An Ode to ‘Manhood’: A Columbus Gay Shop Helped Me Feel at Home in My Trans Body

It’s not always easy to feel safe in our bodies. As a trans, non-binary person, I know this well. Often uncomfortable, I yearn for clothing, experiences and sensations that will help me feel at home, alive and happy in my body, mind and heart. Manhood was my place to go to experience the importance of this.

Manhood was an underwear store in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. Mostly serving cis gay-men, Manhood featured underwear from the Barcelona company, Addicted. Different from most men’s underwear, Addicted’s boy shorts, briefs and jock straps included a deep pouch—a pouch deep and secure enough to comfortably hold a packer, which is a flaccid penis or phallic object that some trans and gender-queer people wear beneath their clothing. Mesh and cotton, see-through and solid—this navy, black and white underwear were unbelievably hot. Seeing them, I’ve never felt so excited before. I yearned to feel sexy in them. I wanted them to be mine.

Entering underwear shops as a gender-queer person can feel quite straining. Asking about underwear that can hold a packer, or that will fit comfortably for a trans person, can be an unnerving experience, often met with confusion and judgment. Entering Manhood, this was never the case. The man who ran the store always listened deeply. We spoke openly about packers and which underwear would work for my frame. He asked me questions about other packing underwear in hopes of learning more. I never once felt judged or as an outsider. I always felt welcomed—always at home.

Yes, my underwear helped me feel at home. Mesh and navy, adorned with a white strap and the word “Addicted” in blue, I stuck my packer in. Pulling the underwear up, I felt the packer against my skin. Looking down, I saw this magnificent bulge. It looked and felt like mine. I felt so fucking sexy and good. Though I had owned packing underwear before, there was something special and important about wearing this men’s underwear. Somehow, the placement of the packer and balls was lower, more comfortable. The aesthetics were athletic and sharp. I felt good wearing them. I felt good having sex in them. I felt good being touched in them. I felt good touching myself in them. I felt good. I felt just so wonderfully good.

Turning the corner onto 1127 High Street in early June, I noticed paint cans, white walls and an empty store. Manhood was closed. So many emotions arrived at once. Grief entered my body. Sadness arrived, too. I felt profound regret, wishing I had purchased so many more items than I had. I panicked about where and when I would feel so at home in a store as I did there. I felt gratitude for the kind and sweet man who ran the store. I felt compassion and connectedness with other trans-masculine people who struggle to feel at home in their bodies and find products that help foster a soft and excited embodiment. I felt grateful for those spaces that exist to help us exist—with more openness, love and belonging.

To Manhood: I just wish to say thank you. I will miss you deeply. I wish I had more time to abide in your store. I thank you so very much for helping me feel at home in this frame, in this life. May we strive to cultivate more spaces for trans, gender-queer and non-binary folks to come home, to find peace in this beautiful body and heart.

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by ray_moishe

Ray Buckner is pursuing their M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Ohio State University. Ray graduated from Occidental College with a B.A. in Politics, where they focused their studies on transgender healthcare and queer and trans embodiment. They are currently a Graduate Teaching Associate at The Ohio State University.

Ray enjoys meditating, sitting in rose gardens, and writing in their free time. Ray is a contributing author at Lion’s Roar magazine, where they write on Buddhism, queer and trans embodiment, and social injustice.


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