As a transgender man, I often experience dysphoria and feel uncomfortable about how my body looks. People frequently misgender me, and I don’t always feel safe telling someone that I’m transgender. So to battle these feelings of dysphoria, I work hard to present myself as masculine — which means I often use chest binding.
Chest binding is the act of flattening one’s breasts. Chest binding is not only a lifesaver for people like me, but it can help boost a trans person’s confidence or help them fit into clothing meant for individuals with flatter chests.
My first attempt at binding my chest felt both intimate and slightly terrifying. I stared at my reflection in the mirror as I slowly wrapped an ACE bandage around my chest. Although the bandage felt tight and uncomfortable, my chest looked mostly flat.
Like most things in life, chest binding is not 100 percent safe, especially when people do not use proper equipment. However, I’ve learned a lot about chest binding since my first, very unsafe attempt and want to share these seven tips so that other people can bind their chests in a way that is safer and successful.
1. Avoid Makeshift Binders
As I mentioned, I first used an ACE bandage to bind my chest. However, I later learned that using an ACE bandage or similar makeshift binder can actually harm your body and restrict your breathing. Therefore, using these products to bind your chest can put you at serious risk.
2. “Too Tight Is Not Right”
Many new to chest binding think that you will get a flat chest by tightening the binding as much as possible. Just like the ACE bandage, though, if you bind your chest too tightly, you will not only experience discomfort but may also severely restrict your breathing. Therefore, find a binder that fits you well and follow any provided guidelines about how tight to bind yourself. Luckily most sites that sell binders, such as gc2b, offer sizing charts so that you can choose the best size binder for your body.
3. Consult Friends
Friends can help you with chest binding in numerous ways. For example, if you have friends who are experienced with binding, they can probably help you select products and provide guidance as you learn the ropes of binding. Also, for those who may not be fully out to family members, your friends can help you buy binders. When I purchased my first binder, I shared a bank account with my mom and didn’t want her to see the charge on the account. So I gave my friend the cash for one and asked her to buy it so that my mom didn’t find out.
4. Take A Break
When you come home from a long day at work, you usually take off your shoes and find comfortable clothing to relax. Removing your chest binder gives your body a similar feeling. In fact, most experts recommend that you only wear your binder for nine hours each day and never wear a binder when sleeping. Furthermore, it’s a good idea to give your body some recovery days when possible. Personally, I remove my binder in the evening and do not wear it on the weekends.
5. Listen To Your Body
When you feel hungry, you eat. When you’re thirsty, you grab a glass of water. You should always listen to your body — it lets you know when something is wrong. If you adjust your binder too tightly, your body will tell you with signs like shortness of breath or bruising. Therefore, you should always listen to your body because your safety and health is of the utmost importance.
6. Look For Alternatives
Although binding works well for me, it isn’t for everyone. Luckily, though, there are many alternatives out there that may work for you. For starters, you can buy compression shirts at any sporting goods store or major retailer. Some people also simply dress in layers or take advantage of baggy clothing like sweaters. While these options may not get the exact same result as chest binding, they can help in the short-term or provide alternatives for those who don’t enjoy binding.
7. Stay Safe With Free Resources
Most importantly, if you want to try binding but can’t afford a binder, don’t give up or use unsafe alternatives. In fact, there are services that actually donate binders to people who need them. Point of Pride has a binder donation program where they donate gc2b binders. FTM Essentials also offers a free youth binder program for people 24 and under. Also, many trans groups on social media sites like Facebook and Tumblr offer binder exchanges.
Chest binding can provide a great sense of relief for many trans or gender fluid people. While what works for some people may not work for others, know that there are options out there that can fit your needs. Regardless, it is important to always keep your safety in mind. Hopefully, with these tips, you can safely chest bind or help a friend who may be trying chest binding for the first time.
Featured image via gc2b