If you are trans and/or non-binary, the phrase ‘bind safely’ is commonly used – but is never elaborated on, which is a shame because it may lead some folks who may wish to bind to do so unsafely.
But what is binding? Well, binding is the process of pushing breasts into your body to give the appearance of a flat chest. Its often used by trans men and non-binary people, who may want to have a flat chest – but it can also be used by cisgender men who have gynecomastia. (Sidenote: I would not recommend that cisgender women wear binders to make their breasts appear smaller – minimizer bras may be a better choice – However, it’s your body and you should do whatever you feel is most comfortable for you. Binding safely is crucial, and unfortunately, many people don’t bind safely. If you bind to tightly and/or too often, you will cause serious and permanent damage to your body – yes, this includes damage that will prevent you from getting surgery later in life (if you choose to) and will prevent you from ever binding again. The risks of binding unsafely are fractured ribs, scarring, respiratory infections, and pneumonia. To ensure that you bind safely, I would recommend that you take at least two days off so that your body can rest.
- Don’t bind with tape or elastic bandages – Unfortunately, a common representation in the media is the trans boy with tape or an ACE bandage wrapped around his chest – DO NOT do this. This is because tape is bad for the skin, and bandages are designed to compress, so every breath can restrict your ribcage and lungs. Using either of these materials can cause chest pain, torn skin, broken ribs, severe lung problems, or even a fatal punctured lung.
- Know what’s normal and what’s not normal: It can be uncomfortable, and the following this are examples of what is normal: you experience more pain in your arms, shoulders, or back are a bit sore, you get winded after climbing the stairs, you experience more chest and back acne, and you are a bit worried about the tightness. Next is some examples of what isn’t normal: you start feeling too tired to do ordinary things, your arms start to feel numb, or you have bruises, a rash or bleeding that hurt when you touch them – if you experience any of these, or are experiencing something that I haven’t mentioned, then you need to go to hospital.
- Don’t do high-level activities with a binder on: Take off your binder if you are considering doing any activity that requires you to breath more, so a sports bra is your next best bet. While wearing a binder, you shouldn’t, for example: lift heavy objects, sexual activities, singing in a choir, or start to run if you’re late.
- Buying a Binder: Because binding safely is crucial, you should get a proper binder. These will be safe and can be brought from the internet, and they can make you feel great. For this, I would recommend doing careful research on the internet, as some binders are no better than bandages (unfortunately) – but on the bright side, there are PLENTY of websites and social media can also be a good source of help. If you aren’t sure, just stick to a popular company, even if it costs more (I’ll provide some links to the online shops that I know).
- Get a quality binder that is in your size: ideally, you should be able to take a deep breath in your new binder, without any discomfort. If you are unsure what size you are, I would recommend that you buy a bigger size, because a size that is too small for you will make you feel dizzy, and it can be extremely difficult to take on and off.
- Sleep with your binder off: ALWAYS take off your binder when you go to sleep, as the pressure of your binder and your body against the bed can increase the risk of complications. Sidenote: If you fall asleep with your binder on, take it off immediately, then don’t bind for the rest of the day).
- Taking care of your binder: it’s important to look after your binder, but looking after your binder properly can be a bit complicated. They require being washed in cold water, then hung out to air dry – but make sure you check (or double-check) the instructions if there are any other requirements. Sidenote: you may be able to wash your binder in the sink using, for example, soap or shampoo. Also, if you have a singular binder that you don’t want to wash daily, make sure it doesn’t smell – for this, you could use deodorant, or spray the binder with a scent remover.