Two Target models showing the tuck-friendly swimsuits part of Target's Pride collection.

Forget the Anti-Trans Bigots, Target. Bring On the Tuck-Friendly Swimsuit!

Before COVID royally messed up my social life, I used to take a day trip to the Jersey shore every summer. My friends and I would stop by the local supermarket, grab some beers, and sneak them onto the beach. There, we’d kick back and lounge in the sand, hanging out and watching the waves come in (at least until we all wanted to go back home and play Overwatch or something).

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The summer before the pandemic, I bought a one-piece swimsuit from Amazon and wore it to the boardwalk. That was a very challenging experience for me. I was three years into transition by then, but I felt very, very anxious about wearing something as revealing as a one-piece. Walking out in public, miles away from home, with a tight garment around my hips, chest, and, yes, crotch? That scared me. And it still kind of does to this day.

Most women’s clothes are not designed for trans women’s figures and genitals, and tucking (or maneuvering the genitals in a way that provides a flat front) is already a challenge in a pair of skinny jeans. But the swimsuit can be a particularly difficult barrier for many trans women. With its tight crotch spaces, and with the de facto sexualization society projects onto women wearing bikinis and one-pieces, tucking can feel almost mandatory. The risk of sexual harassment and physical violence from a visible front bulge remains an unnerving fear in the back of many of our minds.

So, before I went to the beach, I tucked. It wasn’t comfortable, and it was a little counter-intuitive to a beach day. I had to create a flat front tuck with a pair of underwear, so I wasn’t really eager to hop into the water. But you know what? I had plenty of fun drinking Tecate and eating fried Oreos, and I enjoyed my first swimwear excursion for what it was.

But it would’ve been particularly nice to head to the Jersey shore in a garment that was actually designed with my body in mind. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to hear about Target’s tuck-friendly swimsuit line from Pride—and why I was completely unsurprised it received so much backlash.

Oh no, not “extra crotch coverage”

The right-wing media had an ideological aneurysm this week after false claims circulated the right-wing content circus, alleging Target had introduced a “tuck-friendly” swimsuit for young kids. This wasn’t true at all, the Associated Press later clarified. Target offers a tuck-friendly swimwear line for adults, but not necessarily for kids. A video from (ugh) Fox News shows an example of the tag in the wild, where a pair of swim briefs offers “tuck-friendly construction” with “extra crotch coverage.”

Obviously, the entire backlash to tuck-friendly clothing is rooted in the ongoing anti-trans “groomer panic.” Apparently, right-wingers believe creating accommodating clothing for trans bodies will, uh, somehow hurt kids? Noted right-wing loser Matt Walsh tired to claim the tuck-friendly swimsuits seen in a TikTok video were too small for adults, and that Target is “specifically marketing products for children” because they are “actively trying to recruit kids into the LGBT camp.”

Meanwhile, one cringey right-wing comedian decided to milk the controversy for all it’s worth by wearing one of the tuck-friendly swimsuits for his YouTube channel, seemingly implying the swimwear line is grotesque and abnormal.

It’s clear, in other words, that the right is disparaging trans-friendly swimwear by depicting any and all affirming clothing as an act of brainwashing from the oft-feared trans agenda. Not just that, but right-wing creators are obsessing over the appearance and aesthetic of the transfeminine crotch, implying its existence is innately sexual. It’s disgusting that the right is so obsessed over how trans people choose to dress, but here we are: Across all ages, the right projects its sexual anxieties onto us, depicting us as villains that can only be deemed acceptable by being erased from society.

Tucking is a normal part of trans life

Ana Valens in a swimsuit, a photo likely to enrage conservatives
(Ana Valens)

There’s a high chance you, dear reader, heard about the tuck-friendly line from Target because the American right is trying to bully Target into pulling and removing the line, but tuck-friendly swimwear, and tuck-friendly clothing as a whole, isn’t just something that should come once a year to celebrate Pride. It’s an accommodation for transfeminine shoppers. The creation, sale, and encouragement of tuck-friendly clothes normalizes the trans body in the fashion industry, and it makes it easier to create outfits that are simultaneously stylish and comfortable.

Among trans people and our allies, many deflected the right’s moral panic by overemphasizing that the tuck-friendly line is “just for adults.” That may be true, but creating a flat front is something that transfeminine people across ages do, from pre-teens to adults. We do it for a wide assortment of reasons that span generations: to avoid harassment, for a more affirming gender presentation, or just because we like the aesthetic appearance of a flat front. Trans kids should be encouraged to express themselves and wear the swimsuits that make them feel comfortable, and offering accommodating swimwear is one such step.

So yes, screw the anti-trans, anti-Target backlash. The world needs more tuck-friendly clothing, and it needs it across genders. I certainly know I’d go to the beach more if it existed, and I’m sure plenty of trans people—from kids to adults—would, too.

(featured image: Target, remix by Ana Valens)


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Author
Ana Valens
Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.