Meeting the needs, practical and emotional, of the queer, trans, and nonbinary community is both sensitive and pressing. This is something that For Them, a genderqueer wellness company founded by Kylo Freeman, is leaning into.
“We started as a binder company,” said Freeman, For Them’s CEO, in an interview with TechCrunch. “Or at least that was our first product.”
For Them’s first binder was created in response to Freeman’s own need for a breast tissue compression garment that was effective, comfortable, and safe. For too long, trans people seeking to compress their breast tissue have been forced to resort to bandages or hacked-together products to meet their needs. These were not, however, conducive to good health or feeling confident in oneself; some are actively dangerous.
“The first productized chest binder was made essentially as a corset for the chest. This causes lots of issues,” explained Freeman. “Over time, people’s ribs were becoming cracked; their bodies were becoming deformed around this product. And more importantly, if you put one on you strap it to your chest, like you really struggle to breathe, which is the opposite of wellness.”
It was an important, but not necessarily easy, problem to solve.
“We were solving the very specific niche issue at the beginning of how do you solve for dysphoria,” said Freeman, “Make someone feel really well in their clothes and feel like themselves, but allow them to do it safely and with breath, and with fun, right walking around life.”
Freeman noticed how a New York–based ballerina had launched a product that held her breast tissue in place while she danced, which obviously meant that she could breathe and move freely while wearing it. For anyone needing a binder, the required product was similar, but different.
“I saw that, and I thought that is sort of the same technology as we need,” said Freeman. “Her product sort of holds up and ours pushes down, but ultimately, the idea that one can either move or manipulate breast tissue and still breathe is what I’m looking for.”
For Them’s first binder was developed in conjunction with designer Radha Shadek [XXX Awaiting spelling confirmation], using breathable, recycled materials, and a great deal of design knowledge.
“We have two layers in the garment,” said Freeman. “And they work against each other to create compression. And they have notches that pull inwards and downwards.”
Playground, the community platform
Having sold 40,000 units of the first version of the binder, For Them knew they had created a product that wasn’t just needed by the trans community, but that the community was also prepared to rally around. It has now launched Binder Max, which offers more compression but is designed to be worn for shorter periods of time than the original binder. Think: for parties, nights out, or photo shoots. The new binder was created in response to community feedback.
Listening to the needs of the queer community and providing what it asks for is at the heart of For Them’s mission. In order to listen better and give back better, it has now launched its own app-based community platform, Playground.
“The whole premise behind Playground is the idea that we’re responding to genuine need and an under-served audience in general,” says Em Chadwick, For Them’s chief operating officer, in an interview with TechCrunch. “The big challenge our community is facing is that it’s all being hacked together by finding ways to [queer-ify] existing heteronormative products and services or whatever to fit our way of being.”
For Them wants its Playground membership to go further than providing a feedback loop for necessary products for the queer community — and commercial opportunities for the company. Freeman says membership offers tangible rewards and access to new wellness tracking opportunities aligned to the trans community.
“Membership is the sticky glue of this,” said Freeman. “You pay a monthly cost to be one of our members. And with that you get discounted products. So any For Them products that come out and will continue to drop products every six weeks, will be discounted for members; they [also] have access to our chat rooms, and special features in the app that we’ve just built.”
The new products being offered every six weeks by For Them fall into three categories: innovation-focused utility products, lifestyle products such as candles or slogan T-shirts, and what they are describing as a “community play,” something similar to an artist-in-residency program where their designs can be printed onto T-shirts.
The wellness element of the app is based very much on tracking mental and bio indicators of its members’ mental health and gender expression.
“It’s like biometric tracking, but for a sense of self-identity and sexuality,” said Chadwick. “And I think right now, just even this idea of being able to facilitate understanding, insight, and leveraging data for people’s sense of self and identity is quite a new concept. People have been hacking mental health trackers and stuff in order to follow their gender journey and use of hormones. But for a company to be building tech specific to this audience is pretty new and exciting.”
The app allows people to track their euphoria, mood, and confidence, but it also has customizable tracking tags that users can adjust to their own needs and wants, enabling people to chart their own journeys.
“We have an algorithm, so essentially, you put this data in, it tracks it over the week, and then it spits it back out to you,” explained Freeman. “It says, this week, you’ve been feeling like this, I knew I did this, you felt like this. And it’s just sort of wanting to check in with internal sense of self, because I think that’s where well-being sits.”
The company says this is just the beginning of For Them’s wellness path and that it has a strong vision for what Playground can provide for the queer community.
“The vision is that eventually this will be used to give proactive solutions where the data is then used to help people make positive progress in whatever direction they plan to go,” said Chadwick, “Whether that’s like cultivating more joy, feeling more confident.”
For Them sees the future in Queer Social, and bringing together and strengthening the community. But for now, Freeman is intensely proud of the company and community they have created.