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Chris Cicchinelli had a different outlook on human sexuality than most kids in his conservative suburban Cincinnati neighborhood: His mom ran Pure Romance, which sold sex toys and other “intimacy enhancers” at house parties. 

Yet Cicchinelli—a conventional guy who went to college on a football scholarship—found himself unprepared when, beginning at age 3, his son said: “I’m a girl, not a boy.”

After years of resistance, Cicchinelli realized in 2015 that he needed to help his child make the transition. When he discovered a lengthy waiting list at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Center for Transgender Adolescents, Cicchinelli’s relationship with the hospital’s CEO moved his child to the front of the line. Even so, he realized that wouldn’t help the growing number of other families on the list.

So in 2017 Cicchinelli launched the Living With Change Foundation, which has set a goal of raising $3 million to help Cincinnati Children’s Hospital expand services for transgender children.

Suddenly a city with a well-earned conservative reputation has one of the fastest-growing children’s transgender clinics in the U.S., funded in large part by local business leaders, and is drawing inquiries from around the country. 

Cicchinelli also has learned that he didn’t understand the sexual intimacy market as well as he thought. 

Developing the RGB Collection (Red Green Blue) to help fund Living With Change has opened Cicchinelli’s eyes to the needs of the LBGTQ+ customer base.

“We really did a lot of focus groups, and I was hearing things I was not really comfortable with,” Cicchinelli says. “We thought we were always servicing [those customers] with our products, but what they did not like is that we catered to the female base­—lots of pinks and purples­—while they wanted more neutral colors, more grays and beiges. They wanted be more educated on how they could incorporate products into their lovemaking and be talked to differently about their relationships than hetero couples.

“I learned things not only as a father of a trans child but as CEO of a company that should be responsible for the sexual well-being not just of heterosexual couples, but of everybody.”

Since its launch in 2017, RGB has generated $1 million in sales and is part of a booming overall business for Pure Romance, which has gained acceptance that would have been hard to imagine back in 1993.

“I remember when I couldn’t even run advertising outside the midnight-to-4 a.m. time slot,” Cicchinelli says. “And then Randy Michaels [the former Clear Channel executive] was able to get me into midday. … It’s amazing to think our society has advanced this much, and it’s good. People understand that sexual wellness is important, relationships are important.”

But Pure Romance is also more than sex toys. It sells lingerie, perfumes and beauty products or, as Cicchinelli puts it, “Bathroom, boardroom, bedroom” products to “make you feel good about yourself.”

Jack Neff, editor at large, covers household and personal-care marketers, Walmart and market research. He’s based near Cincinnati and has previously written for the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Bloomberg, and trade publications covering the food, woodworking and graphic design industries and worked in corporate communications for the E.W. Scripps Co.