While there has been progression in recent years towards trans-rights and trans equality, there's still a lot we need to do. Gender and gender identity have appeared to become taken more seriously in the past year or so on a surface level, but bubbling below that surface, things still need a lot of work.
Looking at the presence of popular culture, it appears that the public, the people, are geared around actioning positive change and the presence of trans people, and gender identity in general. Instagram recently added the feature to give people the option to display their pronouns next to their name, allowing users to choose from dozens of potential pronoun options to truly reflect how they self-identify and represent. Pop culture phenomenon ‘Rupaul’s Drag Race’ have recently accepted trans contestants for the first time, which saw Gottmik – a transgender man – feature as the first trans man on the show. This came after a whole load of public backlash after Rupaul’s insensitivity to gender identities – after openly admitting that had former contestant Peppermint, a trans woman, started any gender-affirming surgery pre-acceptance onto the show, her invitation to compete would have been withdrawn. This acceptance of trans competitors then required the namesake host to change some of his iconic taglines from the show – “gentlemen start your engines and may the best woman win” has lost all gendering to now have him present the runway with “racers start your engines, and may the best drag queen win”, in addition to the subtraction of phrases that have been viewed as derogatory trans-terms. It appears to have created a shift in the show, as the most recent series of All Stars 6 features not only one, but two trans women as contestants in the lineup – Kylie Sonique Love and Jiggly Caliente.
However, while all these may be nice gestures, significant change is yet to take place in the place where it matters. Where policy is created and politics has the power to create greater justice and equality for trans people, those who hold the power at the top are yet to really initiate significant change. In 2020, when the BLM movement came into a whole new wave after the death of George Floyd, a subsequent movement was also making a stand as ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’ – a necessary distinction from the BLM movement, which tends to not include the black trans community, and whos fire was further fuelled by the cases of Tony Mcdade and lyanna Dior. The black trans community feel drained and exhausted as they are discriminated against not only for the colour of their skin, but often by their black brothers and sisters for who they love and how they appear.
This very week, an Instagram account named @marxistmarco highlighted how truly under attack the trans community are right now in the UK, which continually flies under the radar with mainstream media. Their facts include how waiting appointments at initial gender clinics are now over 5 years long, 66% of trans people suffer from depression and 1 in 3 UK employers say they wouldn’t hire a trans person. To see the full Instagram post, click here.
Two people who are actioning very positive change within the trans community are our latest Wickedly Inspirational Women; Bok Goodall and Winn Austin. The brains, the braun and the beauty behind a newly established brand ‘Ms A London’, these truly remarkable women are in the process of launching a lingerie and solutions brand, designed and developed for the transfeminine community. Cisgendered women can often struggle when shopping for lingerie, as standardised sizing doesn’t always translate from brand to brand, but transfeminine women face a whole other level of problems, as garments don’t take into account their body type and measurements. Bok and Winn have stepped up to the challenge, and taken on the task to not only produce a metric for standardised lingerie sizing for transfeminine bodies, but also creating a breathtaking range of stunning lingerie to go with it, which nip and tuck in all the right places, but simultaneously give the wearer their desired curves and swerves.
Continue reading to meet these wickedly inspirational women, why this type of brand is needed now more than ever, and how you can show your support for the trans community.
Tell us a bit about yourselves: what are your names, ages, where you live?
Bok Goodall (BG), Leeds
Winn Austin (WA), London
What do you do?
BG: Lingerie designer, illustrator, creative director, mentor.
WA: model, actress, stylist, mentor, social butterfly!
Can you tell us 5 words to describe yourselves?
BG: strong, funny (often sarcastic!), smart, driven, loyal
WA: strong, passionate, enigmatic, driven, smart
Can you explain what MS A LONDON is?
BG: Ms A London is a lingerie and solutions brand designed and developed for the Transfeminine community.
We are creating styles that look great and fit the wearer, taking into account body type and measurements. We are focused on comfort and wearability. Our styles are fitted and developed with a transfeminine body in mind, and created to give the wearer the confidence that one garment will do what—perhaps in the past—was only achieved with multiple garments. Ms A London wants our customers to be comfortable whilst being fabulous!
Lingerie is the first thing we put on every day, and so it’s only right that everyone has access to lingerie that fits them and is created with their body type in mind.
How have you found the process of trying to create standardised sizing for transgender women? What has been the biggest challenge?
BG: We have been delayed by lockdowns and restrictions with the process, and aim to pick this up in earnest in July this year.
This is quite an undertaking, as the transfeminine community is not considered in sizing at the moment, so we are aiming to create a sizing system that will allow the community to buy lingerie and clothing with a better knowledge of what will work for them.
The biggest challenge is funding the project. We continue to apply for research funding, and at the moment we are doing everything we can to raise visibility of what we are doing.
How do you feel when you wear lingerie as opposed to underwear?
BG: you know I’m much more of an underwear type of girl!!! Although when I do the lingerie thing it definitely changes the way you hold yourself, it changes the way you face the world I think, a bit like red lipstick!
WA: sensual, satisfied, confident, serenely beautiful.
What is currently your favourite piece of lingerie that you own and why?
BG: I’m fortunate enough that my job means I own some beautiful lingerie and have had a hand in creating some beautiful lingerie. I need to start adding to my collection of lingerie again, and have my eye on a few brands! Ihuoma is beautiful, Something Wicked of course is incredible, and who doesn’t need a leather bra!?
WA: The absolute favourite set I have at the moment is a chocolate brown set that perfectly matches my skin tone from Ms A London. The brand Bok and I are working on.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
BG: To me, female empowerment is about all women feeling strong and heard. Even in an industry like the lingerie or fashion industry, it is still often the men who are given the assumed authority in a situation. It’s annoying, but also quite amusing to turn it around.
