Gender Expression 101: Tips and Tools On Gender Presentation
Gender expression. You may have heard of this term in relation to gender identity, biological sex, sexual attraction… and you might have no idea what the difference is between any of these words. Don’t worry! You’re in the right place, and I’m here to help.
Gender expression is simply how a person chooses to show their gender to others. Everyone, including yourself, engages in gender expression. For example, a woman who identifies with the biological sex she was assigned at birth (aka a cisgender or cis woman), and choses to wear a full face of makeup is expressing her version of gender, just as a non-binary person (someone with a gender identity other than their assigned sex at birth) who chooses to use a strap-on during sex could be expressing a part of their gender. What’s important to remember is that gender expression is not fixed, but rather something that you have the opportunity to define for yourself every single day. Pretty exciting, right?
This two-part series is all about information and tips on gender expression, presentation, and tools available to you if you’re looking to try something different. This first post will focus on gender presentation specifically, which refers to how a person uses their outward appearance to express their gender. If you’re curious about gender-affirming sex toys or books about gender that we carry, keep an eye out for the upcoming part two of this series!
If you’re interested in items, tips and resources for playing around with your own outward presentation, or just curious about what the heck a packer is, read on! You’re in for a treat. ;)
Binding, Binders, and Compression Tops
First up, binders. Not the back-to-school kind. Binders are an item of clothing that resembles a sports bra or tankini top. Binders are made of strict fabric that compresses breast tissue to create the look of a flatter chest. Binders are most commonly worn by individuals assigned female at birth, or individuals with more breast tissue who’d like to achieve a flatter chest appearance.
There are a few key things to know about binding as a process, and binders specifically, before diving in. Like anything that constricts the chest, including sports bras, shapewear, etc., binders can potentially cause breathing difficulty. This risk increases if your binder is too small, if you are binding with other items such as medical bandage or tape, or if you are wearing more than one binder. I recommend measuring yourself and using binder size guides as a starting place, and please remember to listen to your body and start slow! Try wearing your binder for a short amount of time at first, and if everything feels comfortable, you can start experimenting with wearing it for longer periods. Never wear your binder for more than 8-10 hours, take breaks as needed, and be kind to yourself. If your chest is not appearing as flat as you would like with a properly sized binder, try getting creative and exploring clothing options that may give you the silhouette you’re looking for (more on that later!)
If you’re ready to explore, our binders from the New York Toy Collective are made of a breathable and moisture wicking fabric to keep you comfortable. The binders have inflexible fabric on the front to compress the chest, with stretchy fabric on the back to allow free movement and makes it easy to put on and take off. We also carry compression tops from Urbody Co, which offer less constriction and more freedom of movement than a traditional binder.
Additionally, Point of Pride offers free binders to transgender or gender non-conforming people who otherwise would not be able to afford them, as does the Vermont Pride Center!
Binders and compression tops are a great tool for trans, non-binary, and gender-questioning people to feel comfortable in their appearance, and everyone deserves that!
Packers, Stand-to-Pee Devices, and Packing Underwear
Packers! Packers or packing penises are items that resemble a flaccid penis. Packers are typically used by AFAB (assigned female at birth), trans men, and transmasc individuals to provide the appearance and feeling of a bulge. Packers are meant for every day or occasional wear and can be worn in traditional underwear, packing underwear or a packing harness. Packers come in all shapes and sizes to fit every body, and also range in weight, density, and firmness. Packers 4” and under are suggested for individuals 5’ or shorter, while longer and thicker packers are offered and suggested for taller individuals to provide a proportional appearance. One hot tip if you’re not sure which size to pick or want to dip your toes in the water: play around with a few socks to find the size and shape that feels right, and go from there! Check out this youtube video for a step-by-step guide.
Packers also come in a variety of materials and textures, some more lifelike than others. The Calexotics Pure Skin Packing Penis comes in three colors and two sizes and offers a realistically soft and squishy texture. For a firmer option, check out the Calexotics Silicone Packing Penis also in three colors and two sizes, or the New York Toy Collective’s Archer Packer whose dense body fits perfectly against the skin. Packing underwear or a packing strap can help the packer stay tucked in place and provide security to the wearer. SpareParts makes packing underwear in trunks style and jockstrap style. New York Toy Collective also makes a packing strap that can be used with a stand-to-pee (STP) device, or a packer. STPs are a special type of packer that are hollow in the middle so folks can use the bathroom of their choice without worry. We offer Calexotic Packers in this style as well. Oh, and if you’re curious, some deluxe STP options called 3-in-1’s or Pack and Plays come with a silicone or plastic rod to insert into the hollow center, which allows for penetration as well! Magic, I tell you.
Gaffs and Tucking Underwear
For those folks with penises who are looking to create a flatter external look, tucking (positioning the genitals behind and between the legs) is a great option. Tucking underwear, like our TuckBuddies, feature an inner lining in the crotch that has less stretch than the outer fabric to create a tight hammock for the genitals. TuckBuddies can be worn with or without tucking the genitals, and create a smoother look in a comfortable and accessible way. The maker of TuckBuddies is a mom to a trans daughter, and began hand making TuckBuddies as a comfortable and affirming option for trans folx. We also carry Gaffs from Urbody Co, that offer a more streamlined and less bulky option for folks looking to tuck.
There are multiple methods to tucking, all involving different ways to pull the genitals back and between the legs. The most effective way to tuck is to obscure the testes into the inguinal canal, which is an internal pocket in the pelvic floor. Do so slowly and with care, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort. Next, hold the testes in place and guide the penis back towards your butt. Tucking the penis can increase risk for infection, so covering the tip of the penis with toilet paper or a small cloth can help address this. Finally, apply medical tape or one of our Unclockable Tuck Kits to hold everything in place. These tucking kits are swim and exercise proof, and allow for up to ten hours of wear per piece. A few safety and health tips: trim pubic hair before tucking to avoid pinching, don’t tuck for longer than 8-10 hours at a time, wash and clean the area before and after tucking, and stop tucking if you experience numbness, pain, or notice a change in skin coloration. Safe tucking!
There are so many other ways to play around with gender presentation. Clothes, makeup, and haircuts are all common and easy ways to express yourself. If you are looking for ways to make your face appear more masculine or feminine, could I suggest some Youtube makeup tutorials by trans people? Or, if you’re looking for a more traditionally masculine silhouette, why not look into these clothes made specifically by and for non-binary and trans-masc people to accentuate your shoulders, hide binder straps, and deemphasize your hips? If you're looking for a more traditionally feminine silhouette, how about looking through this Ultimate Trans-Woman Guide to bras and breast forms?
As you can see, the options are endless and exciting, and at the end of the day you are the only one who can determine what feels right for you each day. I hope to see all of your unique presentations, so that I can admire you as your truest self, and get ideas for myself ;) Thanks for reading, and check back for part two of this series!
Special thanks to Leah Endler for their ideas and major contributions to this post!