Elijah Cameron (Asheboro, NC) and Red Behnke (Saxapahaw, NC)
You are walking out and about town when suddenly you don’t feel quite right. Your chest feels tight and you find it hard to breathe. Your back is sore and your skin feels pinched. Your pulse quickens and you begin to panic. Why is this happening? It is likely that your breathing and circulation are being cut off. This is because you are not binding safely!
Body dysphoria can often be difficult to cope with, but there are ways to bind without compromising your health. For starters, you should probably know what you might be doing wrong, or what you shouldn’t do in the future. Here are some tips, tricks, and guidelines to consider when creating a masculine appearing chest.
Safety first. As with any shapewear, binding should be approached with careful understanding and respect for your body and its well-being. Extreme binding can cause severe health problems both short and long-term if done incorrectly.
Ace bandages are a big no-no. The use of ace bandages to bind is probably seen the most in pop culture like movies and books, but it is definitely not a good idea. Ace bandages are not made to move with your body, and they can cause serious issues such as tearing muscle, bruising of the ribs, misshaping the spine, and serious lung damage. If you for some reason bind with an Ace bandage, and begin to feel soreness in your back and your chest as well as difficulty breathing or a “chest cold” feeling, take it off immediately. If the pain and breathing difficulty persists for a while after you’ve taken it off, please see a doctor as soon as possible.
Leave tape for arts & crafts. Ductape and other adhesives may seem like a tempting option if you don’t have access to professional binders, but do not do this. Tapes are typically NON-breathable and can cause serious medical problems, including ripping and scarring skin. If you are ever in the unfortunate position of having your chest bound with tape, take a hot shower and slowly peel the bandages off your skin. You can try using lotion as well. If the tape does not remove easily then go to the emergency room.
R & R. Binding more than a couple hours can typically cause aches and back pain. We recommend binding for less than 6-8 hours at a time. Give your body time to rest and recover and don’t sleep in your binder. Sleeping in a binder can cause all sorts of complications including breathing problems similar to sleep apnea and generally interrupt your ability to sleep. Just don’t do this.
Tightness ≠ better binding. The goal is to create a masculine shaped torso, not to crush your ribcage. Many binders work with stretch material to compress your chest but there are binders with non-stretch fronts that focus on altering the silhouette of your chest instead of just compressing the shape already there.
Sport bras. This is not an option many like to hear, especially if chest-binding is part of an androgynous or masculine identity but if you do not have the most accepting guardian figures in your life this may be an option with which to work. Shop around and look for “no bounce” sport bras (such as the Frog Bra) and try on a size or smaller than usual. This combined with clever layering can do wonders.
Layering. Concealing cleavage is not the only thing that will help your androgynous or masculine presentation. The use of clothing layers, patterns, and styles can be a valuable aid. T-shirts, button-ups, and jackets can all help to distract from the shape of your torso. Check out: ftmguide.rassaku.net for an excellent examination clothing and how to manipulate masculine fashion for curved bodies.
- DIY Binders: http://marvinuniverse.tumblr.com/post/34631541789/tutorial-chest-binder
Disclaimer: This guide does not advocate for anything that would compromise your health. Please consult your doctor before making any decisions.