Does this make me look flat? - Binders
Updated: Aug 5, 2019
(Originally Aired on 7/13/19)
So binding is generally considered to go hand-in-hand with trans-masculine individuals who were assigned female at birth. The process is simply the binding of the breast tissue down to flatten the chest and present it as more masculine in appearance. While the process is widely used by man trans-masculine individuals, there does come with it certain risks, which can be worsened due to improper binding methods.
So then what makes the difference between proper and improper binding? Well, the most simple way to think of it is “does it hurt to bind?” and “can I breathe?” Binding should never interfere with normal daily activities. If you find that your chest hurts, or you’re easily winded when doing simple tasks like walking or climbing stairs, then your binder is too tight, and you should immediately remove it. Regular improper binding can cause lasting damage to your rib cage and respiratory system, so please take care of yourself first and foremost.
On that note, it is not recommended to use any kind of bandage or tape to bind, specifically if you are doing a wrap-around method in which you are simply wrapping the bandage or tape all around your chest. The reason for this is because it’s very easy to wrap it too tightly, and you may not realize it’s too tight immediately. Once you do realize it’s too tight, you may already be out in public, or there may be too much bandage or tape to get it off quickly.
It’s recommended to use a reusable cloth binder, or in certain cases kinesiology tape. However, the same rule against the wrap around still pertains to the kinesiology tape.
Types of binding/binders
So what types of binders should you get? Well there’s a growing amount of companies on the market, with different designs and price points. Let’s take a look at some of the styles.
There’s the solid cloth binders, which are considered the standard for binding. They have a non-stretchy fabric on the front, and a semi-stretchy fabric on the back. The back fabric can be either a mesh or solid material, but usually has enough give to it so that you can get it over your head and have it pull everything in.
There’s also styles that have either a zipper, velcro, or hook and eye closure system. These styles usually do not have as much stretch to the back fabric, so the closures are there to allow you in and out of the binder. Certain closures like the velcro and hook and eye allow for more variance in how tight or loose the binder is at any point in time. This allows you to adjust it at any point in the day as needed. However, these styles tend to lack in either comfort or ease of getting it on by yourself, depending on the location of the closure and how it lines up. For example, a velcro closure on a binder can easily be mis-matched when you close it, causing the scratchy velcro to dig into your skin over the day. Alternately the hook and eye closures usually have the closure all the way down either the side or front of the binder, which adds time trying to maneuver them to get in and out.
The standard cloth binders are not recommended to wear during exercise, which can be very unfortunate for larger busted masculine individuals who want to go to the gym. For those purposes, there are binding bras out there. These act and look very much like a regular sports bra. However, the cups of the bra do not have as much give as a normal sports bra, still allowing the chest area to be pressed down and flattened out. It just won’t make you as flat as a standard binder. The trade-off is stretching and breathing is a lot easier, which is important for any exercise regimen.
You also have the option of kinesiology tape. The way that this tape works is that you place one end over your nipple, pull the whole breast down, and secure the rest of the tape to your side. This method of binding is not always effective for people with larger cup sizes, as those people have a lot more to try to pin down. You also want to be careful of things like any body hair in that area, and how much the tape is pulling on your skin.
Two of the most well known brands out there are underworks and gc2b. If you ask a fan of either brand which one is best you will get polarizing answers. Kind of like marvel vs dc but less drama. Maybe. From what I've seen, the biggest difference come down to the build of the binders and the price points. I've had both brands, and from my experience, both are sturdy and do what they're supposed to. However, I found gc2b to run a little smaller, which can be uncomfortable, especially if you are larger chested. That being said, there are plenty of people who have no issues with the brand and will swear on it to their graves. It really comes down to personal preference.
There are of course many other lesser known brands out on the internet. My biggest suggestion is to submerge yourself into the customer reviews before buying. You may find out useful information about whether the brand runs smaller or bigger, which will help point you in the direction of your proper size.
Speaking of proper size, how to you find that out? Well, any binder manufacturer with buying from should have their own sizing chart available, not one provided by Amazon, don't trust those.
So how do you make sure you’re getting the proper size? Well you need to measure yourself. By that I don’t mean just check your last “real” bra you may have bought. You need a tape measure, which you can usually find at a local dollar store, either by itself or in a sewing kit. Please do not try to use a carpentry tape measure. You know, the stiff ones with the retract button? This needs to be soft to wrap around your torso. Most brands will tell you where they want you to measure for fit, but generally it’s a chest measurement and an underbust. For the chest measurement, wrap it around your back and across the widest part of your bust, which for most bust-havers is around the area of the nipple or a little above. Make sure you’re not wearing a bra or binder when you are measuring, because that will throw off the sizing and you’ll get a binder that’s too small.
For the underbust, do the same thing but, you know….under your bust. You should measure directly under where your bust connects to your rib meat, or where the band of your bra should sit.
Also if you are short on cash for a binder, or have an old one that’s in good condition that you don’t need anymore, there are several organizations that do binder donation charities. Here’s a few of them:
Point of Pride
Links to these will be in the show notes for this episode.
You can also reach out to local trans groups and organizations to see if they have received any donations of binders.