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What is a chest binder?

Understand binding options,
risks, and preventative care

James Kearslake
James Kearslake

Small business owner,
writer, trans, mental
health advocate

Table of Contents

A chest binder, or breast binder, is an undergarment that many trans men and non-binary people wear under their clothes. It aims to flatten the chest area to provide a more masculine physique, and give off total masc vibes.

A trans and non-binary person’s need to vibe their gender is an instinctive feeling we cannot explain. It’s simply within us – we know how we’re meant to feel.

Chest binders offer trans-masc guys a temporary route to their gender euphoria.

And we all deserve to feel gender euphoria, whether trans or cis.

How a binder works

A binder works in the same way as a compression top or sports bra. Made with thicker materials, or a combination of materials, they compress the chest area to leave a flatter finish.

However, with this comes risks in constriction of airways, discomfort, and sometimes skin rashes. 

Some binders are also designed for under water so people can go swimming – but please always check your binder label first. Using a binder that absorbs water, combined with constricted lungs and mobility, may put you at very serious risk in the water.

Cason Genovese l How to bind with trans tape l What is a chest binder l Transgender & Non-binary undergarments l Trans Life l LGBTQ Wellness
Cason Genovese looking 🔥 teaching binding with trans tape

Why people bind

People bind to soften the gender dysphoria they’re experiencing within themselves.

Gender dysphoria is a complex experience that we all feel differently. Often trans people feel dysphoria towards their body, not feeling that they’re body aligns with their internal sense of self. This dysphoria of our bodies can lead to a very deep hatred towards ourselves, leading to anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide.

Others can feel more comfortable in their bodies, but their gender expression causes a deep sense of gender dysphoria. Taking myself as an example, while I don’t wish to transition my physical body, my external presentation needs to be feminine to feel at ease within myself. The standard ‘men’s jeans and a top‘ triggers an overwhelming anxiety within me as I know I’m not being true to who I am.

Binders therefore help those who want to present masculine with feeling comfort within themselves.

It can also help people explore their masculinity or gender identity, without the need to pursue long-term, life affirming treatments like hormones or gender affirming surgery.

While it doesn’t remove the gender dysphoria that trans people may experience towards their body, it can help soften the dysphoria and anxiety they feel each day.

Types of binders available

The conventional binder used is the commercial binder now widely available at online retailers in the UK and US.

The commercial binder is usually offers the best form of compression, but with it poses the additional risk of constricting the lungs.

These binders are available with a high crop, mid crop around the belly button, and some go all the way to the waistline.

It’s important to determine which is the most suitable for your body shape, comfort, and helps you achieve gender euphoria.

Other ways of binding include:

  • trans tape
  • sports compression tops
  • using a sports bra
  • layering tops

Risks with binding

Users need to determine a binder’s level of suitability. With all binders varying in shape, size, comfort, and design, some may pose a greater risk to your body shape than others.

Broadly speaking, risks include:

  • shortness of breath due to constricted airways
  • chest pain from an increased heart rate, resulting from shortness of breath
  • tenderness within the breast or surround tissue
  • fainting due to a shortness of breath or increased heart rate
  • back pain from an affected posture
  • overheating
  • panic attacks brought on by overheating or a shortness of breath
  • itching or skin rashes

Manage risks with binding

Binding can be an effective way to experience gender euphoria, and explore one’s gender without needing to yet decide on surgical changes like top surgery.

However, with anything that poses a risk to us it’s important to do so in moderation, and manage the risks appropriately. 

Gender euphoria or not, the same applies to when wearing your binder.

Your best form of protection is to find a binder, or variety of binders, that’s suitable for your body type and lifestyle. For example you may prefer a more restricted binder while out with friends, but while exercising try something less restrictive which allows for better movement. Although it can feel a challenge exercising when we aren’t in love with our bodies, exercise helps us feel better about ourselves, has positive effects on our mental health, and can help build that masc body you know you’re vibing.

Other ways to prevent long-term effects of binding include:

  • wearing it periodically, preferably for a few hours only
  • give yourself days off; just like trans women might let their beard grow some days, try to find peace with your body on days you need the rest
  • wash your binder regularly to prevent a build of bacteria
  • if you’re experiencing redness or dryness, take a cool shower and moisturise the area with a simple lotion – chemicals won’t help

Most importantly, if you know a binder isn’t working for you just stop using it. There is no gain made in continuing to wear an undergarment that is causing you discomfort or distress.

Where to buy binders in the UK

Chest binders are now widely available at online retailers.

For those who need to ship quickly, Amazon offers a variety of binders that can be delivered at speed. But, as we know with Amazon, you aren’t necessarily purchasing quality, and you’re very unlikely purchasing from the within the trans economy.

Within the UK, two trans owned retailers who have created their own binders from their lives experienced and WIVOV and UK Trans Shop. Both offer a variety of products and styles, and because they’re trans owned if you have questions they can help you find the right product for you.

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