By Joanne Chemaly
On a winter’s evening in August, my 15-year-old my child (assigned male gender at brith) asked my husband and I to sit down. She had something important to tell us.
“I’m a woman” she announced with much nervous trepidation.
“I feel so stupid for not realising it earlier, but it feels like another piece of my puzzle has just fallen into place” she continued.
We weren’t totally shocked, as a family we chatted into the early hours of the morning. We chose a name. We answered questions. We Googled. Of course we Googled. We chose a name. What did she need from us? How did she want to move forward? What are the next steps? How do things play out from this point on? And so, on 21st August 2020, right there in our lounge, in Cape Town – Hailie was born!
It’s so difficult to explain the emotions. We love our daughter unconditionally; she is one of the bravest people I know. The biggest part of my heart was so happy to see my child finally step into herself, to be so brave, to live her most authentic life. To declare to the world, I am different, I do not fit into a predefined box, this is actually who I am and I’m ok with that. Even as adults we sometimes struggle, not sure who we really are, let alone being able to stand up and declare an unpopular truth.
We were both so incredibly proud of Hailie, and yet at the same time, there was a sense of loss. In one small fragment of time, we lost our son. Yes, we gained a beautiful teenage daughter, but suddenly our vision of the future unravelled from what we had imagined and now we needed to put new pieces into some of the places in our minds’ eye.
The next morning, I phoned Ilse, a dear friend and mom of Hailie’s best friend. Ilse has known Hailie since she was 5. I can’t recall what I rambled on about that morning, but I do remember Ilse’s reply “Wow my friend. This is big. You are going to need to talk. A lot!”
And we did, everything from bras to voice-feminisation, infertility, boobs, hormonal moods, blossoming beauty and the emotional rollercoaster journey Hailie was going through, her social transition, telling my family, the list of conversations is endless and the conversations continue.
The Friday after Hailie was born, I took her to a bra boutique where we got some lovely girly pieces and a set of small prosthetics. We were so pleased, so confident, so happy. The next morning getting ready for dance and theatre school was a pivotal moment for her, for us. Dressed in her leotard, so pleased with her boobs, but so devastated by what was so obviously there for all to see, the bikini area of her leotard was not flat, as it should be.
Her body dysphoria was made so much harder to deal with.
It’s another really difficult thing to explain but imagine the single part of your body you hate the most and then multiply that feeling by a hundred times and then another hundred times and then imagine that everyone in the world doesn’t see you at all, all they see is that one part of you that you hate. Body dysphoria can be a life-threatening condition when it leads to suicidal thoughts. It cannot be dismissed with “oh it’s not that bad” or “it’s the way God made you”. Standing in front of me that morning, completely dejected I assured her, it would be ok. We would fix it.
I Googled: tucking underwear, Trans Women Underwear, Trans Femme underwear. NOTHING IN SA!
I reached out to 2 NGOs that work within the Trans community and the answer was the same. Nothing in SA. I asked Hailie’s doctor, our family counsellor (also a trans specialist) and I could not believe I was getting the same answer from each of them. NOTHING IN SA. I called a drag queen friend and asked what she did to achieve a smooth, feminine front line. Duct tape was her answer. The shock! The horror! I could never tell my daughter that the solution to her problem is DUCT TAPE.
How is it possible that we have a whole section of our population who are deprived of the basic dignity of underwear?! Feeling completely defeated, I turned to Ilse. I vented, I probably sobbed a little at the injustice of it all. The conversation flowed from there. “Surely we can do something?” I asked. “Of course we can. What do you have in mind?” We spoke for hours, Ilse has a background in fashion design, I have a background in…… well nothing helpful at that moment, but I was a mama-bear on a mission. We decided that the right thing to do was to design and make underwear that would give trans women a gender affirming experience. The ability to live confidently. “Tucking Gorgeous” was born.
Ilse roped in a pattern maker, a seamstress and her life coaching skills to talk me through the ups and downs of what we would encounter along the way as we designed patterns, changed patterns, made prototypes, threw prototypes away and started all over again.
5 months later we have a beautiful range of compression and tucking underwear that we are so proud of!
We want every woman to know – they are gorgeous, and they should feel nothing less than absolutely gorgeous. Trans women ARE WOMEN! We believe our product will be life-changing for many women.