When I got my period at age eleven, I was so ashamed, so embarrassed and so traumatized by the experience that I made my mother swear on her life that she wouldn't tell a soul.
Nobody had talked to me about periods, really. All I knew for sure was that you had to stick a tampon inside of your vagina to plug up the incessant flow of blood, and that my sister's boyfriend didn't like to buy tampons for her (she complained about it often).
Hopefully, the kids of this next generation won't have such dire period shame like I did. If genderqueer artist and educator Cass Clemer has anything to do with it, they won't.
Please allow me to introduce you to Clemer's creation: Toni the Tampon.
Toni the Tampon is a gender-neutral tampon character from Clemer's super amazing coloring book, "The Adventures of Toni the Tampon: A Period Coloring Book."
The objective of the book is to reduce period shame in young people, while educating them about menstrual health at the same time.
But what if you're not into tampons? Have no fear, baby. Toni the Tampon has ~friends~ too.
This is "Marina the Menstrual cup":
And of course, there is Sebastian the Sponge:
And who could dare forget good ol' Patrice the Pad? (I was a big fan of the pad in the '90s, myself.)
Toni the Tampon is so wildly popular it actually has it's own Twitter account as well.
Speaking of social media, Clemer originally started Toni the Tampon as a mere Instagram account. But back in the beginning, Clemer just took photos of an actual tampon with a pair of googly eyes to it, and decided to name it "Toni the Tampon."
Fast-forward to now, and her creation-turned-illustration has its very own coloring book.
Clemer told the Huffington Post that she thinks finding new ways to educate young people about sexual health is everything.
Too many places in the country still demand abstinence-only education as the standard or engage in shame-techniques designed to scare kids from learning more or asking any further questions about their own health. I think the way to answer this issue is by creating new mediums that challenge and expand the ways we teach sexual education and menstrual health. There are currently a lot of really awesome groups out there that are creating new ways to talk about sexual and reproductive health, from comics to theater performances that have helped shift the way we talk about sexual education and our bodies. But still, we need more.
You know what's really cool about Toni the Tampon? The coloring book doesn't just cover period education, it also covers gender identity. Clemer told the Huffington post,
Conversations about the gender binary cannot be extricated from the larger conversations around menstrual health, even those we have with kids, because when we presume that menstruators are all women, we make the mistake of excluding other folks from conversations about their own health. So I created Patrice the Pad, Marina the Menstrual Cup, Sebastian the Sponge, and Toni the Tampon. As a genderqueer human myself, it has been hard to find communities that include people like me when they market to, talk about, or provide services for menstruators. It was risky to decide to introduce Toni, who uses no pronouns, and Sebastian who uses he/him/his, as genderqueer and trans characters, but I wanted to make sure that I created art that was inclusive, not just art that appeals to those who refuse to recognize other's lived identities.
Who knew a tampon named Toni could be such a groundbreaking hero?
This is such a creative way to introduce young people to reproductive health, while still remaining inclusive to genderqueer and trans people, too.
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum of gender, it's your right to be educated in a way that speaks to you.