By Laura Allen
I needed silicone breast forms, and I needed them that day. They were to be shot for this article (see page 95), and I assumed, in this age of online options galore, that I wouldn't need to scan the back of The Village Voice to find them. But indeed, that is how I discovered the Michael Salem Boutique: established in 1969, with the motto CROSS DRESSING TO THE WORLD. I met with Michael -- who was decked out in a purple satin'lined suit, tie, and pocket square and insisted he was the cousin of Harvey Milk -- at his 'warehouse,' a tiny apartment in an East Side doorman building crammed with every type of artificial boob, fanny panty, and size 14 heel imaginable. A fleet of competitors has joined Salem, who is also online now, with such indiscreet names as the Breast Form Store, TrannieGear, and Suddenly Fem. As the trans community gains traction, the accouterments of gender transformation are easier to find than ever.
For trans girls, any department store (Macy's is particularly trans-friendly) carries silicone breast enhancers, push-up bras, waist cinchers, and other spandex-powered shape wear designed to squeeze curves into place. High-cut women's control panties keep the business neatly hidden yet still show off hormonally enhanced hips. For those who tape up their tuck job, hospital-grade first-aid tape can now be bought at any drugstore. For trans guys, Babeland's top-quality sex toy shops (with locations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Seattle) stock useful items such as realistic soft packers and packing straps to keep your bulge from falling on the crosswalk. My transgender boyfriend and every other guy I know who opts against top surgery love the chest binders at Underworks.com. And several startups now sell packers with stand-to-pee devices built right in. Until recently, trans men had to fashion these devices themselves -- and some still do. Two DIY versions employ half-inch clear tubing (at pet stores) or a baby medicine spoon with a hole drilled in the end (at any drugstore). With practice, they direct the stream yet won't invite attention at a urinal -- and fit in a pocket for the next time nature calls.
Even with the product bonanza now available, the most vital tool to gender transformation has always been one's mental equipment. Bianca Leigh, who played the Texan tranny party hostess in Transamerica, put it to me this way: 'If you walk down that street like you own it and demand your right to take up space rather than slinking guiltily about like a fraud, people will not fuck with you.' Now, that's a transformative tool that can be had close to home -- and always for free.