To Bind or Not to Bind? A Non-Binary Perspective on Safer Binding Methods

Photo illustration by Sarah Pompeii.

To bind or not to bind? If you are anything like me, you have asked this question more times than you probably care to admit. You may have asked yourself every day when you’ve woken up. You’ve probably asked a medical professional, googled it and asked fellow trans, non-binary or gender non-conforming people what they think about it as well.

It’s strange, we do these things because part of us feels like we must. On the days when we don’t do it, we feel not so whole, or like we have not been as true to ourselves as we could be. But binding can be uncomfortable, it can be inconvenient and it has probably been, if you have been doing it a long time, even painful. But as the old saying goes, “we do what we gotta do.” But let me back up. Many of you may be asking yourselves, “what is binding,” or “why would anyone do that?” So, let’s answer these questions quickly, before diving deeper into the question of whether to bind at all.

Binding is the act of making one’s chest appear flat, and for some that’s by any means necessary. It’s a common practice for many trans men and trans-masculine or non-binary people. In the past, the only option for chest compression were just Ace bandages or duct tape. Now, trans people warn each other that those binding methods can damage the body. But those desperate to relieve the dysphoria associated with their chests have sometimes been willing to risk physical and medical issues to achieve the flat chest they need. That’s when some cool companies got involved and started producing safe binders that could relieve chest dysphoria for a relatively low price, and save many the medical costs due to problems caused by Ace bandage or duct tape binding.

Many of you may be reading this, thinking, “that’s crazy, why would anyone put themselves through that, especially before safe binders were available?” Well, let me reassure you that it’s not crazy. It’s just doing what one needs to do to feel comfortable and at home in the only body they have. Sometimes body modifications like binding are necessary.

Don’t get me wrong, binding is a pain and all the effort can feel like a drag. Luckily, there are many companies that help make this process easier. But binding is still uncomfortable and there are still constraints, such as how long binders ought to be worn and how tight they are on the chest. Binders are constrictive, but not dangerously so, and they can be a major pain to put on and take off. Some roll up under your shirt, some are hot and make you sweat, and others feel kind of like a tight sports bra. People have complained that they leave slight rashes and are not comfortable to do things like swim in. Sometimes we must wear layers to hide the outline of our binder under our shirts, (great in winter, not so much in summer). But with all of binding’s cons, there is one pro that outweighs it all: The simple fact is that this body of mine feels more complete when I look down and see a flat chest. That’s the chest I see when I close my eyes and envision myself. Binding makes me feel at home in my body.

Photo illustration by Sarah Pompeii.

Lest I digress, the question posed was simple, right? To bind or not to bind? So, let’s look at a few things. Binding is wholly personal, from the initial decision to bind, to where to get a binder. Plus, we must confront what happens when we wear them. Sometimes people recognize us as our actual genders, sometimes they don’t. Some people may be curious, others may be judgmental. Binding is a personal journey and one that requires brave and honest exploration of one’s body and self.

But to put your fears to rest, if you fantasize about the day you will have a flat chest or have wished for a flat chest, chances are binding may be a fantastic option for you. No one should feel like their body is foreign or alien to them, but activities like clothes shopping, going swimming or tanning, getting fitted for a suit, going to the gym or simply taking a shower can often make trans/nonbinary people feel disconnected from our bodies. If you experience these types of feelings, binding may be a good way to mitigate some of that dysphoria.

Some of you may be thinking, “do I have to be trans or non-binary to bind?” Of course not! Remember, binding is the act of compressing one’s chest make it appear flat. Anyone can do that if they feel like their chest is too big, too heavy, causes back pain, gets in their way at the gym, hates running because of their chest, does cosplay or just doesn’t like their chest all that much. This is a popular practice in the trans-masculine community, but anyone can do it, if it helps them love themselves more and feel more confident.

Binding can help answer the nagging question, “will I ever feel comfortable with this not-so flat chest?” Guess what? For at least eight hours a day, you can. If you are wondering about where you can buy a binder I always suggest my personal favorite, the company Underworks. Their binders are safe, affordable, come in both black and white, have various sizing options and designs and best of all, they are shipped to your door in confidential packaging, so as not to raise suspicions of those that may not be accepting.

So, if the answer is to the question is emerging as a “yes,” take a deep breath and remember that you are not alone. There are affordable and safe options and people out there who will answer your questions. Happy binding!


1 Comment

  • I think it is interesting how you said that anyone can use binders to keep their chest close to them if they have back pain or problems at the gym. My wife was telling me that her chest hurts her back a lot. I’ll talk to her about trying out binders.

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