What is binding?
Binding is a way of temporarily making your chest look flatter. Binding can be done with professional binders designed specifically for that purpose, or with clothing or sports compression wear.
Why do people bind?
People bind for all sorts of reasons: to help lessen gender dysphoria; to better express their gender identity; or just because it makes them happy. Some people will bind regularly, and others might bind infrequently, or only in certain spaces (e.g., at work, visiting family, or around friends).
Being able to express yourself in a way that feels right is a really empowering experience for a lot of trans people, and many of us bind because it makes us feel happier, confident, and affirmed.
For some people, binding is also really important for their mental health. Having to deal with dysphoria can be very distressing, and being able to alleviate that is really beneficial. It can be the difference between feeling stressed and self conscious, and being happy, safe, and able to be engage with your community.
Trans people's reasons for binding will vary from person to person, and may change over time. They can be motivated by a huge combination of different factors, and no one else can decide if those reasons are "good enough" or not. It's all about what the person binding chooses, because it's their body.
Who is binding for?
When people think about binding, they usually think of transgender men, but not all trans men bind, and they aren't the only ones who do it either! Some non-binary people will also want to bind their chests, and some trans men never will. Binding and experimenting with different gender presentations can be really helpful for questioning folks, and some cis people might decide to bind as well.
Whether or not someone binds doesn't say anything about how valid their identity is, or even what their identity is. Binding is for anyone who wants to!
Are there health risks?
There are lots of ways to bind, and it's important to know all the facts.. Because binding involves putting pressure on the chest, it's important to understand how to bind safely, and what to avoid.
Using improper items or methods, like ace bandages or tape, is never a good idea. Ace bandages are designed to tighten with movement, and can cause long-term damage to the chest, ribs, or breathing issues.
Binding regularly for long periods of time can cause some damage. Of course, being forced to present in a way that you aren't comfortable with isn't great for your well-being either! It's up to you to work out what's best for you. Think about how you feel and pay attention to how your body reacts to different ways of binding. At the end of the day, it should always be your choice!
How to bind safely
There are many different ways to bind, but there are some things to keep in mind whatever method you're using.
- It's a good idea to start off with only binding for an hour or two, and slowly working up to longer times. This way, your body can get used to the increased pressure, and you can start working out how long you can bind without it becoming painful or uncomfortable.
- Don't bind for longer than eight hours at a time
- It's important to take breaks from wearing a binder. It can be uncomfortable for some people to take their binder off around others, but even going into the bathroom to take it off for a few minutes can help!
- If you're in pain or having difficulty breathing, take your binder off as soon as possible.
- When you're looking straight down at your chest, it looks like it sticks out more than if you're looking at it from the front. If you're worried about other people noticing, try checking your chest in a mirror, and remember that other people usually aren't paying as much attention to you as you are.
A professional binder
They look like singlets or undershirts, and are designed to compress chest tissue. Binders that are designed for trans people are usually made with long term use in mind, so it's important to do your research first. A good place to start is gc2b.
Binders are quite tight, so try putting it on and taking it off before you wear it out.
Professional binders are the most effective and safest, but can also be quite expensive. If you're a trans/gender diverse young person and need support to get a binder, you can contact us at [email protected], and check out Trans Youth Support Kits.
Sports compression wear
These are tight, form-fitting articles of clothing sold in sports stores. They won't compress your chest as much as a binder would, but they're often cheaper, and you can try them on in-store! It can also be useful if you live with people whom you aren't out to, or who aren't supportive of transgender people.
This one doesn't do as much, especially for people with larger chests, and it's not technically binding, but it can be better than nothing. Wearing a loose shirt or jumper over sports compression wear or a binder can help if your chest still isn't a flat as you'd like. This is also useful for trans/gender diverse people who are not ready or safely able to out to those around them.
We help trans young people access binders and other gender affirming items. To support that program and make sure we can provide items to everyone who needs it, make a donation at Trans Youth Support Kits!