This article originally appeared on Broadly in the US
Thousands of chicks with dicks live in the United States. (I know because I'm one of them.) You ask us for tampons in the women's bathroom, and at the gym, you lust after us as we sprint on the treadmill. We are your best friend, your client, and the girl you swiped right on Tinder ten minutes ago. We are everywhere.
The idea that genitalia equal gender is inaccurate. According to a National Center for Transgender Equality report published in 2011, two out of three trans women haven't had sex reassignment surgery. Many trans girls obsessively curate their aesthetic to erase the fact that they once lived as men. Though transitioning is a form of self-expression and acceptance, the anxiety to pass as a cisgender woman is partly produced by the general public's lack of understanding about trans issues.
Sex altering rituals range from expensive surgical procedures to superficial tricks like tucking your dick between your legs. Tucking is cheap and simple--and it's a way to protect you from violent bigots who refuse to believe penises don't define gender. Many people tuck as a safety measure; most of us don't pass flawlessly as cisgender, and its often dangerous to be perceived as trans. For trans women who feel turmoil about their bodies, tucking can also a stopgap until they can afford to fly to Thailand for surgery. (It would be nice if genitalia could extend and retract like a collapsible light saber, but until technology changes, the age-old practice of tucking will work.) Countless other women love their dicks and tuck primarily for a streamlined aesthetic. Tucking can feel liberating--as if you have a say over your body and how it is perceived for the first time.
People learn the skill from a variety of sources. For generations, older queer mothers have taught young trans kids how to properly tuck their dicks, and today, transgender message boards and YouTube tutorials make tucking knowledge accessible to everyone. I learned the hard way how to tuck properly. (I once mummified my dick with bandage tape because a drag queen recommended the practice in an instructional video.) After several painful experiences and dutiful research, I learned proper form. My knowledge is compiled here so that no woman has to go through what I did in order to tuck her dick.
Fingering the nuthole
The testicles descend into the scrotum from two little chutes called the inguinal canal. Though the balls spend most of their time in the sack, they commonly slip back inside the body during sex, and you can also easily push them in the canal whenever you desire. This phenomenon is really useful when you tuck your dick. Simply press your testicles upward and inward and voila! They vanish.
Tucking may feel uncomfortable the first few times, but eventually the practice will become second nature. Many men feel anxious to see their testes disappear, but tucking is another mundane part of daily life for trans women. Placing the testicles back into the inguinal canal reduces the genitals by a third, so there's a lot less material that could make a dent in your tight jeans. Talk about a girl's best friend.
Tuck your dick
Once you hide the balls, you need to tuck the rest of the penis. Reach around and tug your dick from behind to put it in between your ass cheeks. Once the cock and balls are in position, you must squeeze them between your legs to prevent them from coming undone. The ease or difficulty you'll experience tucking depends on a variety of factors, but unless you're hung like an elk, you can achieve the majority of looks with little effort.
If your parents declined doctors' wishes to circumcise you, their countercultural child-raising decision will be advantageous during your life as a woman. If you choose to have your penis surgically transformed into a vagina, the extra skin will make a sturdy pair of lips. Until then, your flappy turtleneck provides something for your ass cheeks to hold. You should pull your foreskin like a drawstring to tuck everything into place.
The degree of tightness to which you tuck depends in part upon the style of clothing you're wearing, but whenever you tuck, it's important to tuck gently. Sometimes, you'll be so determined to avoid a bulge that you may disregard normal concern for physical discomfort. Its all too tempting to pull that sucker back forcefully between your legs to ensure its disappearance, but if you plan to be out for more than half an hour, a tight tuck could cause problems. Eventually, you'll feel the half numb, half needle-stinging sensation of a dick that has been cut off from its blood supply.
The flat space between the thighs might look good, but if it's at all uncomfortable it won't take long to become a blistering mess. Imagine how Goldilocks might tuck: not too loose, not too tight. If it does become painful, undo the tuck immediately. Whether you're just stepping out the door or halfway down the street, address the issue before it gets worse. I can't count how many times I've plunged my hand down my pants to undo a killer tuck. If you act with confidence, people won't notice. You can do origami down there but no one will bat a lash if you keep your chin up.
