up in. I didn’t know that that was an option for me. I just knew I was different. When I was younger, I didn’t see myself as fitting into the categories of girl or boy, I just saw myself as just a kid. I suppose I knew that there was an expiration date to that; when you look at adults, you see men and women, but when it comes to kids, there are different types of gender and gender performance, and we let them experience that, because they are ‘just’ kids. That same fluidity isn’t allowed with adults – you just see two different types of gender, especially in a conservative community. So when I first got my first period, it was really devastating, because I knew that was the end of whatever existence and freedom that I had to be androgynous. So I spent the rest of my high school days fitting myself into a category that I didn’t belong in, and I got really depressed, anxious, and engaged in self-harm activities. It was really difficult.

Toni the Tampon is an actual tampon with googly eyes that I carry with me everywhere. But the character comes in two parts; the other one is a character in a colouring book that I published. I wanted to create something that allowed anyone of any age to engage with periods in a way that they could approach the topic, even if they weren’t ready for some of the information. I wanted a very blank way to approach the conversation, I didn’t want to prioritize certain information, therefore to some degree deciding what a kid should learn. I wanted to give a tool to parents and educators to start the conversation, so that they can choose at what age their kids are ready to learn. I named the tampon Toni very intentionally, because I wanted a gender neutral tampon and name, as a way to start discussing gender. The colouring book has received a lot of criticism for this – there’s nothing in there that talks about trans identities. There aren’t actually any words, because it’s a colouring book. That means that if the parents, guardian or educators don’t want to engage with gender identities in a colouring book they don’t have to – it’s a colouring book, there’s no words on it. I wanted it to be accessible, and to have representation.

I hope that people working involved in this kind of activism will create space, and to start changing the language. So instead of using women to assume that we are talking about people that menstruate they will use ‘people that menstruate, or menstruators’. Activists are trying to change the ways people use pronouns, instead of assuming that everyone who menstruates is going be a ‘she’. The hope is that companies making these products – and the ones that make the ads – will start recognizing that their branding is very gendered, and it’s harmful not only for trans people, but also for cis women (people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth), because by associating femininity with flowers and pink, we are removing the option to be free in within your gender. I’ve actually spoken to a couple of companies about their messaging and their branding, and how they can start adjusting some of their advertisements. There’s a pervading message that about femininity, that it’s a rich white woman, wearing all white, floating in a pool – like it’s the only kind of person that menstruates.

A lot of people ask me if I knew I was trans before I got my period. The answer is no, I didn’t, because we didn’t have that language didn’t exist in the social context I grew up in. I didn’t know that that was an option for me. I just knew I was different. When I was younger, I didn’t see myself as fitting into the categories of girl or boy, I just saw myself as just a kid. I suppose I knew that there was an expiration date to that; when you look at adults, you see men and women, but when it comes to kids, there are different types of gender and gender performance, and we let them experience that, because they are ‘just’ kids. That same fluidity isn’t allowed with adults – you just see two different types of gender, especially in a conservative community. So when I first got my first period, it was really devastating, because I knew that was the end of whatever existence and freedom that I had to be androgynous. So I spent the rest of my high school days fitting myself into a category that I didn’t belong in, and I got really depressed, anxious, and engaged in self-harm activities. It was really difficult.

Toni the Tampon is an actual tampon with googly eyes that I carry with me everywhere. But the character comes in two parts; the other one is a character in a colouring book that I published. I wanted to create something that allowed anyone of any age to engage with periods in a way that they could approach the topic, even if they weren’t ready for some of the information. I wanted a very blank way to approach the conversation, I didn’t want to prioritize certain information, therefore to some degree deciding what a kid should learn. I wanted to give a tool to parents and educators to start the conversation, so that they can choose at what age their kids are ready to learn. I named the tampon Toni very intentionally, because I wanted a gender neutral tampon and name, as a way to start discussing gender. The colouring book has received a lot of criticism for this – there’s nothing in there that talks about trans identities. There aren’t actually any words, because it’s a colouring book. That means that if the parents, guardian or educators don’t want to engage with gender identities in a colouring book they don’t have to – it’s a colouring book, there’s no words on it. I wanted it to be accessible, and to have representation.

I hope that people working involved in this kind of activism will create space, and to start changing the language. So instead of using women to assume that we are talking about people that menstruate they will use ‘people that menstruate, or menstruators’. Activists are trying to change the ways people use pronouns, instead of assuming that everyone who menstruates is going be a ‘she’. The hope is that companies making these products – and the ones that make the ads – will start recognizing that their branding is very gendered, and it’s harmful not only for trans people, but also for cis women (people who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth), because by associating femininity with flowers and pink, we are removing the option to be free in within your gender. I’ve actually spoken to a couple of companies about their messaging and their branding, and how they can start adjusting some of their advertisements. There’s a pervading message that about femininity, that it’s a rich white woman, wearing all white, floating in a pool – like it’s the only kind of person that menstruates.

