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A gynecologist tweeted about periods, and a great discussion about gender happened.

A trending hashtag started an important conversation about what words we use.

A gynecologist tweeted about periods, and a great discussion about gender happened.

How would the world be different if men had periods?

It's certainly not a new question. More than 40 years ago, Gloria Steinem wrote "If Men Could Menstruate," a sharply satirical take on how society treats men versus women.

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images.


"So what would happen if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not?" wrote Steinem. "Clearly, menstruation would become an enviable, worthy, masculine event."

She goes on, joking that if men could have periods, they'd "brag about how long and how much," they'd view them as signs of strength and masculinity, and they'd fight to ensure "sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free." Reading that, one can't help but think about how different the world actually is.

Recently, the hashtag #IfMenHadPeriods trended on Twitter, revitalizing Steinem's decades-old criticism for the modern day.

In a string of tweets, Dr. Jen Gunter, OB-GYN and writer, began dishing out some real talk about periods that roughly 50% of the population can't fully appreciate. Within a few short hours, #IfMenHadPeriods started trending.

The tweet that sparked the trending hashtag spawned a conversation that both was and wasn't what Gunter intended.

"It was the end of a larger tweet stream about menstruation that started in response to mansplaining about periods and mood," Gunter wrote in an email. "Some guy tried to correct a woman by saying ovulation affects mood not menstruation. So I started tweeting about all the ways periods are inconvenient."

"Lots of people responded, many shared their own stories. I tweeted about accidentally inserting 2 tampons, ripping out pubic hair with pad adhesive, and the bloodbath of changing a tampon on a train for example. Many people seemed to like to hear that the same period issues they've had a GYNO has also experienced."

In starting the conversation, Gunter's goal was to vent and bond with others who have periods — gender aside. But somewhere along the line, #IfMenHadPeriods became the hashtag of choice for people responding to Gunter's tweets, presenting an unforeseen problem.

The hashtag, unfortunately, misses one very crucial point: Some men do have periods — transgender men.

Some trans men — that is, men who were assigned female at birth — jumped in on the hashtag to helpfully remind others that they exist. The responses to their tweets tended to range somewhere between "Trans men aren't really men" and "You are a woman," neither of which is particularly helpful.

Is this just another example of "hurt feelings" and "political correctness run amok?" Not exactly.

"The refusal to accept and recognize that there are men who menstruate and get pregnant and there are women who have penises and don't, contributes to the relentless assault on trans people in courts, legislatures and on the streets," ACLU staff attorney and trans man Chase Strangio wrote in a Twitter direct message, explaining that human bodies are more complicated than a reductive gender binary narrative suggests.

In regards to the trending hashtag, Strangio said, "there are better ways to call out sexism than erasing the bodies of people who are not cisgender."

This type of reductive language that labels people according to what body parts they were born with has real-life consequences.

For example, a Lambda Legal study of health care found that many trans men were denied reproductive health care simply for being trans.

“I called a gynecologist’s office trying to schedule a hysterectomy," reads a trans man's story in Lambda Legal's report. "I told the receptionist that I was a transgender male. Two days later, I received a phone call telling me that the doctor did not take cases like mine and referring me to a hospital. I remember feeling like a freak. I called the second number. The receptionist told me they didn’t deal with transgender men either."

Kelley Cantrell was one of the most vocal critics of the hashtag, and they've written about the real-life effect this type of messaging has on trans men and non-binary people in the past.

"For the trans men (and anyone else who identifies on the masculine spectrum) who go to OBGYNs or get yearly exams at their [primary care physician], it creates a really uncomfortable environment when their healthcare providers refer to them as women and use female pronouns," Cantrell wrote in an email. "Healthcare providers need to be more up to date on the queer community's healthcare issues so that they can foster inclusive, safe spaces in their hospitals and offices."

All of this is to say that, yes, it can be tough to find the balance between inclusive language and effective messaging. So what to do?

On one hand, the overwhelming majority of people who have periods are women, so it makes sense to refer to that as a "women's issue," right? On the other hand, it's not just a women's issue, as it ignores people who have periods but aren't women. Go too far in one direction, and people are being actively excluded; go too far in the other, and the core message gets completely diluted.

The balance between the two is something I've been wrestling with for years.

Sometimes, inclusive language comes off as a bit clunky, as evidenced by a recent Planned Parenthood tweet that used the term "menstruators" rather than "women." But maybe that's just because, in many ways, inclusive language is still a work in progress.

The response to Planned Parenthood's tweet was really heated, with some cisgender (non-trans) women arguing that not explicitly saying "women" was dehumanizing and a number of trans men, non-binary people assigned female at birth, and their allies praising the organization for making the good-faith effort to be inclusive.

Completely lost in the conversation prompted by the tweet was discussion of the actual topic at hand: the tampon tax. And maybe that's the fine line we need to keep an eye on.

There are real issues that need to be addressed in the world. So long as that's the case (as it will always be), the question of tact will come up.

In the case of the #IfMenHadPeriods tag, it seems like the discussion — which was about addressing institutional misogyny — veered off track. To get back, it's worth checking in again with Gunter.

Photo by Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty Images.

"I hate that people feel menstruation is a taboo subject," wrote Gunter. Her tweet with the #IfMenHadPeriods hashtag was toward the end of her longer stream of tweets about one guy who tried to mansplain menstruation. "I'm actually quite sad it was the tweet that mentioned men that was the one that got picked up attention wise. The stream was about menstruation not men or gender."

"The point of my tweets [was] about the challenges of menstruation and patriarchy. It seems some of that was lost in translation."

Do some men have periods? Yes. Are most people who have periods women? Yes. Are trans men really men? Yes. Does society impose penalties such as taxes and employment discrimination on those who have periods? Yes.

As long as we can all acknowledge the above truths, we can have a good-faith conversation about what words we use to try to create change. Because here's the thing: All those people who were replying to trans men on that hashtag? The ones tweeting things like "You're not really a man"? They're not helping advance any cause.

Photo by Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images.

For this type of nuanced conversation to be productive, it's important we agree on the question being debated. In this case: Does inclusive language come at a political or social cost to a movement's effectiveness, and if so, what do we do moving forward? One example might be the question of whether saying "women's rights are under attack" is more effective than saying "reproductive health care is under attack." The latter is certainly more accurate and more inclusive; but is it as politically effective?

That's the line we need to walk. Effectiveness doesn't need to come at the expense of accuracy or inclusion, but it often does. It's by sitting down with others committed to the same cause (but who might have differing tactical viewpoints) and having a conversation about these nuanced aspects of life that we can help create better, more effective, more inclusive political movements that work for everybody's interests.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."