As a transfeminine person, the word tucking makes me cringe. I think of former bullies making fun of drag queens. I’m transported to my initial puberty, when my body was slowly moving away from my mind and soul and I wanted to stop the process of masculinization—and couldn’t. Today, tucking is a means of safety. The world we live in means having to conform to a level of binary gender that makes it dangerous to step out of those boundaries.
Coming from this experience, I was shocked to learn about a product called Unclockable, through a sponsored advertisement on Facebook. The name alludes to the term used among trans communities of going about public life while passing as cisgender. The initial imagery featured a pink triangle with a feminine eye inside of it. It looked like the symbol for a queer secret society, instead of a serious product. It described itself as a “tuck that’s breathable, secure, patent pending & medical-grade.” I lurked the comments and aligned myself with other skeptics, eventually stalking their instagram and website.
After an hour of swiping through before and after photos of transgender women and celebratory statements of gender euphoria, I found an image of Matty and their father. In the caption, Matty explained at the time that they identified as a trans woman and developed the product for over a year. Matty proudly modeled the tucking tape, revealing the Unclockable logo under a pair of back-laced panties. My skepticism subsided.
Three years later, I reached out to Matty Bleistern, the founder of Unclockable. We agreed to meet at a tea shop in Greenwich Village in New York City. They made a point of calling me before, to warn me about their current gender presentation. “So nothing is static. Everything’s changing all the time. I have. I’ve got a more non binary understanding of myself now,” said Bleistern. They had evolved a great deal since the beginning of their company and transition. At our meeting they wore a full beard, a high and tight haircut with a French striped t-shirt. Their pronouns changed from she/her to they/them and their name from Maddie to Matty. This was a sharp contrast from the ultra-femme red summer dress and soft bangs on the Unclockable website.
If I hadn’t known Matty’s story, I may have been annoyed that someone presenting masculine is selling tuck kits, targeting trans women and drag performers. There is a sensitivity you don’t learn unless you experience the need to tuck. I would have been mistaken. When Matty began their transition they checked as many boxes off the list as they could. They started hormone replacement therapy, changed their name, and dove into transfeminine adolescence headfirst. They came out to their family friends and felt the deep pain of potentially losing loved ones. It wasn’t until after this experience that they founded Unclockable with their father, Mitch.
Trans people working through gender dysphoria will go through any means to express their identity. This is especially true for trans women living in areas and countries that are unsafe.
In their three-year history, the company has received mostly positive feedback from people who have felt empowered to express their gender identity more fully. But there are others who are still understandably skeptical of the company. “We’ll get a lot of like judgmental comments saying we’re making someone feel insecure about their body, when the opposite is actually true, which is that we’re empowering people to feel comfortable looking in the mirror. And to say that the alternative to that is unsafe, is an understatement,” said Bleistern. The most common criticism is that Unclockable is assuming all transfeminine people should be working towards achieving cisgender passing standards. Matty explains that the name, Unclockable, was not related to your ability to conform to binary gender standards but your ability to have an appearance that matches your own gender identity.
Matty’s goal with Unclockable, is to help people avoid the painful and unsafe methods Matty has tried themself. “I’ve found myself in the dark corners of the internet looking for ways to tuck and it gets dark. Some of the things people are doing are really unsafe. I’ve seen people using duct tape, even medical glue,” explains Matty. Trans people working through gender dysphoria will go through any means to express their identity. This is especially true for trans women living in areas and countries that are unsafe.
“I could have just made this thing for myself, and cut a bunch of tape together. And that’s it. And I could show my friends, right? Maybe if I did that, I wouldn’t have a business but I certainly wouldn’t have reached the number of people that I have,” said Bleistern.
In the early days of Unclockable, there was little separation between Matty and their invention. “I’d say, it’s evolved into not just the work of one person or two people. So yeah, so I guess it’s evolved with a sense that it’s no longer just about me”, says Bleistern. Matty progressed deeper into their own gender identity, realizing they weren’t as binary as they thought. At that point the founder and the product began to separate and Matty’s invention grew from a kitchen prototype with a vague logo to a sought after product backed by a skilled distribution and marketing team.
The evolution of Unclockable represents an extraction of Matty’s ultra-feminine persona. It was the creation of a very specific experience through transgender feminine gender identity. This is a period no trans person wants to remember once they move past it. Matty seems to have lived in this period and never moved on. Instead they peeled it away and let it live on its own as a company. It exists as a representation of the painful transfeminine adolescence that is necessary for many transfeminine people to realize their fully actualized femininity. It’s a necessary moment of pubescent cringe people usually only experience once. That moment is frozen in time as a company.
Looking back, I wish a company like Unclockable existed when I was starting my transfeminine journey through gender. Instead, all I had was trial and error and the hope that one day transgender people would be a normal part of human existence. The existence of a product like Unclockable proves that there are enough of us out there who are fighting for the need to feel whole. The cringe that I felt when I first learned about the product was a projection of my own memories of my trans adolescence. The company simply reminded me of how much I and every trans person who has moved into their experience of gender maturity. It is a company that exists beyond its founder and beyond my limited initial assumptions.
“It’s the most rewarding experience of my life, Bleistern comments. “I’ve never had a kid. I assume that changes your whole life. And so I think this product is kind of out there interacting with people changing their lives, and that blows my mind every time I think about it.”