“Just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.”

“Just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.”

“Just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.”

“Just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.”

“Just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.”

To anyone who’s working for having tampons in bathrooms, or towards having disposal bins in women’s bathrooms: think about men’s bathrooms, too. Most men’s bathrooms don’t have disposable bins in the stall, so if I take my tampon in a men’s toilet and use the stall I have to take it out with me, which has the potential to out me, unless I hide it really well. Besides that, it’s bloody and messy and it’s just not fun. So there are all these different issues, and I just want people who are doing work in this issue start to include trans voices and begin to understand how we can address the barriers.

Within the trans community, there are a lot of people who are encouraged by my work. There are many people who are afraid to talk about periods, and they are really happy that someone is starting to change it. I’ve had some people get upset that I’m talking about it, though. I posted a photo that went viral with the hashtag ‘bleeding while trans’, with a poem, and I’ve had a couple of men tell me that the photo made them feel really dysphoric, and gave them a panic attack because they are so upset about having periods that just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.

The moment I posted the ‘#bleedingwhiletrans’ photo was actually when most of my family members and loved ones found out that I was trans. They found out at the same time as millions of strangers – that was really difficult, because actually, I don’t know if I was completely ready. I feel like I was kind of forced to come out a bit earlier than I might have done, because of the project that I am doing. This whole process is happening at the same time as I’m coming into my new identity, which is tough, because I’m trying to speak on this issue while also learning about myself, and working out how to be open about myself – it’s a constantly adapting identity.

To anyone who’s working for having tampons in bathrooms, or towards having disposal bins in women’s bathrooms: think about men’s bathrooms, too. Most men’s bathrooms don’t have disposable bins in the stall, so if I take my tampon in a men’s toilet and use the stall I have to take it out with me, which has the potential to out me, unless I hide it really well. Besides that, it’s bloody and messy and it’s just not fun. So there are all these different issues, and I just want people who are doing work in this issue start to include trans voices and begin to understand how we can address the barriers.

Within the trans community, there are a lot of people who are encouraged by my work. There are many people who are afraid to talk about periods, and they are really happy that someone is starting to change it. I’ve had some people get upset that I’m talking about it, though. I posted a photo that went viral with the hashtag ‘bleeding while trans’, with a poem, and I’ve had a couple of men tell me that the photo made them feel really dysphoric, and gave them a panic attack because they are so upset about having periods that just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.

The moment I posted the ‘#bleedingwhiletrans’ photo was actually when most of my family members and loved ones found out that I was trans. They found out at the same time as millions of strangers – that was really difficult, because actually, I don’t know if I was completely ready. I feel like I was kind of forced to come out a bit earlier than I might have done, because of the project that I am doing. This whole process is happening at the same time as I’m coming into my new identity, which is tough, because I’m trying to speak on this issue while also learning about myself, and working out how to be open about myself – it’s a constantly adapting identity.

To anyone who’s working for having tampons in bathrooms, or towards having disposal bins in women’s bathrooms: think about men’s bathrooms, too. Most men’s bathrooms don’t have disposable bins in the stall, so if I take my tampon in a men’s toilet and use the stall I have to take it out with me, which has the potential to out me, unless I hide it really well. Besides that, it’s bloody and messy and it’s just not fun. So there are all these different issues, and I just want people who are doing work in this issue start to include trans voices and begin to understand how we can address the barriers.

Within the trans community, there are a lot of people who are encouraged by my work. There are many people who are afraid to talk about periods, and they are really happy that someone is starting to change it. I’ve had some people get upset that I’m talking about it, though. I posted a photo that went viral with the hashtag ‘bleeding while trans’, with a poem, and I’ve had a couple of men tell me that the photo made them feel really dysphoric, and gave them a panic attack because they are so upset about having periods that just seeing my bloodstain and seeing me engage with the topics deeply affected them.

The moment I posted the ‘#bleedingwhiletrans’ photo was actually when most of my family members and loved ones found out that I was trans. They found out at the same time as millions of strangers – that was really difficult, because actually, I don’t know if I was completely ready. I feel like I was kind of forced to come out a bit earlier than I might have done, because of the project that I am doing. This whole process is happening at the same time as I’m coming into my new identity, which is tough, because I’m trying to speak on this issue while also learning about myself, and working out how to be open about myself – it’s a constantly adapting identity.

"I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience."

“I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience.”

“I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience.”

“I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience.”

“I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience.”