I think empowerment gives women a voice that should be heard. My passion for female empowerment has led me to create a lingerie line (Ms A) for the transfeminine community, that enables them to present themselves to the world as the best woman they can be.
WA: Tt simply means it's less difficult to strive for equality, and to feel part of the conversation.
What do you do to make yourself empowered/liberated/confident?
BG: I speak to my friends for a reality check! I stand up for what I believe in and what I believe is right.
WA: I speak up when I see injustices.
What can society be doing more of to really make a difference when it comes to gender equality?
BG: This shouldn’t even be a discussion in 2021! Gender equality should be a given in my opinion.
We should all be aware of inequalities and speak up when we see them, and push to redress the balance.
What message would you give to your younger self e.g as a teenager?
BG: I would tell my teenage self: Always enjoy being the odd one out, because you will find your tribe and you’ll be together forever. I would tell myself to always stand up for what I believe is right and to always do the right thing. I’d tell myself to have all the fun (which I did!), travel whenever you get the chance and take every opportunity that comes your way. Keep taking risks – it will never be easy, but you’re really not cut out for the 9 to 5! Maybe I should tell myself to start saving and stop spending everything on shoes, but what fun is there in that!? Always buy the shoes!!
WA: I’ve always been confident, but I would tell my younger self to be confident, but be grounded. Take as much advice as you can, use what is constructive to you and discard the rest. I’d tell my younger self to be more patient and less impulsive.
How did it feel to win the Curve NY Pitch Off Competitions ‘Favourite Brand Award’? Did it reaffirm anything for you?
BG: This was totally unexpected. The other brands pitching were amazing and we had no expectations, it was just great to be asked to enter – as this meant Ms A London was on the radar! Some of the comments from the judges and other brands were so positive and reaffirmed that the lingerie industry is behind equality and equity for all, it was very inspiring.
Since the story of your journey went live, what has been the reaction like from mainstream media – has it been supportive, have you received any resistance?
BG: The most important reaction has come from within the transfeminine community, people saying thank you, and how important this is, and what a difference it will make to people’s lives. We have also started building a contact list of people we will work with to generate sizing and develop for the future.
Ms A London has had great coverage in the b2b lingerie press, and of course the BBC Look North piece was fabulous for us. Mainstream media has so far ignored everything we have sent them! This journey has affirmed though that we will never give up banging on the doors, so we will keep trying to get their attention.
What will the initial collection feature?
BG: Our launch collection is a tight collection of solutions pieces that offer the wearer the opportunity to create a more feminine silhouette by nipping and tucking where necessary and adding the curves and swerves where they want them. And with the potential to add as much as they want! There is a slip dress – which we can’t help but call it ‘The Magic Dress’! – unwired bras, briefs and two bodysuits. The colour palette for launch focuses on neutrals: black, white, skin tones and of course, leopard print!
What does being the front cover of Curve Revealed (the magazine of the Curve Expo event) mean for visibility of transgender women/gender non-binary people in the lingerie space?
BG: This was huge. It reflects the visibility and inclusivity we are striving to create. Again, we were up against incredible brands with beautiful photography, and had no expectation of winning, to be part of the final selection was such validation. I got the email saying congratulations and immediately called Winn who had to listen to me singing ‘Cover Girl’ to her!!!
Can you explain to our followers what ‘My Size’ is and what your work with them entails, and how they can support the journey if they can?
BG: As work began on development, it was quickly apparent that there is no sizing system in place for the transfeminine community, so with the technical team we started work on tackling this. To this end I was invited to join The British Standards Institute on the Clothing Sizing Committee. The BSI strives to be inclusive in creating standards, and our research will allow for discussion around the standards for creating sizing and if they are inclusive of the community, which if we find they are not, we will work to make them more inclusive together.
We have been applying for funding and collaborations to carry out this essential research. To date, we have not been successful as the funding bodies and large corporations don’t believe this to be a necessity! It is infuriating that everyone puts a rainbow flag on everything during June, but when it comes to supporting the community in a tangible way they’re not so forthcoming.
To this end we set up a non-profit organization My Size CIC, to raise funding through Go Fund Me. The funding will help us research and develop the sizing system.
How did it feel to secure your first stockist, Journelle, before your collection has even launched? Are there any specific stockists you dream of having your brand stocked in? What would a potential future collaboration look like between you and Journelle?
BG: Journelle is an all-time favourite of mine, so to be stocked by such an inspiring business is amazing. Guido Campello the Co-CEO of Journelle is so supportive of what we’re doing, and we can’t wait to launch the brand in Journelle. A collaboration with Journelle will be something extra special!
We will also be stocked by Bloomers in Virginia as part of the Curve Pitch Off competition, and the fabulous ladies of Livi Rae in Atlanta have been in touch to say they love what we’re doing and want to stock Ms A London! It is incredible to be able to say we have such wonderful stockists before we even launch.
Of course we want to see Ms A everywhere and can’t wait to be able to start showing the brand to buyers in the very near future.
How can transgender women, queer femmes, cross dressing men, drag queens get involved in the journey?
BG: follow us on social media, as soon as we are able to start fittings and focus groups we will update on social media, and invite people to get involved if they are able to. Donate to our gofundme if they can, and tell their friends about it. Keep getting in touch, the community’s voice is vital to what we are doing.
If you want to show the transgender community, and Bok and Winn’s work, the support and credit it so rightly (and overduely) deserves, follow their personal accounts at @ladymsbok And @winn0007. To follow the brands and the non-profit, and support their journey and growth, follow @mysizecic and @ms_a_london . Explore the webpages at www.mysize.org.uk and www.msalondon.com. And if you’re in a position to be able to donate and support the development of the research, please visit Go Fund Me.