\u201cWhen I was in the foster care system, they had very few period supplies, most of which were one size and highly uncomfortable. \u2026 Many foster youth don\u2019t have access to such essential products.\u201d \u201cI was always nervous to ask my mother to buy more pads or tampons because I knew how expensive they were, and I sat through many uncomfortable days at school just to avoid financial strain on my parents.\u201d \u201cThere exists an unspoken stigma around periods that does not justify menstrual pain as a worthy enough excuse to skip a practice, or stay in bed over seeing friends.\u201d Human. It\u2019s the beauty that defines and deepens our existence. In a reality as isolating as the COVID-19 pandemic, humanness is our universal connection. Many artists have sought ways to document and explore humanness, like Brandon Stanton, creator of \u201cHumans of New York.\u201d His photography and storytelling have opened thousands of windows into the lives of strangers living in New York, offering a way for people to connect despite the immense disconnect of COVID. Humans with Periods, a social media awareness campaign that began during National Period Poverty Awareness Week (May 24 to 30), offers a similar function. With the aim to dismantle the stigma around periods by opening up about period-related struggles, menstruators all over Connecticut shared their own period stories for the public to read. I\u2019ve shared a few of the responses we received at the beginning of this piece. Topics ranged from period poverty \u2014 a lack of access to menstrual products due to financial burdens \u2014 to the stereotypes many menstruators have had to confront, including the dismissal of cramp pains and lack of sympathy, as many believe periods are a \u201cgirl\u2019s issue.\u201d Unlike other normal bodily functions, like hair growth, urination or food digestion, the menstrual cycle is stigmatized and serves as a financial burden for many. To put this situation into perspective for those who do not menstruate: When was the last time you had to pay for toilet paper in a restroom? On most accounts, never. Imagine inserting a quarter into a machine that only gives you one usage of toilet paper. If you don\u2019t have any coins with you, you\u2019re forced to find some way to deal with soiled clothing. This is the reality for many menstruators. Period products are a necessity, and it\u2019s well past time that we treat them as such. Tampons and pads, in most places, are not free and many schools struggle to provide them. In Connecticut, 1 in 8 women and girls between the ages of 12 and 44 lives below the Federal Poverty Level, and almost 60 percent of families living in poverty struggle to keep up with their bills and cover unexpected expenses. The cost of period products makes them inaccessible for many individuals who are low-income, forcing them to resort to using unsafe and unhygienic alternatives like rags, toilet paper or even adult incontinence products. In elementary school, I was the first person in my class to reach menarche, my first menstrual cycle. As a result, the subject of periods soon evolved into a fear: I was often too scared to talk to my mom about it, much less my closest friends. I was called an \u201cearly bloomer\u201d and exercised extreme discretion every time I was on my period. The most debilitating part of the stigma was that I was ashamed of my own body, the period blood, and the acne that would pop up at the beginning of my menstrual cycle and reveal that I was on my period. Over the years I have slowly found beauty in the menstrual cycle. How magical is it that, in preparation for pregnancy, our bodies can nurture a child? Endure so much pain and come back stronger and healthier? It is simply amazing what our bodies are capable of. But much of the general public, my former self included, do not see it this way. One of the goals of Humans with Periods was to change that perspective, opening readers up to a discussion that many consider taboo, with insufficient media coverage and a history of inducing shame. The Humans with Periods stories also explored these inequities through a rarely perceived lens of poverty. I have been fortunate enough to live with free access to period products, but 40 percent of female public school students in grades 7 through 12 in Connecticut attend schools with high concentrations of student poverty. They likely cannot say the same. One of the first steps towards real change is education and awareness. I invite you to learn more about period poverty, and what The Diaper Bank of Connecticut\u2019s Beam program is doing to help in our community, by visiting thediaperbank.org\/beam. But change does not end there. Let\u2019s keep this conversation going \u2014 out in the open for all to hear. Joy Ren, of Wilton, is one of the co-creators of Humans With Periods, a project supported by the Connecticut Alliance for Period Supplies, a program of The Diaper Bank of Connecticut. To see some of the Human With Periods Project, visit facebook.com\/thediaperbankct.