Guest written by Dusty Howard, a trans-masc boxer, poet, and cultural alchemist. He is a writer & a fighter who builds worlds with words. He is following his dreams in Los Angeles, making perfume, and writing his first novel filled with lies and magic. You can follow his thirst traps @transsexualdreamboat or find more of his writing at his website.
Many transgender and non-binary people wear binders as an act of gender affirmation and to feel more at home in their bodies. Chest binding is a process of compressing breast tissue to create the appearance of a flatter chest. Binding is for anyone who wants their chest to appear less visible for a more masculine or non-binary appearance.
Some people bind their chests daily for a safer or more streamlined aesthetic, while others only bind occasionally or in specific circumstances. No matter how often you bind, there are some tips and tricks to help you learn how to wear a binder safely and take care of yourself while doing so.
A binder is the safest and easiest way to bind your chest
A binder is a tight fitting compression undergarment—usually made from elastic or stretchable fabric—that is designed to flatten and compress the chest to make it appear more masculine. Binders are usually the safest way to bind the chest, especially if you are binding all day or for multiple hours at a time as they offer the most compression of the chest with the safest materials.
Wearing a binder can be a great solution for trans masculine people who aren’t able to (or don’t want to) get top surgery but want a flatter chest for whatever reason. Some people bind to alleviate feelings of gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a term that describes a sense of unease that someone might have because their gender does not align with their sex assigned at birth. Dysphoria can manifest as a generalized feeling or as an acute discomfort with a specific part of your body.
Not all transgender people experience dysphoria, and it’s important to know that dysphoria doesn’t make someone more or less trans. Those who do experience gender dysphoria can develop depression or anxiety that can inhibit daily life functions. Wearing a binder can help manage or limit the amount of dysphoria you might feel about your chest, especially in public.
Finding the right binder can be a tricky process! Luckily, New York Toy Collective has a line of binders that are designed specifically for trans masculine people. The NYTC binders are comfortable and work great for long-term use. The binders come in two styles: mid-length or long. You can either tuck the longer length binder into your pants or opt for the mid-length binder for less bulk when you layer under another tank top or t-shirt.
Gender Fluid Mid-Binder (Black), $33.00
Available in sizes Medium - 3XL
These binders are designed with a discrete white matte finish that mimics a classic white undershirt. They come with a breathable, moisture-wicking lining to keep everything dry on those hot sweaty summer days. The NYTC binders are designed with full movement in the arms for better mobility, a low neckline to reduce visibility, and additional stitching in the seams for extra durability.
No matter what you’ve seen on TV, it’s important to never bind using materials like ace bandages or duct tape as they can cut into the skin, restrict oxygen intake, or even break ribs. Remember that a binder is the safest and easiest way to bind your chest, especially for everyday use.
Buy the Right Size Binder for Your Body
It’s important to buy the right size binder for your chest and body. Binders are already designed to be tight and compress the chest. You should make sure that your binder is snug, but it shouldn’t feel too tight that it hurts or becomes difficult to breathe deeply.
You may want to buy a smaller size to increase the amount of compression, but this can make it difficult to breathe and end up digging into your armpits- especially after long periods of use. Make sure that you take measurements carefully and don’t buy a binder that is too tight.
NYTC Mid Length Binder, $55.00
Available in sizes Small - XXL
If you are in your first six months of starting testosterone HRT or planning to start soon also make sure to buy a size that can accommodate any incremental weight gain or loss that might come with T.
- Small: 34-35 Inches
- Medium: 36-37 Inches
- Large: 38-40 Inches
- XL: 41-43 Inches
(If you need an XXS or an XXL, make sure to visit the NYTC website to snag yours).
If you can, get a friend to help you take measurements with a soft tape measure. First, measure under the armpits above your breast tissue. Next, wrap the tape around the spot where your chest protrudes the most. Add both of these numbers together and divide by two. That number should be your correct binder size.
Limit the Amount of Time You Bind
While it can be hard for some people not to bind all the time, it’s important to limit the amount of time you spend with a binder on. Don’t wear your binder when you sleep and try not to bind when working out. If your dysphoria persists at night time, try laying t-shirts or wearing a smaller undershirt underneath a baggy shirt during the night.
NYTC Long Length Binder, $64.00
Available in sizes Small - XXL
Try not to bind for more than 8 hours consecutively each day. If this isn’t possible, try not to bind for 12 hours. Schedule breaks during the day when you can take off your binder and rest. If this is your first time binding, try to only wear your binder for a few hours a day until you get used to the feeling.
Air Everything Out
Binders are made with tight materials that aren’t the best at allowing air flow or proper ventilation. If you plan on binding in the summer or live somewhere hot and muggy, it’s important to take your binder off and air everything out between uses. Sweating under binders is unavoidable, but you can develop a rash, chafing, or irritated skin, including fungal infections without the proper care.
Make sure that you regularly wash your binder in the machine (check the laundry care directions) and air dry your binder between uses. You can also try wearing a thin undershirt underneath your binder or using a body powder to help prevent irritation. Make sure to lay your binder flat or hang it on a clothes line to dry.
Stretch Your Body When You are Not Binding
Binding for long periods of time can take a toll on your body and lead to back pain or muscle soreness. When you take your binder off, make sure to stretch and open up your upper back and chest. This can be anything from rolling around on a foam roller or giving yourself a pectoral massage with a tennis ball.
You can also practice deep breathing exercises throughout the day to help ease the body and tension that you have in your chest. These are also great techniques for people who have gotten top surgery or have ever lived with chest dysphoria as your body can still be struggling with the effects years after binding.
Just remember, that whether or not you bind your chest is a deeply personal decision. Wearing a binder does not make you more or less masculine. Your relationship to your body doesn’t have to have any bearing on your gender identity. Stay safe out there in your binders babes!