Since his early childhood years, John-Michael Williams has lived most of his life as an adult baby diaper lover ( ABDL ).
Williams, 30, noted that there isn't one answer to what it means to be an ABDL. For him, it's a way to relax and relieve stress.
"While I personally find cuddling on the sofa with my boyfriend while wearing a diaper relaxing, others may view that as foreplay; for me it's a typical Tuesday," said Williams. "I incorporate many aspects that are normally expressed as a child or infant into my daily life as a means of regression.
"This includes sucking my thumb when I go to sleep. For others, it might be more of a role play which may be sexual with their partner, though it should be noted that the A stands for adult. The fetish aspect is always between consenting adults. The difficult part for some to grasp is that the actions on both sides of this coin, stress relief and fetish, can be one in the same with different results for different people or even situational."
Williams realized there were other people like him when he was a teenager, although he'd been wearing diapers and sucking his thumb since his elementary school years.
"I'm not exactly sure when I first realized I was an ABDL," said Williams. "What I can say is that I've always had tendencies in my everyday life which later on when looked at together kind of fell into place. While being an ABDL is not an orientation like the LGBTQ community, for many people it has a similar emotional weight. For example, when people finally are able to express this desire, it feels similar to 'coming out'; particularly when you can express this desire with someone else. Having the trust and ability to confide in someone with something so personal can give that person a similar feeling as someone who comes out of the closet so to speak."
Williams explained that in terms of overlap, the LGBTQ and ABDL community are really no different than any other subgroup.
"For example, with gay men specifically you sometimes have a more dom/sub style relationship," said Williams. "The ABDL lifestyle is more of an enhancement to that roleplay, which can be either sexual or not. This isn't exclusive to gay men within the LGBTQ/ABDL subgroup."
In speaking about his parents' reaction, Williams noted they didn't like or understand his ABDL desires and when they would bring it up he would shut down completely. Williams said if he had a chance to speak to parents whose kid might be an ABDL he would tell them to have an open mind and be supportive.
In order to combine his personal and professional lives, Williams started an online business Tykables ( formerly known as Snuggies ) on Feb. 14, 2014 and this past April he opened a store in Mount Prospect, Illinoisthe first dedicated ABDL store in the U.S. The store features a nursery space with an adult-sized crib, high chair, rocking horse and ball pit. The company ships its products to U.S., Canadian and U.K. customers and will be expanding to other countries in the coming months/years.
"The Tykables name literally means tyke like or more exactly, like a tyke," said Williams. "We make products that are normally intended for infants and toddlers but in adult size, mainly diapers. Many people who purchase our products do so for various reasons. These can include things ranging from stress relief to more risqué role play. We have many customers who are also on the autism spectrum and often use our products as sensory or comfort objects. The store is a new way for us to display our products as well as a new line of clothing coming soon."
Since the store's opening, Williams has received pushback from community members who are concerned with the store being in their town. During a village board meeting in June, dozens of Mount Prospect residents said the store is a threat to children and demanded that it be shut down, however, the village attorney Lance Malina told them officials have no legal standing to shutter Tykables.
"Our store is not a threat to children, or anyone for that matter," said Williams. "It's on a major highway in an area with no other stores marketed to kids. The windows are covered with white panels and anyone who wants to visit the store has to set up an appointment."
The store is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. most weekends.
In the weeks since the village board meeting, Williams said he hasn't received any complaints, threats or had any vandalism done to the store from anyone.
Williams explained that the store's location was chosen because it was close to where he lives, which is also in Mount Prospect. He said he also looked at locations in Des Plaines, Schaumburg, Chicago and other suburbs before settling on the Mount Prospect location.
"We were the first and only ABDL brand and company to have a booth at Folsom Street Fair," said Williams. "That was in 2014. The people at Folsom Street Fair are amazing, accepting and absolutely supportive of the ABDL community."
When asked how many people identify as either an ABDL, an AB or a DL, Williams estimates the number is north of one million Americans.
"While I, nor the company, intended to set out and 'educate' the masses about the ABDL community, I would hope that people would be willing to take the time to speak to someone before passing judgment," said Williams. "As adults, we often think and fear the worst of things. We have become conditioned to believe that if the worst possible answer is an option it must be the truth. We forget that sometimes, the simple answer is in fact something innocent."
See tykables.com/ for more information.