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The Deep Power of Water

Tourmaline x Chromat

Tourmaline in the Airdrop Top and Tourmaline Tennis Skirt

Photos and writing by Becca McCharen-Tran for them

On a sunny day this January, Tourmaline and I met at the beach.

She was in town celebrating the new year, and I’ve lived here since relocating from Brooklyn in 2018. When I moved to Miami, the ocean became a refuge I visited every day, gathering strength and settling my nervous system after many exciting and tumultuous years spent in New York. 

For Tourmaline and I, the beach is a particularly sacred and meaningful place. She is a visionary artist, filmmaker, and community organizer for Black, trans, queer, gender nonconforming, and disabled communities, whose work celebrates trans rights pioneers like Marsha P. Johnson and Mary Jones. I am the founder of Chromat, a future-forward bodywear brand that’s known for making swimwear for every size, shape, ability and gender. In 2020, Tourmaline told me she was envisioning swimwear for girls who don’t tuck, designed specifically for trans femmes like herself as well as non-binary people, trans men who pack, and anyone embracing collective opulence celebrating kindred” (COCK). I was all in. One year later, we debuted the Chromat x Tourmaline collaboration in a runway show down the boardwalk at Riis Beach, the historic queer and trans beach in NYC’s Rockaways. The collection of gender-inclusive swim includes bottoms with room for a package pouch and matching bikini tops, skirts, shorts and thongs: different levels of sexy coverage and playful exposure. 

It was also on Riis Beach that Tourmaline shot photos for a 2020 essay for Vogue on the act of “freedom dreaming.” She wrote: “When I refuse to make myself smaller to accommodate the demands for respectability put forward by mainstream institutions—when I wear sheer dresses and chokers to art openings and airports alike, when I don’t tuck, when I am my fullest and freest self in the most public of places—I’m freedom dreaming. I am expanding in the power of my unruliness and refusal to conform to violent and oppressive normativity.” 

Tourmaline x ChromatTourmaline in the Strata Suit 

Swimwear is an inherently vulnerable garment, and perhaps because of that, it can also be a powerful mode of enacting freedom and self love. So on Miami beach, ringing in the new year, I photographed Tourmaline reveling in that liberatory love and later asked her about sexiness, showing love to yourself, and the emotional experience of wearing her own trans-inclusive swimwear in public.  

Tourmaline x ChromatTourmaline in the Strata Suit


Becca McCharen-Tran: How is being trans and celebrating bulges at the beach the best thing ever? 

Tourmaline: We sexy! What’s not to love?

Chromat x Tourmaline
Chromat x Tourmaline

Tourmaline in the Airdrop Top, Cusp Tie Bottom and Tourmaline Tennis Skirt

What possibilities does being visibly queer in public beaches open up for all of us? 

In my opinion when we get to be all of who we are in any given moment everything unlocks around us.  Especially by the water. That’s where my deepest feelings of power have been.


Tourmaline x Chromat

Tourmaline in the Airdrop Top and Cusp Tie Bottom


What does the beach have to do with love?

I think people have different places where it's easiest to tune to the frequency of love and places where people have big desires they can be in touch with. 

For me my desire to be at the beach is huge, feeling the love that is me move all through me when I’m laughing and applying sunscreen with loved ones or reading on a towel or standing by the water. 

Simple things like the sun rising and falling on the watery horizon can touch my heart in a romantic way.

Chromat x Tourmaline
Chromat x Tourmaline


How do you cultivate your love for yourself / appreciation for yourself?

Little by little! Starting with the easiest and most general things before getting more specific and working my way upwards.  I like fun, I love how much fun I get from collaborations, I love my ever changing aesthetic, I love that no matter what I’m always changing and growing.  I love how good it feels to bask in what I am creating, relationships with other people, places, myself. 

I love the feeling of water on my body and pleasure filling me up!

I love when I get to co-create that feeling with other people in places that are fun and sexy like the beach.  I love trying new things like being on a new beach in a fun and sexy way.

Chromat x Tourmaline
Chromat x Tourmaline

Tourmaline in the Strata Suit


When we were taking pictures in Miami Beach, all eyes were on you. How did you get to the place where you feel comfortable being your full sexy self in public? 

It’s fun to have an audience when I’m all tuned into how sexy I am and it's the worst to have an audience when I feel anything less than that. 

So for me the work has really just been about coming into alignment around my value and beauty and leaving everyone else’s opinions aside for a little while.  Especially in a moment when transness is regulated with greater frequency as we just saw in Florida and Utah, anti-trans legislation is being enacted more and more and being trans has real criminalized and violent responses.  

My friend Miss Major, who was at Stonewall [the landmark 1969 gay rights protest in New York], and I made a film about her called The Personal Things(2016) and it’s about how in New York City in the late 1960s and early 70s—and still today in prisons and jails and detention centers in the US—you would be penalized if you were a trans person wearing, quote-unquote, women’s clothing. That was the literal landscape upon which someone like Miss Major or Marsha P. Johnson was being loud and proud and showing all of who they were in any given moment. It had these heightened stakes to it.

What feels powerful about that is that, as Miss Major says, sometimes you can’t go to the beach or even outside. Maybe there’s a heightened presence of people who will harass you or arrest you. Sometimes you just don’t have the energy to. But can you find pleasure and luxury in a cold drink of water? Can you tune to the presence of something that feels luxuriating, even if it’s not priced at a particular point? Does the condition have to be the focal point for you to allow that feeling of luxuriating or basking? That’s really what all my work is hoping to lead myself and whoever else finds resonance in it back to.

This goes back to the previous question, but for me I can’t jump from not feeling myself right to knowing how hot I am. I have to start with easier, less resistant things.  Like feeling the sunset or a breeze on my body or a cool drink of water as my friend Miss Major reminds me to do.  And then gradually the other more challenging subjects come to a similar level of awareness, but it doesn’t happen all at once and some days it doesn’t happen at all and that’s ok because I know just like other things I wanted and took awhile to fully concretize, eventually I’ll get there.

Ultimately there is so much involved in me feeling comfortable being my fully sexy self in public: there are the people like Miss Major who fought for decades for greater freedom, there are friends who remind me that right where I am is ok, there are loved ones who reflect back how hot I am and there’s the immaterial spirit that I tune to little by little that provides a deep sense of security, clarity and pleasure.

Chromat x Tourmaline
Chromat x Tourmaline

Tourmaline in the Airdrop Top and Cusp Tie Bottom


What’s one of your favorite ways to show love to yourself and your loved ones on Valentine's Day and all year round?

I’m recent to the appreciation of Valentine’s Day, I love it so much.  One of my favorite home videos of Marsha P Johnson is when she discusses her Valentine’s Day outfit for that year. She calls it her treatment, she says to her friend filming her on a video camera as she moves from the kitchen to the hallway to the closet where her fashions are:

“Have you seen my Valentine’s Day treatment yet?” They haven’t. So she says “Well you better get your heart ready” and then deadpans “…for heart failure! And then get your camera.” And cackles devilishly. 

I love how much Valentine’s Day means to people, a day to allow the love that is them to move to them and through them to others and to themselves.  I think that’s really beautiful and I love how it can spill beyond that day, it does spill beyond that day and it’s something we can always tap into.  And my way of taping it into it this year is to get my own little Valentine's Day treatment together. 

Get your heart ready!


Tourmaline x Chromat

Tourmaline in the Airdrop Top and Cusp Tie Bottom, Cameron in the Strata Top and Tourmaline Thong

Chromat x Tourmaline
Chromat x Tourmaline


Photos by Becca McCharen-Tran

Shop the Chromat x Tourmaline collection here

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