“Binding” is using clothing or tape to flatten the chest. It may also appear to add depth and side-to-side width to the chest without the prominence of a bustline. Binding can be a great way to explore your gender expression and euphoria sources. It also give you a chance to see what you might look like after flattening top surgery. It can keep you safer in scenarios where a curvier chest might be dangerous. If your gender expression is fluid, it’s a great inexpensive and temporary way to change things up. Plus, it can be lots of fun!
However, there are some risks associated with binding for too long, binding too tightly, or using materials that don’t breathe or move with the body. Safer binding will protect your skin, muscles, ribs, and lung capacity. Safer binding can also help you get your desired results if you are planning on top surgery. The most important things to remember when binding are:
- Don’t use ACE bandages – ACE bandages get tighter as you move, so they can restrict your movement and breathing
- If taping, use medical grade tape like TransTape or kinesiology tape. General-purpose tapes like duct tape or masking tape can irritate or damage your skin and restrict your movement.
- Take binding breaks. If wearing a cloth binder, try to bind for no longer than 8 – 12 hours, and don’t bind while sleeping. Tape binding can last for a few days.
- Learn stretching and breathing exercises to keep your lungs, muscles, and ribs healthy.
Binding With Clothing
The highest amount of flattening can be obtained by wearing a binder specifically designed to flatten the chest. These use strong, lightweight, and stretchy materials to compress chest tissue and spread it against the chest. Binders sometimes have the same fabric all the way around the torso and sometimes use fabric with more stretch/give on the back to reduce pressure on the ribs. For special occasions, you can actually combine tape and a binder for an even smoother silhouette.
If you can’t obtain a binder, some other methods include:
- Layering shirts. The bottom shirt should be tight. Additional layers should be looser. Thicker fabrics that don’t cling as the top layers can smooth out the chest. Too many layers could cause you to overheat or restrict your ability to move.
- Sports bras. Sports bras are designed to provide some compression. You can layer sports bras or combine a sports bra with layered shirts.
- Sport Compression shirts. Compression shirts provide support across the entire torso and can flatten chest tissue and other curves. Note: surgical recovery shirts should not be used as binders.
Pro tips: look for wicking fabrics that move sweat away from the skin.
- short tank
- long tank
- Some are put on over the head and some have zippers, velcro, or other fasteners
- swim binders
Cloth Binder Tips:
- Hand wash and air dry your binders. This will help your binders last longer.
- Get the right size binder: it is important to give your ribs room.
- Wearing a very thin shirt underneath your binder or using skin powder/anti-chafing gels can help prevent skin irritation.
Binding With Tape
Tape binding uses medical-grade kinesiology tape to flatten chest tissue. Binding tape can be worn for multiple days at a time, and is waterproof. For safety and breathing, make sure tape DOES NOT go all the way around the torso. An additional perk of tape binding is higher control over where tissue is moved. Often, binding tape is used to push tissue out towards the sides of the chest. Binding tape is available in a variety of colors to either match skin tones or make a statement with bold color. Tapes are also available in different widths.
Pro tips: apply oil to the top of the tape when you’re ready to remove the tape, and remove the tape slowly. Oil works to break down adhesives and make removal easier (like using peanut butter to get gum out of hair!) It may be easier to remove your tape under running water while in the shower. Stop use if you develop a rash, itching, or broken skin. Milk of Magnesia can be applied to the skin and allowed to dry before taping to reduce skin irritation from adhesive. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for their recommended ways to apply and remove your tape. Test strips can help prevent large areas of skin irritation.
Our favorite safer binding handouts are from Callen Lorde and Fenway Health. Both include tips and resources for free or low-cost binders.
Free and Low-Cost Binder Programs That We Know About:
- Point of Pride’s Free Chest Binder Program
- TransEssentials Free Youth Binder Program
- TransFamily Support Services Gender Junk Program
- Brother 2 Brother Binder Program
- GenderBands Binder Giveaways
GenderBands and GenderGear have offered binder donation and recycling programs in the past
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