I’m non-binary and trans, which means that I have to explain my identity to a lot of people. It’s been interesting trying to give answers while I’m also seeking answers for myself. I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience. I don’t know everything about testosterone, or about statistics, but I can speak about the experiences I go though, the activism that I’m doing, and the communities that I work with.

Transgender – a lot of people think that’s a binary word, so you are either a trans man or a trans woman but really it just means you don’t identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. I don’t identify as the gender I was assigned at birth; I don’t identify as a woman or a man, and I don’t necessarily really believe in gender. It’s a social construct, and I choose to live my life and view myself as I did as a kid, as an androgynous human being. I play with gender a lot, I challenge the words that people use to categorize individuals. What is it that you look for in a stranger to tell you whether they are a man or a woman: do you look at their hair? Do you look at what they are wearing? And whether they have boobs? Because all of those things run across different spectrums. There are men with long hair, and boobs or larger chests, there are also men that dress more feminine. I like to challenge what people think and how people categorize men and women. I tell people that I’m my happiest when I confuse people, that I want to get to a physical point in my body with testosterone and top surgery to a point where I just confuse people. I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.

I’m non-binary and trans, which means that I have to explain my identity to a lot of people. It’s been interesting trying to give answers while I’m also seeking answers for myself. I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience. I don’t know everything about testosterone, or about statistics, but I can speak about the experiences I go though, the activism that I’m doing, and the communities that I work with.

Transgender – a lot of people think that’s a binary word, so you are either a trans man or a trans woman but really it just means you don’t identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. I don’t identify as the gender I was assigned at birth; I don’t identify as a woman or a man, and I don’t necessarily really believe in gender. It’s a social construct, and I choose to live my life and view myself as I did as a kid, as an androgynous human being. I play with gender a lot, I challenge the words that people use to categorize individuals. What is it that you look for in a stranger to tell you whether they are a man or a woman: do you look at their hair? Do you look at what they are wearing? And whether they have boobs? Because all of those things run across different spectrums. There are men with long hair, and boobs or larger chests, there are also men that dress more feminine. I like to challenge what people think and how people categorize men and women. I tell people that I’m my happiest when I confuse people, that I want to get to a physical point in my body with testosterone and top surgery to a point where I just confuse people. I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.

I’m non-binary and trans, which means that I have to explain my identity to a lot of people. It’s been interesting trying to give answers while I’m also seeking answers for myself. I’m not an expert on trans issues, I’m just an expert on my trans experience. I don’t know everything about testosterone, or about statistics, but I can speak about the experiences I go though, the activism that I’m doing, and the communities that I work with.

Transgender – a lot of people think that’s a binary word, so you are either a trans man or a trans woman but really it just means you don’t identify as the gender you were assigned at birth. I don’t identify as the gender I was assigned at birth; I don’t identify as a woman or a man, and I don’t necessarily really believe in gender. It’s a social construct, and I choose to live my life and view myself as I did as a kid, as an androgynous human being. I play with gender a lot, I challenge the words that people use to categorize individuals. What is it that you look for in a stranger to tell you whether they are a man or a woman: do you look at their hair? Do you look at what they are wearing? And whether they have boobs? Because all of those things run across different spectrums. There are men with long hair, and boobs or larger chests, there are also men that dress more feminine. I like to challenge what people think and how people categorize men and women. I tell people that I’m my happiest when I confuse people, that I want to get to a physical point in my body with testosterone and top surgery to a point where I just confuse people. I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.

“I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.”

“I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.”

“I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.”

“I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.”

“I want people to meet me and then go home and wonder what gender is.”

A lot of the effects that come from taking testosterone are what I’m looking for: the lower voice, and body mass distribution (fat and muscle distribution). I want my body to look a lot more androgynous. But I cannot pick and choose from the effects. It also comes with facial hair growth, which I do not want. I’m looking into getting top surgery in the future, for similar reasons, but I also love having a vagina. So there are a lot of conflicts. There’s no checkbox of what makes a man and makes a woman, but I find myself to be living proof that I can exist in a body that I’m happy with – so I have a vagina but I also want no boobs and want to look more masculine. I still get my periods – it’s only been 2 months. But someone who just started the same testosterone treatment – same brand, same amount, same level, same day as me, they no longer get periods, so it completely depends on the body. We really have no idea what’s going to happen.

This experience isn’t the first hardship I’ve been through. I was raised in this conservative Christian community. As a trans missionary kid in Congo, I went through a lot of bullying in high school, and terrible times in college. I attempted suicide twice there. I’ve been through a lot. It’s hard because my direct community that I grew up with are really not supportive, so I made a very conscious decision six years ago – that if they weren’t supportive of me as coming out as gay, that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do on my own. Luckily, I now have people that I can turn to that know I’ve had to deal with this pretty much my entire life.

