hi, do you have a post about binding safely? I want to show my mom so she can see that it's not unsafe if you do it right. thanks!
I did try my best to make a comprehensive but not too long Binding 101 post here - and one that can hopefully be read and understood by people who don’t bind & have no desire to bind themselves, at that!
Of course this post won’t include everything, but it should hopefully cover most of the basics. It may not be exactly what you were looking for though, because even when done safely, binding is not ever completely danger-free.
Why do people bind their chest?
There’s more than one reason to bind, of course, but the most common one among trans people is physical gender dysphoria.
The feeling of disconnect or dislike towards a part of your body can be hard to explain in word sometimes, especially since many people experience it in very different ways. But it is a feeling that is draining, that is painful, and that can do tremendous harm to a person’s mental well-being.
So, binding one’s chest in order to hide these parts of our bodies, both from ourselves and from others, can be a hugely relieving and freeing thing. And something that makes life so much more bearable and enjoyable.
How do people bind their chest?
There are many different ways to bind your chest, some more dangerous than others.
Ace bandages (and any other brand of similar bandages) and tape are a no-go if you want to keep yourself safe while binding. They are capable of messing you up pretty seriously even if you only bind with them for a very short time.
Some safer DIY options could be [sewing your own binder from scratch], [making one out of a camisole], [making one out of a pair of tights] or making one of out shapewear underwear [link 1] + [link 2].
However, the best option is to get a binder that is professionally made. [gc2b] is a company that makes binders specifically for trans people and it is where I have got my binders from, but [Underworks] is another popular place that a lot of people buy from. And of course there are many more aside from those two.
Wearing one (1) high compression sports bra in your right size can also be one way to bind you chest. Although keep in mind that they are not designed to be work for longer periods of time and that the lower band of it will put a lot of focused preassure on your ribs (while a binder will distibute it more evenly). Wearing multiple sports bras on top of each other, or wearing ones that are too small for you, is not safe.
When should you not bind your chest?
There are numerous medical conditions that could make binding very unsafe, so if you worry binding may trouble you for those reasons, it could be a good idea to talk to your doctor about it.
I personally have asthma and that makes binding a bit more dangerous for me than for non-asthmatic people, as my breathing is already a bit worse than it should be. So further restricting it by binding is something I would like to avoid doing, which is part of the reason I am working towards getting top surgery to have my breasts removed. Still, the possible dangers of binding are still worth it for me when I weigh them against the certain mental suffering that comes from not binding.
Even for people without medical issues though, there are times when you should not be wearing your binder:
- When you sleep.
- When you exercise*.
- When you have already worn it for 8 hours**.
- If you’re new to binding: when you are alone***.
*Some companies like Underworks sell [binders specifically made for swimming] and [gc2b have said that their binders are ok to swim in too]. You should still be very careful when swimming in a binder though, as it does restrict your breathing and movment a bit. And be sure to wash the binder you swim in regularly, as having chlorine left in it can irritate your skin.
**The given maximum of binding hours per day in one go is 8. But everybody’s body is different, so not everyone can safely bind for that long. Personally I can usually only manage 6 hours before my ribs start to hurt pretty bad. And it’s best to not start with trying to go for the 8 hours limit right away when you get your first binder; it’s better to start binding for a smaller amount of time in the beginning and the gradually increase it over time, to allow your body time to adapt to it.
***Binders can be difficult to get out of on your own sometimes, especially in the beginning when you haven’t yet figured out the best way to do it. So in the beginning, it is best to only bind when you have other people around that can help you out of your binder in case you would need help getting it off.
How do you take care of your binder?
Binders will get worn out over time, just like any other piece of clothing. However, it may be more noticable in binders than in regular clothes, as their compression ability will visibly get worse and worse the more worn out it gets. Getting a new binder about once a year is usually recommended, but it really depends on how much you wear it.
You should wash your binder regularly. Doing this might actually help it last longer, depending on the style of it.
