Chest Binding 101

What are these, anyway?

Chest binders are undergarments meant to flatten the chest. Many folks of many genders wear them for many reasons.

What folks?

Trans men, of course; nonbinary/genderqueer folks who don’t consider themselves strictly men or women; gender-fluid folks who have one gender one day, and another the next; trans women who aren’t “out” yet; cis men and women; pretty much anyone who has a chest they want to reduce the size of.

What reasons?

Gender dysphoria; to “pass” as a man in day-to-day life; breast reduction and back pain relief; for dancing; for archery; for other sports; because traditional bras are uncomfortable; for sensory reasons; post-surgical recovery; costuming; or simply for the look.

Wait, but that includes me! Could I wear a binder?

Sure you could! We’re not the Binder Gatekeepers, we’re just a couple of queer nerds who think spandex is cool and that squishing underwear should be more accessible.

Are they safe?

In general, yes. If it hurts when you put it on, then no, and you should take it off right away. We recommend not binding for longer than you have to – the conventional wisdom dictates an eight-hour maximum, but this number will vary widely from person to person. Take weekends off from binding if you can. It is never a good idea to wear your binder to bed.

In addition, many potential individual issues may hinder breathing and make binding variably unsafe, including but not limited to: asthma, scoliosis, chronic chest pain, fibromyalgia, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and preexisting chest injuries or respiratory illnesses. We blog extensively about binding with various conditions, and making binders which are helpful for people with some of these conditions, under the tag Binding Safety. Please do peruse this link if you have any concerns!

Can’t I just bind with ace bandages? Or sports bras?

For your sake, please don’t!

Ace bandages get tighter as the day wears on. They will slowly constrict around your chest like a very flat snake and eventually crack your ribs.

Anything inelastic, like duct tape or saran wrap, goes up against the pressure of your lungs expanding. Breathing with it is even more likely to bruise or crack a rib.

As for sports bras: the tight elastic in straps, hems, and underbust bands is not meant to actually compress your chest. Applying narrow bands of pressure around the ribcage creates a real risk of rib dislocation.

We know these are all very popular ways to portray binding; we’ve seen all of these in webcomics, comic books, manga, music videos, TV shows, movies, the whole field. We make binders so that you can feel as good about yourself as you felt about that one character, without the attendant health risks.