If you’re transmasc, you’ve likely stumbled upon Transguy Supply in the great search for clothes that fit, packers that look and sit right, and apparel that keeps dysphoria at bay. Whether by word of mouth, via Instagram, or during a search for necessities made for and by transmascs, you’ve happened upon the iconic imagery of guys in Cake Bandit underwear lounging around with huge smiles on their faces. Transguy Supply isn’t just a one-stop shop for gender euphoric outfits, it’s a place where you can indulge in a vision of community that feels real, lived, and earned.
Now, Transguy Supply is embarking on their next phase of development: the site is on the verge of becoming a hub for information, community resources, and connection. For a community starved for visibility and communion, the glow-up can’t come soon enough. After hosting their first-ever runway show at the Brooklyn Museum this fall, the creators and visionaries behind Transguy Supply knew the time was right for growth.
INTO spoke to Transguy Supply team—Scout Rose, Auston Bjorkman, and Rocco Kayiatos—about building sustainable community from the ground up.
So how did Transguy Supply get started?
SCOUT ROSE, President and Founder: So I had been doing unpaid work in the community for a really long time, including support groups. I also worked at an LGBTQ+ shelter where trans people were obviously overrepresented. For paid work, I was also working for a coffee company. I was their director of retail, and while I was there I gained some eCommerce experience. I launched their first web store, and I was just really looking for a way to bring my passion for the community into like my work life in a much more meaningful way. I also wanted to address what felt like a really obvious lack in the market. When I started my transition back in 2004, what was available for transmasculine folks was next to nothing. I remember at the time, people bound with ace bandages. I think Underworks potentially existed at that point but I’m not sure. At some point, Fleshlight came out with the Mr. Limpy, which used to be called something else. I believe that was the first packer, and it was a gag gift.
So what we were doing is buying from Underworks, which was for cis guys who had gynecomastia and we essentially were finding things that we needed and MacGyvering them for our own purposes. And it just felt like, in the 15 years since I had started my transition, not much had changed. There were a couple of smaller companies that started to create packers and binders specifically for transmasculine folks, but what was available generally felt like an afterthought. They were often sort of smaller side projects from larger sex toy shops. They weren’t paying much attention to the product quality or the descriptions. So Transguy Supply started with a foundational belief that trans people deserve nice things, and the belief and the hope that the community was sizable enough to be able to create a business that could cater to trans masculine people specifically. The community was ready for it, and I brought Auston [Bjorkman] in early.
I do think that transmasculine stuff does get put in this niche area, which sucks.
ROCCO KAYIATOS, Chief Marketing & Community Officer: Yeah, as a baseline. But also in the past 20 years of being in this community, I’ve seen incremental steps forward and then and then they sort of dry up and go away. Even something like Original Plumbing, we lost the momentum in the steam and it was just two people, so it couldn’t continue. Often the resources that are built from those bootstrapped tactics in the community can’t be sustained because the people who are behind them are not getting paid. They literally cannot financially continue to provide that resource. So it’s like, how do we as a transmasculine community invest in a way that will allow for us to build sustainably so that those resources push the movement of us being people in bodies that are valued enough to take care of holistically?
“When I started my transition back in 2004, what was available for transmasculine folks was next to nothing.”- Scout Rose
It’s also hard when creative people are tasked with starting a business, which is always an aspect of it. How did y’all get around like the business aspect of things?
AUSTON BJORKMAN, Creative Director: Scout and I are uniquely positioned here, because he’d been learning eCommerce as well as retail and even store build-out, and I’m a fashion designer. I was the first transmasculine fashion designer to show at Fashion Week, and I had what I called a menswear brand for all genders. And people were just kind of like, well, what does that mean? Like, where do we put it?
I worked at Mr. S Leather in San Francisco for 12 years. I moved to New York to study menswear at FIT. I learned design and started my own business. I had to take a deep dive into the world of wholesale and retail from a fashion perspective. It’s a steep learning curve, but it’s helped quite a lot for TGS. And being a designer, I understand like actually how fit works. When we started the underwear line, I had to source like, “where do we make underwear and how does it not look homemade?”Because a lot of the stuff that we had back in the day looked very homemade, people were like, franken-stitching things together and making it work.