If I could change one thing from growing up, I wish I had known that trans identities existed, that living like I am now is an option. When I was a teenager, when I started with my period, I told myself that I wasn’t going to live past 18 – that I either was going to die naturally, or I would kill myself before I went to college – because I didn’t think that there was a world where I could exist the way that I am now. I didn’t think that who I am now was a possibility. I wish that I could tell myself 10 years ago that it is. That you can be loved, and have a community and be successful, not a failure, and still be trans and have the identity, and most importantly, the life you want to have.

A lot of the effects that come from taking testosterone are what I’m looking for: the lower voice, and body mass distribution (fat and muscle distribution). I want my body to look a lot more androgynous. But I cannot pick and choose from the effects. It also comes with facial hair growth, which I do not want. I’m looking into getting top surgery in the future, for similar reasons, but I also love having a vagina. So there are a lot of conflicts. There’s no checkbox of what makes a man and makes a woman, but I find myself to be living proof that I can exist in a body that I’m happy with – so I have a vagina but I also want no boobs and want to look more masculine. I still get my periods – it’s only been 2 months. But someone who just started the same testosterone treatment – same brand, same amount, same level, same day as me, they no longer get periods, so it completely depends on the body. We really have no idea what’s going to happen.

This experience isn’t the first hardship I’ve been through. I was raised in this conservative Christian community. As a trans missionary kid in Congo, I went through a lot of bullying in high school, and terrible times in college. I attempted suicide twice there. I’ve been through a lot. It’s hard because my direct community that I grew up with are really not supportive, so I made a very conscious decision six years ago – that if they weren’t supportive of me as coming out as gay, that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do on my own. Luckily, I now have people that I can turn to that know I’ve had to deal with this pretty much my entire life.

If I could change one thing from growing up, I wish I had known that trans identities existed, that living like I am now is an option. When I was a teenager, when I started with my period, I told myself that I wasn’t going to live past 18 – that I either was going to die naturally, or I would kill myself before I went to college – because I didn’t think that there was a world where I could exist the way that I am now. I didn’t think that who I am now was a possibility. I wish that I could tell myself 10 years ago that it is. That you can be loved, and have a community and be successful, not a failure, and still be trans and have the identity, and most importantly, the life you want to have.

A lot of the effects that come from taking testosterone are what I’m looking for: the lower voice, and body mass distribution (fat and muscle distribution). I want my body to look a lot more androgynous. But I cannot pick and choose from the effects. It also comes with facial hair growth, which I do not want. I’m looking into getting top surgery in the future, for similar reasons, but I also love having a vagina. So there are a lot of conflicts. There’s no checkbox of what makes a man and makes a woman, but I find myself to be living proof that I can exist in a body that I’m happy with – so I have a vagina but I also want no boobs and want to look more masculine. I still get my periods – it’s only been 2 months. But someone who just started the same testosterone treatment – same brand, same amount, same level, same day as me, they no longer get periods, so it completely depends on the body. We really have no idea what’s going to happen.

This experience isn’t the first hardship I’ve been through. I was raised in this conservative Christian community. As a trans missionary kid in Congo, I went through a lot of bullying in high school, and terrible times in college. I attempted suicide twice there. I’ve been through a lot. It’s hard because my direct community that I grew up with are really not supportive, so I made a very conscious decision six years ago – that if they weren’t supportive of me as coming out as gay, that I was going to do whatever I wanted to do on my own. Luckily, I now have people that I can turn to that know I’ve had to deal with this pretty much my entire life.

If I could change one thing from growing up, I wish I had known that trans identities existed, that living like I am now is an option. When I was a teenager, when I started with my period, I told myself that I wasn’t going to live past 18 – that I either was going to die naturally, or I would kill myself before I went to college – because I didn’t think that there was a world where I could exist the way that I am now. I didn’t think that who I am now was a possibility. I wish that I could tell myself 10 years ago that it is. That you can be loved, and have a community and be successful, not a failure, and still be trans and have the identity, and most importantly, the life you want to have.

Cass Clemmer — Instagram — Twitter
Toni the Tampon
Illustration by Anna Nicolo

Cass Clemmer — Instagram — Twitter
Toni the Tampon
Illustration by Anna Nicolo

Cass Clemmer — Instagram — Twitter
Toni the Tampon
Illustration by Anna Nicolo

Cass Clemmer — Instagram — Twitter
Toni the Tampon
Illustration by Anna Nicolo

Cass Clemmer — Instagram — Twitter
Toni the Tampon
Illustration by Anna Nicolo

Instagram     info@wearedownthere.com     © 2019 Down There     Privacy     Cookies