You can learn proper tucking technique online, but without the right equipment, you will fail to complete the job. Many women wear a pair or two of very tight panties, but some people opt for specialty items like "gaffs." These are old-school synthetic fiber panties designed to hold the tucked dick in place. Put them on like any other pair of underwear and then just pull those panties up until they're hugging the pelvis, creating a smooth groin.
Gaffs origin story remains muddled. According to trans lore, Dance Belts, the extremely tight undergarments worn by male ballet dancers, inspired gaffs. For those in the cross-dressing community, it is an erotic experience to make the body look female, but for trans women the undergarment makes it easier to wear clothes, or to be comfortable with your body. I spoke with representatives from the trans specialty shops Janet's Closet and Cross-Dress.com, whose products are exclusive to the cross-dressing and transgender communities. Neither store's reps knew the history of gaffs, but Stacy, the owner of Cross-Dress.com, said she's been making many types of gaffs for over 15 years. She described how they're a safer alternative to taping the genitalia, and informed me that she even has gaffs that have tubes and pouches to hold the penis for optimum discretion.
You can buy gaffs and other pieces of tucking gear at trans specialty shops, or the family owned and operated Suddenly Fem. They offer the "Classic Hiding Gaff," which is the standard, double lined panty meant to flatten the crotch area. Or you could go for their "Sleek Contour Gaff," a slimmer, slingshot-style thong marketed toward more adventurous tuckers. Though Suddenly Fem markets their products more toward cross dressers rather than everyday women, their products can serve both populations. Whatever tucking garment you pick, make sure the fabric is tight enough to hold everything together, thick enough to cover any remaining bulge, and thin enough to feel comfortable beneath your clothing.
T-girl dick death
The penis basically needs to stay hard all the time or it will die. Spontaneous erections refuel the cock constantly, so your dick never gets a chance to collapse. Along with superficial practices like tucking, trans women take a combination of testosterone blockers and estrogen to change the hormonal aspect of sex. Cross-sex hormones don't magically turn the penis into a vagina, but it will become more feminine. Without testosterone the penis and testicles don't function normally. Though some women fail to get hard, many still can. Most trans girls experience far fewer spontaneous erections and typically stop producing semen. If you get aroused, your penis will likely still get hard, but maybe not as hard as it used to get. There's a popular saying on transgender message boards: Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV). It's basically a way to level others' expectations—trans women are a diverse population of human beings with a wide variety of personal relationships toward their bodies and transitions, and everyone responds differently to transition.
To tuck well, you must master proper technique and acquire the right equipment, but it is important to look out for potential complications. For instance, when you're tucked, you can't pee unless you want to use your ass as a toilet, so make sure you've gone to the restroom before you tuck. Sometimes tucking can hurt the penis: With the balls stuffed inside hot canals all day and the dick pulled backward, blood flow can be constricted, which can damage tissue.
Sometimes you're tucked and your dick gets hard—it's just the way it is. I've heard some girls say a proper tuck disables the penis' ability to become erect, but I call bullshit. The tucked hard-on is a real phenomenon, and it's very painful. It can also be oddly alluring. Many trans women have no shame about their genitalia; it may be an important aspect of their sexual identity. A tucked hard-on is a funny fact of some people's trans experience. When you think about it, there's nothing more romantic.
Untucking your dick
Tucking is a straightforward procedure. If done correctly, your clothing will fit better, your self-confidence will grow, and you will potentially face less discrimination. But no matter how well you tuck, it will eventually become uncomfortable. Like removing stiletto heels, nothing feels better than untucking at the end of a long day.
Both literally and metaphorically, tucked cocks will come undone. The once immutable, biological barrier between genders may begin to blur. You'll find yourself in transit, idly visualizing the sex change of those around you. It won't be hard to see the other gender those people might have been, or could be. If you look closely, men merely look like hardened women, and women like men unfettered by testosterone. It is as if we're culled from the same source.
Gender transition exemplifies the commonality between men and women. Sex is a gesture, like a waving hand or a tucked cock. Its meaning is culturally defined and alterable. We all have parts of ourselves that we tuck away to maintain a certain self-image or to cater to other people's insecurities. As long as you're not hurting anybody, you ought to be able to do whatever you want to your body without the judgment of the general public. Society holds illicit and fantastical beliefs about transgender women, but those illusions cannot hold. They've become as tight and constraining as an uncomfortable tuck.
This article was originally titled "How to Tuck."
This article originally appeared on VICE US.