Transgender chest binders: tips and options

Several kinds of specialized clothing are designed to flatten the chest. These are used by all kinds of people:

  • Athletes
  • Performers
  • People experiencing
    • lymphedema
    • unwanted breast tissue (gynecomastia)
    • back pain from excessive breast tissue
    • obesity
    • recovery from chest surgery or rib injuries
  • Trans+ women and transfeminine people who are taking hormones but not out at school or work
  • Trans+ men and transmasculine people prior to or instead of top surgery
  • Gender+ people who like the look and feel or want to reduce dysphoria

Not everyone in these groups chooses to use binders, and those who do have a number of great options.

Warning: don’t use bandages or tape

Some people have used ACE bandages or duct tape because they are cheap, easy to find, and tight. Please do not do this. It’s a bad option:

  • Bandages can tighten the longer you wear them
  • Bandages can compress or even crack your ribs
  • Bandages can make it hard to breathe if too tight
  • Bandages can cause pain that makes rebinding impossible
  • Tape does not stretch, so regular activity can crack a rib.
  • Tape does not breathe, so it can cause skin damage
  • Tape can pull skin off with it when removed

Long-term use of either option may cause tissue damage that can affect the results of future top surgery you might want.

Tight T-shirt under loose layers

Some people with minimal unwanted breast tissue are able to wear a very tight T-shirt, then layer a thicker T-shirt and one or more thick outer shirts and sweaters or jackets over those. Trans women who are taking hormones but not out at work or school are often able to do this as long as needed. This is the safest option in terms of health.

Sports bras

Some people with mild to moderate unwanted breast tissue are able to wear a sports bra designed to keep the chest immobilized during exercise. They then layer a thicker T-shirt and one or more thick outer shirts and sweaters or jackets over those. Others prefer binders because they don’t look like bras.

Binders

Mid-length

  • These cover the ribcage. Some people feel they look a little close to a sports bra.

Full

  • These are like a long tank top that goes down to your hips. They are the most popular kind.

Vest

  • These look like a vest and open on the side or front. A great option for quick binding breaks during the day. They usually come in two fastener types
    • Velcro
      • helpful for weight fluctuations
      • can be noisy when released
    • Zippers
      • more popular option
      • easy to open and close

Binding tips

Binding will not slow or stop breast growth. You need hormone blockers or weight loss for that.

Use the minimum amount of pressure needed to get the look and feel you want. Binding doesn’t have to hurt.

Cooler weather is a chance to reduce the pressure

If it hurts, stop. Pain means you are hurting your body. Try a different option.

Use the minimum amount of time possible. Try not to bind for more than 8 hours a day.

Do not work out in a binder.

Do not sleep in a binder.

Alternate binders based on clothes.

Some binders may be easier to put on by stepping into them like pants, then pulling them up to your chest.

Retailers

If you can’t afford a binder, many LGBT Centers have programs that offer free donated binders to those in need. Some retailers have also developed programs for binder exchanges, giveaways, trade-ins, and other options, especially for younger people.

Danae (trans-missie.com)

Design Veronique (designveronique.com)

FLAVNT (flavnt.com)

GC2B (gc2b.co)

  • Great selection of skin tone binders.

GenderGear (gendergear.ca)

Love Boat (lesloveboat.com)

MyDOUBLEDESIGN (mydoubledesign.com)

Shapeshifters (shapeshifters.co)

T-KINGDOM (t-kingdom.com)

Underworks (underworks.com)

Venus Envy (venusenvy.ca)

XBODY (xbody.co.uk)

Resources

Point 5cc (point5cc.com)

Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide (ftmguide.org)

TransGuys.com (transguys.com)