A Conversation With the Cofounder of TomboyX, Fran Dunaway

A Conversation With the Cofounder of TomboyX, Fran Dunaway

As a transmasculine person assigned female at birth, it’s often difficult for me to find underwear that I feel comfortable in.

Most underwear for feminine bodies come in skimpier, “girly” cuts, while the boy shorts options rarely exude the masculinity I’m aiming to emulate.

But thanks to a recommendation from a trusted friend, I finally found my dream underwear brand in TomboyX. The brand, founded by CEO Fran Dunaway and COO Naomi Gonzalez, outfits their queer and trans customers in gender neutral underwear of all colors and cuts. And since coming across their company, I’ve finally found underwear that makes me feel masculine, but feels as if it was made to fit my more feminine body perfectly. I got a chance to chat with TomboyX’s co-founder, Fran Dunaway, about the company’s beginnings, trans visibility in fashion, and the implications of the word “tomboy.”

HelloFlo: What inspired the conception of the brand?

Fran Dunaway: Honestly, it was our customers. We picked the name TomboyX because we identify as tomboys and thought it was cute. We wanted to make cool shirts but the name began resonating in such a big and powerful way that we knew we had created a brand. It then became our responsibility to honor the amazing women, girls and people from around the world who wanted to be part of it.


HF: My friend Rain Dove recommended you guys to me when we were lamenting over underwear shopping. Do you have a lot of trans and gender nonconforming customers?

FD: We do have a strong following of trans and gender non conforming customers. We are learning so much from them and are delighted to include them in our community/movement. We believe in respecting each other and finding the commonalities that we all have. And we think it’s important to be unapologetically you.


HF: It’s usually difficult for me to find gender neutral undies that I’m comfortable wearing as a transmasculine person. Why do you think companies like TomboyX are so few and far between? Do you see that changing at all in the fashion/apparel industries?


FD: I think big brands focus in on what can be best sellers, meaning appeals to a vast number of people. I think humans are pack animals by nature, we want to find our posse and we tend to look and dress like them. There are many subtle and not so subtle ways that we are shaped to conform. I think that is changing and we are finding ways to be more secure in who we are as individuals. Historically we’ve gone from mom and pop shops that specialized in goods to big box stores that carry big brands that are mass produced. The ease of e-commerce is opening it back up to the mom and pop style shops where you can specialize again. Because at the end of the day if you’re running a business you need to make money to survive. How big is the market? How many of an item do you need to sell at what margins in order to pay the rent? Those are the realities that you have to overcome.


HF: I have a couple pairs of Tomboys myself! And these more masculine undies have actually fit me the best compared to any brand, which makes me feel so affirmed and sexy. I also find that they’re ideal for packing, something I’m going to finally start doing this winter. Would you say that TomboyX aims to be trans inclusive and affirming? Have you gotten other reactions like mine?

FD: We hear from customers every day, so excited to have found a brand that ‘gets’ them. We get them because we are them. And we believe in inclusivity. There is so much divisiveness in this world and that divisiveness keeps us stalled. We want to progress forward in a way that leaves some goodness behind. We don’t aim to be trans inclusive and affirming – we just are. We think about all of our customers when we are designing and when we are fitting. We’re finding what works well and what doesn’t and we are committed to quality. We think we can all agree that that’s not a bad thing.


HF: How do you y’all feel about the term “tomboy?” Personally, it’s felt like a term that’s undermined my masculinity since childhood. Not saying that reflects on the brand or affects my love for you guys, but just curious about your own feelings/reactions re: this word.

FD: For some of us being called a tomboy as a kid has some negative baggage but it was also something that I personally wore as a badge of honor. It meant I wasn’t like all the other girls, I was different. I didn’t know it was code for lesbian then and that some people didn’t want to be called that because they didn’t want people to think they were gay. I liked it because of the playfulness of it and I like taking words that were used against us and reclaiming them. Like Queer. We love having Tomboy and then the X. We want to emphasize the ambiguity of the X as a way for everyone to embrace the brand and make it their own.


HF: I see the site has added new styles and designs since I first visited it a couple of months ago. What’s next for TomboyX in the coming year?

FD: We are thrilled to have added our own signature designs and there are many more coming. As far as styles… I won’t go into many details but will say that we’re sure they will make a big splash. 🙂


HF: What’s been the greatest challenge in starting and running the brand? The most rewarding bit?

FD: Raising enough money to fuel the growth. Unless you’ve run a business I think it’s hard for people to understand what it takes to just keep the doors open. And when you have a lot of demand, it’s even harder. The most rewarding bit is hearing from customers who love what we’re doing. I know what it’s like not to be seen. I love having a brand that can see them.

Image courtesy of TomboyX.