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Binding Doesn't Have To Hurt

Updated on June 24, 2019
Len King profile image

Len is a transman who has flattened his chest in an assortment of ways and in so has injured himself more than necessary.

Tried and True

New Pride Swag!
New Pride Swag! | Source
FINALLY WEAR THAT WHITE SHIRT
FINALLY WEAR THAT WHITE SHIRT | Source

Ouch! Back pain and Large Chest Problems

I'm not trying to scare you, I just want you to be safe! If you have chronic back pain or a large chest, not all binders are made for you.

Deep Breaths

CW: body size, dysphoria

You don't have to be trans or even have dysphoria to bind, it's all about how you want your chest to look. But whether you're cis, trans, GNC, or a blue sea slug, not all binders are made for your body. This is especially true for people of size, or folks with back pain, breathing problems, or large chests.

After a few months of testosterone, my body changed significantly and I realized that my cheap binders and sports bras weren't going to assuage my pervasive dysphoria. My back was in agony and I was having trouble exercising. Even when I was at a healthy (read underweight) BMI, my chest still needed a medium to large sports bra or commercial binder. Over a year of testosterone and a lot of dysphoria landed me at 5'7" and a binder size XL to XXL. After two years of binding that involved not only pain but also criticism from my former partner and some harassment by the TSA in multiple countries, I found ways to make myself more comfy in my body and my binder.

If you relate, here's how to make it better. And, yes, I have done all of these things.

  • Don't sleep in your binder. It inhibits the kind of breathing needed for certain sleep cycles and can cause apnea-like symptoms that will cause a rush of adrenaline because your body thinks it's suffocating. You will be extra super tired if you do this and your chest will hurt.
  • Don't fly in a binder (or a packer). It hella sucks, but the security scanners sense certain heat signatures and densities based on binary sexes. If you are wearing a binder, the scanner may sense that your chest is really dense and a stranger will have to touch your chest in public. If you're wearing a packer, it will sense something cold in your pants and they will have to touch your junk in public.
  • If your binder hurts your back, chest tissue, skin, or lungs, don't wear it. Sizing down is not a good option, no matter how good it looks under your favorite T shirt. If you're buying a binder online, please read the sizing guide and carefully measure yourself to find the proper size. If it still feels too small, return it or give it away. Binders will stretch over time but that doesn't mean you should hurt yourself in the process.
  • Take care of your binder. If you have a commercial binder, it will last longer if it is the proper size. It will also last longer if you wash it as according to the instructions.
  • Don't rip your skin off. If you're binding with KT Tape, be kind to your skin and nips. Try putting silicone self-adhesive pasties on your nipples so you don't rip skin off like I did. When removing the tape, use warm, soapy water or oil and exercise patience.

Swimming in a red binder
Swimming in a red binder

Choosing the right binding method. Yes, I have tried all of them.

  • Sports Bras: Wearing one or more sports bras is a common way to bind. It can be relatively inexpensive, you can try them on it the store, and they are discreet. The result will appear rounder than other binding methods, but depending on your body, you may be able to get pretty flat results.
  • Tape: Personally, I find that binding with KT Tape/TransTape/duct tape is more painful, time consuming, and ineffective than using binders. I hear that it is a good option for people with smaller chests, but when you have to use three or four pieces of tape just to strap them down, it's not worth it.
  • Banages: No. You won't get the results you want, it will slide around, and it can cause bruising/cut off circulation. There are also neoprene bands that will also not give you the results you want.
  • Commercial Binders: There are a million different cheap binders on Amazon, a lot of which are not made for people more than 36" around the chest. Some popular US brands with larger sizes are Underworks, whose bras fit up to 44" and binders fit up to 53", and gc2b, whose binders fit up to 52". I have tried other custom expensive ones from Etsy and the like with mixed results. My best luck has been with gc2b, though with daily wear, they will be in shambles after 6 months.

Try it out!

See what works for you. Your body isn't like anyone else's and will need to adjust to new things. If you can't afford binders, look online at binder donation sites. Or, like, get in contact with me cause I have a bunch.

Be kind to others, but most importantly be kind to yourself. This includes your body.

Thank you! Leave helpful, loving comments only, please!

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