The two of us have really been able to craft this in such a way that’s beautiful and accessible. It’s reachable. It’s been only the two of us until Rocco joined just recently, and it looks like a much larger company, but it’s really just been the two of us wearing all the hats and doing everything. And being trans ourselves, creating a company for us and by us has been really important because we know our own bodies, and all the different variations of our bodies. We know how a packer should sit and where it should sit, and what it should feel like and what it should look like. We’ve been able to develop our underwear and silicone products because we have the community within reach. We can be like, “how does this work for you?: We have a vast resource network, and I think that’s been really helpful.
We’re only four years old, and two of these years have been during the pandemic. Interestingly enough, that’s actually been really good for us, and I think it’s been good for the whole community, in that people are shopping more online. People are not going to work. They’re not going to school. They’re not necessarily around their family. We found that a lot more people either played with their gender identity or took that time to transition. That’s been really like an unexpected positive about this.
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ROSE: Yeah, it hasn’t only obviously been positive. There have been a ton of challenges due to the pandemic including just personal and mental health challenges that we have all faced
BJORKMAN: Shipping and supply chain all of that.
Joelle Tungus, a Twitter friend who is fantastic, coined the term “quarantrans” which is so great. A lot of people transitioned over the pandemic, and the ability to stay home has really like given people that permission to come out, which is really exciting.
BJORKMAN: And to your point about the community that is something else we noticed. We just did our first runway show for Transguy Supply, and it was the first queer runway show in the last few years because they’ve been put off since COVID. And the intense need and joy that happened in that space was huge, because it was the first time people were coming together to celebrate trans bodies and queer folks and designers and creators. It was incredible. We just did a survey thanks to Rocco, and the number one thing people are asking for is in-person community events. Everybody is hungry for that community that we haven’t been able to have.
I’m wondering if it’s sort of in your thinking to create a sort of artist’s marketplace on TGS where different creators can design and sell stuff for the brand?
BJORKMAN: We definitely have talked about doing collaborations with other designers and bringing in more folks and supporting other trans businesses in lots of ways. We’re actually developing a grant for trans folks who are starting businesses.
ROSE: Yeah. 100%. We’re here to provide support for trans people and that also means other trans entrepreneurs. When trans makers are creating products that we think the audience perhaps doesn’t know about or would enjoy having access to, we’ve always jumped on those opportunities. I’ve reached out to several folks who aren’t quite ready for it, but when they aren’t we are the doors open for them.
“Being trans ourselves, creating a company for us and by us has been really important because we know our own bodies, and all the different variations of our bodies.”- Rocco Kayiatos
KAYIATOS: I think that’s part of the opportunity, too. The next phase of growth for TGS is to start telling the story of who and why this came to be who’s behind it, and why it came to be. Because, sort of circling back to what I was saying before, these resources go away if the community doesn’t know that they exist and support them as such.
All four of us have been around for decades now in this space, and have watched the ebb and flow of interest in trans people as people deserving of dignity and rights and care. And access to the things that make our bodies and lives feel best. When we’re without those things, I think we feel it. In the past 22 years of being a part of this community, I’ve seen the most earnest and honest and accurate services and goods come directly from small business owners or trans people themselves. And I think that that’s the next piece is that some of us are aging to a point that we didn’t anticipate. I’ll say for myself specifically, I couldn’t imagine the future because I didn’t see one. I don’t think that that’s true for Gen Z. I think that they get to see this multiplicity of identities and ways of being that allows for them to imagine an adulthood in a way that the generations that came before them couldn’t.
I think it’s like an opportunity for us to mutually learn and benefit from each other generationally. Part of the reason that I was excited to join TGS is that I’ve worked in smaller businesses and I’ve worked at, you know, multimillion-dollar VC tech startups, and I think that my heart lies in this sort of bootstrapped grassroots way of building for this community, because it feels the most authentically tapped in and connected to the very people that we’re trying to serve. So that’s the next piece: figuring out how we create a business that allows for us to hire even more trans folks and provide more resources in that way.
