Transgendered individuals often struggle with body dysphoria, which makes them feel out of place in their bodies. It can also bring about serious mental health issues and other struggles when a person doesn't feel comfortable or happy with their bodies.
In FTM individuals, one of the biggest pain points is usually the chest area. The male and female bodies have distinct profiles, and in women, one standout feature is the breasts. For an FTM individual, it can be tough to not feel upset about having breasts that aren't in sync with their own idea of who they are.
One option for handling this and feeling better about yourself is chest binding. However, before you move into binding your chest, it helps to get some background information to ensure you do it healthily and safely.
The Function of a Binder
Pride in Practice explains that a chest binder serves the main purpose of flattening the breasts. It also helps with creating a more masculine profile and allows an individual to "pass" for male more easily. On a deeper level, it can help ease the symptoms of body dysphoria.
A binder may also be helpful after top surgery. The doctor will recommend wearing it to help with healing and to avoid complications. Most people will have to use one for about a month after surgery.
Types of Binders
A chest binder is a thick material in a tube shape. It should have some stretch to it. Common materials that manufacturers use to make binders include spandex and nylon. You can get an FTM tank top binder on Confidencebodywear or from other retailers who sell trans-friendly items.
There are two general types of binders: short or long. Short binders will only go to about your waist. They can roll up easily, which can make them accentuate the areas you're trying to flatten. Long binders go past your waist. They may still roll, but you can easily hold them in place by wearing a belt.
Generally, you want to choose your binder based on your body type and the weight you carry in your waist. Long styles are the better choice if you have a little extra weight in your midsection.
Important Guidelines for Using a Binder
There are wrong and right ways to bind your chest. A binder is the best and safest option. The New York Times cautions that you should never use bandages or duct tape to bind. These things will restrict your movement because they aren't meant for use as a binder.
They don't let you to breathe correctly or allow proper airflow. You can suffer horrible side effects from binding in this way, such as fluid build-up in the lungs and skin infections.
Even with a binder, you need to be aware of the proper way to use it. You should never wear it at night or for longer than 10 hours at a time. Your body needs a break. This will also allow you time to wash it.
You shouldn't wear it in the shower, but you can swim in one. You should know, though, that getting wet will alter the tightness a little. Don't worry because it will bounce right back once you wash it. Finally, don't ever wear more than one binder at a time.
How to Buy a Binder
It's essential to make sure your binder fits you correctly. If it's too tight, it can lead to issues with breathing and circulation. It could also cause skin damage, back pain, and overheating. A bad-fitting binder can lead to lightheadedness, posture issues, and even broken ribs.
You should never feel like it restricts your breathing, but be aware that binders aren't really comfortable. It may rub and irritate, and it will fit snuggly. It will also cause sweating. You can wear a thin shirt under it to help with this, or use cornstarch on your body before putting it on.
A binder also can't completely flatten your chest unless you're quite flat-chested, to begin with. Most people, though, will need to use layering of clothing to get the flattest look. It's likely you'll have to experiment for the look you want with each shirt you wear.
You want to aim for a proper fit that will minimize pain, discomfort, sweating, and irritation. In most cases, you'll want to measure to get the best fit. Make sure when taking your measurements that you keep the tape snug. It's a good idea to ask someone to help you take measurements. The measurements you want to get are around the fullest part of the chest and underneath the chest.
Some companies may also size by height and weight, so make sure you have accurate numbers here, too. You should read reviews for any notes about the binders fitting loose or tight when making your size choice.
How to Put on a Binder
Once you have your binder, you may feel the hard part is over, but putting one on for the first time can be challenging. Remember, it's a tight tube, which isn't going to just slide over your head easily like a shirt.
Luckily, there's a trick to putting on a binder that anyone can use. Start by turning it inside out. Then, holding it upside down, step into it and pull it up to your waist. It should still be inside out. Now, grab the bottom and turn it right side out by using the sleeves. Insert your arms and adjust as needed.
How to Care for a Binder
If you want your binder to last, you need to take good care of it. You'll want to wash it like any other clothing item. A dirty binder can lead to acne and skin infections. Not to mention, if you don't wash it regularly, it will begin to smell.
It's almost always best to hand-wash and hang dry a binder. Washing and drying in a machine will break down the elasticity and material, making it less effective more quickly.
You should never iron it or use bleach when washing it. Also, always wash it in cold water.
Getting a binder can be a big step for an FTM individual. Having this item can help you take big leaps in accepting your body and feeling more at home in it. Now that you know everything about binders and how to use them, you're ready to make the purchase and get your own binder.