How to use a binder safely: A transgender and non-binary guide

Trans guy Ray and Nneka, who is non-binary, share their experiences of wearing a binder (PinkNews)

For some transgender and non-binary people, wearing a binder can be a useful tool to deal with gender dysphoria.

Using advice from the LGBT Foundation, we have created a video guide on how to wear a binder safely.

The video guide features Ray, who is transgender, and Nneka, who is non-binary, as they share their experiences of wearing a binder and respond to some commonly asked questions around binding—watch the guide below:

What is binding?

Binding is a technique used to reduce the appearance of a person’s chest. Transgender people might use binding to relieve gender dysphoria.

However, not all trans masculine and non-binary people who have not had surgery bind, and equally not all people who bind identify as transgender, gender-non-conforming or non-binary.

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Are binders dangerous?

“Binding is not without physical risks but for many people who decide to bind, these risks are worth the emotional relief and safety they provide,” the LGBT Foundation told PinkNews.

“If not used correctly, a binder can cause back problems, restrict breathing or blood flow, and even crack ribs.”

How to use a binder safely

The LGBT Foundation recommends following these safety guidelines:

1. Acquire a binder from a reputable source such as GC2B in the US or Spectrum Outfitters in the UK and expect that it may take a while to find a binder that fits you well

2. Measure your chest area as instructed by the supplier’s website

3. Listen to your body and take a break if you need to—especially in the summer when it’s hot

4. Talk to a professional if you experience any pain while binding

5. If possible, ask someone to help put on and take off your binder at first so you can learn to safely put it on correctly

Wearing a binder: What to avoid

The LGBT Foundation recommends the following:

1. Do not use Ace bandages or Duct tape to bind with—they are not meant for binding, don’t move with your body and can cause physical harm

2. If you are between sizes, opt for the larger size—you can always return it if it turns out to be too big

3. Do not regularly bind for more than eight to 10 hours at a time—take breaks and days off if you’re just going to be at home

4. Do not double bind–alternatives such as wearing two t-shirts are a healthier way to give the impression of a flatter chest

5. Do not sleep in your binder or wear it for exercise—you can wear a swimming binder or a sports bra

Alternative to binders and binding

Binding isn’t for everyone and certainly not something trans people should feel pressure to do.

If you can, consider being open to family and friends about binding as this may help you to take breaks while you are with them, the LGBT Foundation suggests.

Exercise can help change some of the breast tissue in pecs, although you should not work out in a binder.

Another alternative to wearing a binder is TransTape, which was invented by a trans guy who couldn’t find a binder that worked for him.

You can also wear a stretched-out or looser binder, a sports bra, or layered clothing to mask your chest shape.

LGBT Foundation is a charity, based in Manchester, offering support and information to the LGBT+ community.