ROSE: To your point, Rocco, about there being no in-between. Our little bootstrapped business is the world’s largest company supporting transmasculine folks today.
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BJORKMAN: And our community really does want to support each other. We want to know that it’s trans and queer owned, and that we don’t want to necessarily support some just like random company that’s like, “oh, yeah, this is a hot moment. Let’s jump on it and sell these people and gouge them.” It’s really important for us that we keep things affordable, because we know our community. Profit is never like driving motive for us. It’s always been about providing the goods that people want at affordable prices. And as Rocco said, benefiting the community in larger ways, like not just hiring folks, but finding ways—both online and in person— to make the community stronger and more whole by bringing us together.
Yeah, because one of the downsides of increased visibility is the rainbow capitalism thing. Even if corporations use us around Pride, it’s hard to put your faith in a huge company that might employ trans people but probably doesn’t treat them well or really care about this community.
KAYIATOS: I think part of the challenge of the post-2020 world of consumerism is reimagining how business can be done. When I’ve worked for myself, that’s when I’ve felt the most freedom and the most joy. My desire to join Scout and Auston was to help find joy and liberation in the way that I work. And that’s because they run their business using a model that is outside those bounds of that typical kind of capitalism thing of having the expectations that people will kill themselves to do good work. The credo of trans liberation is embedded into how this business functions for the community, but that starts with the community. I don’t see that in other places I’ve worked, and I hope that that’s part of this reimagining. We’re doing it within the confines of capitalism, but justice and equity for laborers can be built into the mission of how the work is done.
Yeah because you do see huge companies using that language of like, Community™. But then you think to yourself, there’s no way that this huge company actually cares about mutual aid or trans people.
KAYIATOS: I think that the opportunity of building these trans-owned and lead businesses is that, because we haven’t been afforded the same sort of business opportunity as other folks, we get to build outside of the system. Because we already imagined our bodies and our lives outside of the system. So of course we do business differently, right?
BJORKMAN: We don’t want it to be the same. We’ve known for a long time that we have to build our own confidence, and that’s what we’re doing. But we really do believe in bringing up the community with us. And we know people want what we’re giving them. Like I said before, it’s never about profit first.
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KAYIATOS: It started with goods, and we’re moving onto content and community services.
ROSE: Yeah, I mean, from the very beginning, Transguy Supply was also envisioned as an information hub. I think. It became really apparent that there were very few places— for all of the increase in visibility and resources in the past 10, 15 years—it’s still incredibly difficult to find information and community. One of the things that excites me the most about our future is being able to have an incredible database of information where if you have a question about transition or gender identity or sort of any piece of the process, there’s an answer on Transguy Supply, and possibly many answers and different options for you to explore.
BJORKMAN: Now that there’s three of us, it’s like we feel like we’re growing, even just having one extra person. It’s made us feel like we’re able to really take on a lot more of these projects. So we’re hoping this year will be a big year.
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KAYIATOS: Amos and I had always planned on running Original Plumbing for 10 years, and then at 10 years we stopped. I think that I was always hoping that something would pop up while we were running it that it would be a clear signal that we could pass the baton to the next generation to pick up that piece of creating a cultural hub and document living breathing document of our trans masculine community specifically. I didn’t see that, and the heartbreaking part of that is that not even in this wave of exceptional visibility over the past five years for trans folks, we’re not seeing as much representation as we could. The fact of the matter is that trans masculine people still remain invisible. And I think there was a brief moment where we caught the eye as a cultural curiosity right in tandem with Original Plumbing launching that sort of boosted this cultural moment of interest in trans men’s existence. But I haven’t seen a moment quite as culturally interested in centering our experience since that time, except maybe for like Elliot Page coming out, but that was focused on a person and not a community.
My hope is that we can create that cultural kind of hub again, so that the community has a place to kind of see themselves reflected. A celebration of each individual person that makes up this community of trans-masculine and nonbinary identities. When I was first researching trans men’s existence, there was only a small handful of websites to go to, and that was a barrier to information. Now there’s so much information and there’s one go-to place where you can get trusted information to navigate your transition. Like, wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t that be a beautiful gift for trans folks now?♦
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