B is for Binding

This is a re-post from KaisLifeInWords, Kai’s old blog, originally posted on April 2nd 2016.

Ah. The classic binder. Underworks 997, full length, double compression. To lots of trans masculine people, they will understand what I mean – though not all. The binder I talk about is one of the most common. But not everyone knows about them, and if they do, they don’t all know the do’s and don’ts, and the best places to buy. Today I am going to cover just that, and give a few safety warnings while I am at it. The post may not be relevant to everyone that follows me but may give you some idea of how it feels to bind.

Header image, multicoloured background, with link to KaisLifeinWords.Wordpress.com in the bottom right corner. Title reads

I have begun with the don’ts as I want to get this out of the way, it is just so damn important.

Don’t bind with bandages. Whatever you do. If you try, myself or Tyler will come and take them off of you. I jest, I mean, we won’t forcibly take them but honestly it is better for yourself if you don’t do it. I bound with bandages for around a year. One year and 4 months post top surgery, I still have issues with my ribs because I permanently damaged them. It just isn’t worth the future pain and suffering you are likely to go through.

Don’t bind in bed. This comes from the same reasoning. It is damaging to your chest. The best way to describe a binder is a piece of material that holds everything down, crushing your skin. They aren’t healthy a lot of the time – especially if they are the wrong size for you – and so wearing them overnight can’t be good. It means all of your internal organs are being crushed because you are laying down, having something press down on your chest. It sure doesn’t sound healthy, and rest assured it is not. Please be careful, think of your life.

A comparison of Bandages v.s. Binder. Image on left has a person with bandages on their chest with a frustrated look on their face. Image on right is of a person with a binder on, their arms are crossed across their chest and they look content. Text is very small but reads next to bandages
Image not my own. Credit goes to original artist. A comparison of Bandages v.s. Binder. Image on left has a person with bandages on their chest with a frustrated look on their face. Image on right is of a person with a binder on, their arms are crossed across their chest and they look content. Text is very small but reads next to bandages “This shit is dangerous and uncomfortable as F@c#! Don’t ever use it unless you are a masochist, or… not even then!” A list then is under these words. “- Doesn’t bind very well – Dangerous to bind with – Uneven pressure around the chest – Easy to break and crack ribs – Worn out easily – Not easy to wash and keep them nice and clean – Slides easily down – Not flexible.” Underneath reads, “Do I need to continue?” Next to the person with a binder on, the text reads “Use a binder instead as it’s a lot more comfortable and safer to use. U will be able to move better and not worry about the binding sliding down or gnawing at your skin.” Underneath is a list again, which reads “-Safer to use than bandages – Even pressure around the chest – Less chance of breaking ribs – Easy to clean and maintain – More flexible to move around in – Nice to train in as well!”

Don’t wear your binder for too long. Again, safety. They all come with warnings on about not wearing for longer than 8 hours at a time. Sometimes this number varies, but it is never more than 12. This is because of the same reason as the not binding in bed, it constricts and crushes you. Wearing it for longer makes it a lot harder to breath and can cause you to pass out in some circumstances. However I do understand that it is not always possible to wear it for less – doing a longer shift at work or such. But try to give yourself breaks. Even 10 minutes in the bathroom pretending you are going for a large number two is better than nothing. You need to give yourself chance to breathe.

Do get yourself a binder in the right size. Getting the wrong size, a size down or whatever, can be really bad for you as they are made to compress anyway. It wont hang loose as it is, and you need to trust that when you buy it. Measure yourself up right and you will be fine. There are official sizing charts for most of the main brands and even the smaller ones can be found on the net if you give it a little search.

Do aim to buy from a reputable seller. The two I would recommend are Underworks and GC2b. These two are top of the market at the moment and come highly recommended. I have only tried Underworks myself as GC2b only came around about 2 months before my top surgery, but a lot of friends have them. They seem to be the best for compression for larger chests, however the stitching does come apart if you wear them all day every day, after around 6 months or so, it may be worth investing in a few to rotate your wearing (something I’d suggest anyway to make sure you have one in the wash and one on).

Comic strip. First large panel on left is of a person with a binder around their waist, nothing on their top half but their chest is obscured by a magazine and them holding a cup of coffee. Second image top right is the person laying on the ground with their head facing the floor, butt in the air. Caption reads
Image not my own. Credit goes to original artist.

Do look at the cheapest method of buying them. If you are in the States, Underworks binders are probably cheapest from the source, their website. However anywhere else and the shipping can be astronomical. Amazon usually stock Underworks binders so it is worth checking them out – usually they are on Prime too! Other places online also sell binders so have a look around. If you want to know you are getting the same one as on the website, check out the pictures, usually on Amazon at least they have the same picture with the same binder, rather than a new picture all together. If it is the same model in the same pose with the same looking binder it is probably the same one.

Some other things to remember

Binding may not make you completely flat. This is okay. If you look at cis guys, how many of them have perfectly flat chests? Past puberty at least? Especially if they are a little/a lot overweight, it is very odd to see them with flat chests. I found myself dysphoric a lot that my chest wasn’t totally flat but when I realised this, it helped a lot. I was a larger guy, and still am, having a perfectly flat chest would just look odd.

There are binder programs out there if you can’t afford it. MORF in the UK do a catalogue each month of donated binders that they only charge postage for, a lot of them are homemade but a lot are not. There is also FTME which is a free youth binder program for folks in the USA, InABind also in the USA, Big Brothers Used Binder Program (USA), Binder Boy’s does a monthly give away, Replace the Ace (USA), Point 5cc T Shirt Company sell trans-friendly t-shirts and giveaway free binders second hand with the purchase of a t-shirt. Also in addition to these on a more low-key format, Navigate Brighton have a stock of donated binders too which are always available should you request them. See this site here for all of the links.

Series of 6 images, first one is a person with a binder in front of them, with a speech bubble saying
Image not mine, credit to original artist.

So tell me, what are your experiences of binding? Trans or not, have you ever tried it? I must say I found them more comfortable than bras, but maybe that was on a psychological level too! Leave me a message in the comments and let me know.

On Monday I will be talking about Coming Out, so keep an eye out for that one! If you still want to join the A-Z Blogging Challenge it is not too late, the list is open for a few more days. Click here to read more blogs and add your own to the list!

Tea anyone?

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