When adult boutique KK's Temptations set up shop in Manassas, Va. last fall, the town's conservative set met the mother-daughter outfit with fire and brimstone proclamations. Despite the inauspicious welcome, the shop has nevertheless made pains to fit in on the city's quaint Old Town strip. Owners Kim and Kristina Skokan tuck the shop's cock rings and anal beads behind a protective swinging door. They banish the typical black plastic bags for tissue-lined pink ones. They raise money for breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's. And they relegate more extreme material to their online shop.
Also available exclusively online: Merchandise for the gender non-conforming set. KK's online store includes a "transgender apparel" section, which sells women's shoes in men's sizes, butt-building panties, and removable breast forms with matching see-through bras. Kim Skokan says the shop sees "tons" of gender-nonconforming drop-ins at the shop; she's available to special-order items for them online.
On the other side of town, clothes and accessories that cater to trans people, cross-dressers, and drag-queens are more readily available. Fashion Fantasy carries boots and heels in-store up to size 17; its collection of disco leotards and pleather hot pants can be altered to fit atypical body types.
"We get a lot of cross-dressers," says Fashion Fantasy owner Barbara Cox, who adds that she employs some trans people to help out with her shop's stock of lingerie, sex toys, and gag gifts. Cox says that other local lingerie joints often refer non-conforming customers her way.
But while KK's clientele has been met with accusations of pedophilia and perversion, Cox says her shop has largely evaded controversy in its 19 years in business. When Cox opened the shop, "I might have had a mannequin too close to a window with leather and chains," Cox told me. A nearby church complained over the display, but soon turned its attentions to more pressing sins. "The abortion clinic opened up at the same time," Cox says.
In higher-income suburban locales across the region, the presence of non-conforming customers can register as an economic blight. When Herndon bar So Addictive went gay last year, residents aired concerns about the visibility of gender-nonconforming people in the city center. "I don't judge the lifestyle, but being one quite conservative when it comes to urban design, I do not like the idea of a rainbow flag flying across the street from the town hall," one Fairfax resident wrote about the bar's re-opening. "Will the drag queen action be kept inside, or will the town lose it's family friendly character?"
In political terms, Fashion Fantasy—which neighbors with auto body shops and backs up to a trailer park—is worlds away from the town hall square. Manassas' politically-connected conservatives object to KK's because they think it threatens to dismantle Old Town's family friendly reputation. Perhaps Fashion Fantasy's low-income real estate just doesn't have any moral high ground to lose.