CHEST BINDING GUIDE

Join us as we explore chest binding, and look at how chest binding can impact physical health and mental health. We've got guidance on how to choose the right binder for you and how to choose the correct size. It's important to know how to wear and wash your binder safely. We've also found charities and organisations who offer free binders to those who cannot afford to buy one.
CONTENTS:
- Who might use a chest binder?
- What are the benefits of wearing one?
- What are the physical health impacts of wearing one?
- How can these physical health impacts be reduced?
- How can I take good care of my binder?
- How to measure your chest for a binder.
- Where to get a free binder.
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who might use a chest binder?

 
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Chest binders are sometimes used by trans men and boys, non-binary people, gender non-conforming people and those who want their chest to appear flatter or more 'masculine'.
"For me the reason I bind is because it makes my body feel more like mine, you know?" 

what are the benefits of wearing a chest binder?

 
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Mental Health Benefits of Chest Binding

  • Binding can improve mental health for those experiencing gender dysphoria! 70% of surveyed people reported a positive mood after starting to bind compared to just 7% before.* 

  • Studies also show decreases in suicidal thoughts, anxiety and dysphoria and increased self- esteem, confidence and ability to go out safely in public.

"I wear a chest binder! I’m non-binary, but when I got my first binder I was still figuring stuff out. 

I knew I really didn’t like my chest so I thought I’d try a binder and see how I felt. As soon as I put it on - it was gender euphoria and I knew it was right for me. It’s been about 5 years of binding now and whilst my mental health hasn’t been stable through those five years, the binding is not to blame. It makes me feel much more confident in my own body  and I feel like people see me how I see myself . Hopefully one day I’ll get top surgery and not have to bind but right now binding works for me."

"I bind because it helps my dysphoria but also helps me move safely in the world since I haven't been able to get surgery in a timely manner. Since I'm on hormones and transitioning socially and legally, it's important for me to be able to pass on a daily basis to avoid transphobia and legal/identification issues"

"I used to bind because it made the wait for top surgery easier - it allowed me to continue living my life more comfortably than if I did not bind. I started binding roughly 5 years before starting hormones, and 5.5 years before top surgery, so I would have missed out on a lot of opportunities during those years if I did not have the option to bind. For me, it reduced dysphoria and made things a little more bearable during that time."

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28 of the most common side effects:

  • Chest pain

  • Shoulder pain

  • Back pain

  • Poor posture

  • Numbness

  • Headaches

  • Overheating

  • Lightheadedness & dizziness

  • Shortness of breath 

  • Abdominal pain

  • Itching

  • Skin changes

  • Skin infection

  • Acne

what are the physical health impacts of wearing one?

 

  • Rib fractures

  • Rib & spine changes

  • Shoulder joint “popping”

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle wasting

  • Digestive issues

  • Heartburn

  • Weakness

  • Cough

  • Respiratory infections

  • Breast changes

  • Breast tenderness

  • Scarring

  • Swelling

 
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"The first time I put on a binder was the first time I felt confident and comfortable in my own skin since adolescence. Because of how good it felt, and how I chased that feeling, I ignored signs from my body that I was pushing it too far. It's taken me a long time to accept that both of these things were true: first, that my life was better when I regularly wore a binder. And second, that my body was worth looking after. Binding helps me breathe more easily, but it should never come as a detriment to my own health."

how can these physical health impacts be reduced?

 
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  • Use an article of clothing specifically designed to be a chest binder (or a sports bra). Do not try to make your own and do not use bandages or tape to bind your chest. 

  • Wear a chest binder that is the correct size for you. Wearing a binder that is too small can cause damage.

  • Wear your binder for no more than 8 hours per day.

  • Take at least one day off per week from wearing a binder.

  • Never sleep in your binder. 

  • If you have to wear your binder for more than 8 hours (e.g if you have work or school) take short breaks for a few minutes (e.g in a toilet or private breakroom) and breath with the binder off.

  • Take 10-20 deep breaths each time you take your binder off at night, and when you are having breaks from your binder throughout the day. This will help identify if you have any areas of pain, and can also prevent regular coughs and colds turning into more serious chest infections.

  • Wash & moisturise your skin regularly to avoid acne and other skin infections. 

  • Wash your binder regularly to maintain good skin hygiene.  

  • You should not wear your binder if you have COVID-19 or a chest infection. Allow your body to recover before wearing your binder again.

  • Do not wear your regular binder for exercising. Wear a sports bra or a binder in a bigger size.

  • Do not swim whilst wearing your regular binder as it will shrink when wet. There are binders available which are made specifically for swimming. 

how can i take good care of my binder?

 
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  • Wash your binder regularly to avoid acne & skin infections.

  • Hand wash or use the delicate setting (hand washing is recommended) on your washing machine.

  • Do not tumble dry your binder.

  • Machine washing or tumble drying your binder can reduce its elasticity.

how to measure your chest for a binder

 
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  • Do not choose a binder that is too small for you. Choose the correct size

  • When wearing your binder, you should be able to breathe normally and without trouble.

  • Each chest measurement should be taken all the way around your torso. The measuring tape should not compress your chest tissue but should touch your body. If the measuring tape is not touching your body - it’s too loose.

  • Different binder companies will have different sizing guides, so it's best to check the guidance for each binder you look at. Don't assume that all companies use the same measurements in the same places. The guidance they provide is to keep its customers safe, so do your research!  

  • If you get a second-hand binder from a friend, or an app like Depop, you should try to find out if it has been hand washed or machine washed. This will give you an idea of whether the elasticity will be safe for you. You will need to take extra care when doing your tester breaths when you first try the binder on, as any measurements may not be as accurate as a new binder because it will have been worn and washed.

where to get a free binder

 
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There are lots of charities and projects that provide free binders for people who cannot afford to buy one. Some of these groups also accept donations of binders that are no longer needed.

  • Head to Safe2Trans and click on 'Free Binders'. You'll be able to see which binders are currently available in their store. Some of the binders are pre-loved, and others are brand new.

  • The MORF website explains how their free binder scheme works, and how you can claim a free binder, or donate one you no longer need. All they ask is that you cover the cost of postage.

  • Gender Swap have partnered with gc2b to provide free binders for people over the age of 16, who cannot afford one. They provide a fitting service to ensure you have the correct binder size. 

  • Scottish Binders provide free binders to people in Scotland. They also accept donations of binders that people no longer need.

  • Point of Pride are based in the USA, but ship internationally. They have both pre-loved and brand new binders from their partner, gc2b. 

*Peitzmeier S, Gardner I, Weinand J, Corbet A, Acevedo K. Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community-engaged, cross-sectional study. Cult Health Sex. 2017;19(1):64-75. Epub 2016/06/15. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2016.1191675. PubMed PMID: 27300085