Some have tags that say they are machine-wash safe, in which case you could absolutely wash them that way. But personally I always handwash mine, just to make sure they’re not unnecessarily damaged.
I use a small amount of mild detergent and cold water. Spend a lot of time rinsing it out afterwards with just water, to make sure there is no, or at least no big amount of, detergent left in it. Then I carefully scrunch it up into a ball to get as much water out as possible (don’t twist, because you don’t want to stretch the fabric) and then hang it on a hanger over the bathtub to let it drip and dry completely overnight.
For the style of binder I have (the gc2b ones), washing it regularly in cold water helps the fabric retain some of its elasticity. Which is something that can help it bind better for longer.
It may be ideal to wash it after everytime you’ve worn it and sweated in it, to prevent it from irritating your skin, but washing it just once a week is enough if you can’t do it more often than that.
What are the dangers of binding your chest?
Binding will inevetably wear out the elasticity of your skin and the breast tissue in your chest area after a while. How long it takes varies from person to person, as everybody’s body is different. But you will likely notice some difference within the first year if you bind a lot. This has little to no known actual dangerous side-effects in itself, but it will make your chest sag more and may affect how the result of top surgery looks if you plan on getting that in the future, as well as affect what types of surgeries you can get.
Even safe binding will likely give you some aches in your ribs, back and shoulders. But it is still best to take your binder off and give your body a break once you start feeling pain.
Excessive and unsafe binding comes with a lot of dangers:
- Difficulty breathing, which can lead to fainting and, if binder is not removed, suffocating.
- Extremely irritated skin.
- Damaged (bruised, sprained, brokwn) ribs.
- Damaged ribcage.
- Damaged lungs (if punctured by a broken rib).
- Damaged spine.
These things can usually be avoided as long as you bind safely, however.
How do you know if the pain/side-effects you get from binding is normal or not? When should you be worried?
Listen to your body and learn to interpret its signals. Everyone has different pain thresholds and everybody’s body has different limits, after all. So you will need to learn your own.
But some general signs and side-effects, normal and not, are as follows:
- Sore arms, shoulders, neck and/or back. This soreness may linger for a a couple of hours after you take the binder off, or not show up until the day after. It should go away completely after 2 days without binding.
- Getting a bit out of breathe after having climbed a set of stairs or similar. Although you should still be able to catch your breathe again without too much difficulty.
- Some chafting under your arms.
- Increased chest and back acne.
- Slight anxiety caused by feeling restricted.
Not normal, take the binder off as soon as you can and see a doctor if the symptoms don’t go away within a couple of days:
- Difficulty breathing, especially if even after you’ve taken the binder off.
- Not able to take deep breathes, cough or sneeze.
- Sharp pain in chest or ribs.
- Lightheadedness, feeling like you’re about to faint.
- Losing vision, having your ears ringing or getting a tingling sensation in your fingers, even if just for a moment. (Often signs that you are about to faint.)
- Feeling too sore/too restricted/too tired to do everyday activities that you could do without problems before you started binding.
- Numbness in arms.
- Skin rashes.
- Nausea during or after binding.
Not normal, go see a doctor as soon as you can, could be signs of a serious injury:
- Any of the symptoms from the list above, if you are feeling very worried about them. Better safe than sorry.
- Not able to breathe at all.
- Blueness in your libs or fingertips.
- Sudden intense bursts of claustrophobia and/or panick attacks, especially if you do no get those when not binding.
- Noticable change in ribcage shape.
Wow, that’s a lot of dangers. Is it really worth it?
For many people, including me: yes.
Like I said in the beginning, there are many reasons for why people bind. But mine is dysphoria, so that is the only thing I can talk about here.
Dysphoria is not a joking matter. It is often a very intense and painful kind of suffering. And taking these risks is often still better than having to deal with the dysphoria that we have when we are not binding.
This may be difficult to understand if you are not dysphoric yourself. But please try to understand that people would not knowingly be taking these risks if we didn’t feel like we needed to.