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Lets Talk Binding!
Note: When talking about binding, the terms “chest” and “breast tissue” are used throughout this post in hopes of minimizing potential for dysphoria for some readers. I’m open to suggestions if there are terms that work better for people!
What is binding?
Binding is a way for folks to minimize the appearance of breast tissue on their chest via compression wear. This apparel traditionally looks like a sports bra or a tank top, often called “binders.” They’re typically made of a nylon/spandex blend.
Generally, those who bind are gender nonconforming (GNC) and trans-masculine babes. These folks may want to have a flatter chest for all kinds of reasons. Binding is often a practice for trans and GNC people who are experiencing gender dysphoria. They may feel discomfort or distress at not only the sight of their breast tissue, but also the feel, the way their chest looks in clothing, and the way they are perceived in the world. Creating a flatter chest may help them feel more masculine and therefore more aligned in a mind/body/spirit sorta way. Super awesome if you ask me.
Additionally, some people bind because they just want to finally be able to wear that favorite button up comfortably without the buttons doing that thing around the chest area. You know, when your shirt buttons stretch open and you can see through from the side? So annoying. It’s also quite common for people to bind for cosplay.
Other times, binding is crucial for safety. Trans folks may need to hide their breast tissue in order to “pass” as a cisgender male for fear of being subject to ridicule or violence if they are outed.
Fatties bind too!
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of representation in media of fat folks who bind. Our most common example of a person who binds their chest is a thin, white, trans-masculine person. There are totally brands out there making binders in extended sizes. The problem is that they generally tap out at a 3-4x.
(It’s also important to note that there are brands who have recently started creating skin tone binding materials, like gc2b. We still have a long way to go to cover the range required to be fully inclusive – but this is a step in the right direction).
So this is where I come in. As a nonbinary, trans-masculine, super-fat (I’m a size 30/5-6x), I’ve experienced some real issues trying to find binders that fit. It’s so vital that we consider safety when binding, especially for us plus size babes. I know it can be frustrating when a brand doesn’t quite reach your size range, and you want to try and squeeze into a 3x even though you’re typically a 4x. Binding can be painful and lead to serious medical concerns if done improperly. Lets go over some rules for safe binding.
Do not bind with ace bandage or tape. You may have seen that hella popular video of GNC fox Ruby Rose switching things up from high femme to super masc in the bathroom, using ace bandage to bind their chest. This is unsafe! You do not want to restrict lung capacity or put unsafe pressure on your ribcage. Using anything other than an official binder would result in inconsistent compression and tightness. Ace bandage tightens as the day goes on which is incredibly unsafe for your ribs and lungs. Trying to breathe while strapped into inelastic products can result in a cracked rib and slow and dangerous constriction.
If you have the financial means, please set yourself up for safety and success by purchasing a proper binder.
6-8 hours max. Don’t exceed the maximum time spent in a binder. Even when it fits super well, your body still needs a break from being in compression gear. Take generous breaks. Never sleep in your binder.
Do not try and squeeze into a size that is not your size. Trust me, I get it. I bought a 4x binder a few years ago when I wore a 5x in shirts because its the highest size the company offered. You may be thinking, “well its supposed to be tight, right?” That’s what I thought. You may even be thinking that the emotional relief you’ll feel with a flat chest will be worth it. I’ve been there.
Yes, binders are supposed to compress. But these sizes are listed as they are for a reason. They are made to compress the right amount. If you feel like you can’t breathe, its too tight. If you feel like you can’t move, its too tight. If you feel like you’re stuck in the binder and can’t even get out – its far too tight!
Look at the size guide. Get out a measuring tape and get those measurements. Don’t settle. You deserve the best fit.
Where do plus size babes get binders?
After feeling discouraged from my first binding experience, I gave up for a few years. At a size 28/30, I couldn’t imagine any company would offer my size. I didn’t want to be disappointed again. But the dysphoria about my chest sometimes feels unbearable. Especially when trying to hide via sports bras (which doesn’t work super well for someone with a huge chest). When I got into blogging, I thought I’d try again and search around for something that truly fits. I know there are so many plus size folks out there looking for resources, too. So I reached out to Shapeshifters.
Shapeshifters is a nonbinary and genderqueer owned business based out of Vermont, US. My experience with them has been incredible! They hand-make every binder and therefore have an unlimited size range. They require a few measurements and truly value bodies for being diverse and unique.
“[We’re] passionate about bringing everyone safe, effective, comfortable, and fashionable garments that allow everyone, no matter their needs, to express their gender in a way that brings them joy.” – Shapeshifters
I had my partner help me take all the measurements using the guide on the Shapeshifters website, (which is super helpful by the way). When you add a product to your cart, you’ll get a pop up window that looks like the one below. Go ahead and get the measurements ahead of time so you can just pop them into this window when you get all excited about the stellar options Shapeshifters has.
Prices range from about $35-80, which is reasonable considering the fact that you’re getting a garment hand made just for you. They even offer free alterations if your binder doesn’t fit just right. When I received my mesh binder from them, it fit differently than the traditional black binder I got. I just sent it back with my adjustments needed and the folks at Shapeshifters had it turned around in no time.
Shapeshifters also has the most creative and fun patterns and add ons I’ve ever seen. Want a zipper to help get in and out? Theyve got it. Thinking mesh? Super. Another perk is that all of Shapeshifters binders are safe to swim in!
Doesn’t apply to you, not into binding, or have money to give? Here’s how you can help!
I noticed on the Shapeshifters website that they had a section called Pay It Forward. This section is dedicated purely to donations. Every time the fund reaches a multiple of $50, they do a chest binder giveaway! I nearly cried when I saw this. My social worker brain lit the heck up and was all, “think of the youth!” This is such a beautiful way for folks with financial means to give a garment to a person in need that could help them tremendously.
Allies, get on board! The need for binding affects so many individuals and is often crucial to the emotional wellbeing of many folks within (but not limited to) the LGBTQ community!! You can donate as little as $1.