Everything You Need to Know about Binders and Binding
Lately we’ve had a lot of questions about binders: how to get them, how to wear them, and how to care for them. We thought it best to compile to answers to all of these questions for future reference.
How can I get a binder if I can’t afford one?
A lot of guys give away their binders after they get top surgery, often on tumblr, livejournal, youtube, and other sites where transguys gather. If you’re looking for a cheap (or even free) binder, these are great places to start. Search the ftm tag on tumblr and youtube for binder giveaways and put your name in even if you feel you don’t have much of a shot (what’s the worst thing that can happen?). The Big Brothers Used Binder Program also gives away binders to guys who need them but can’t afford them. You could also make your own binder.
How can I make my own binder?
There are many techniques for this, almost all of which have tutorials on youtube. A couple examples are How to Turn Tights into a Binder and Making a Binder (but there are seriously many, many more so look for yourself if you’re interested). A lot of guys also bind using sports bras, usually ones that are a size smaller than what they’d usually wear. This method is particularly useful for guys with smaller chests.
Is binding with duct tape or ace bandages dangerous?
Yes. While there is some argument about this, it’s pretty much accepted that these two methods are not good for your body. Duct tape is particularly bad for the skin and both methods can cause broken ribs, breathing problems, fluid build-up in the lungs, and so on.
How do I buy a binder without having a credit card or without my parents knowing?
A Guide to your FtM Boyfriend covered this quite well in a post awhile back. Her suggestions were to put money on gift card carried by a major credit card company (these are often sold at major retailers like Walmart) which can be used as a credit card but doesn’t require the user to be 18 or leave a paper trail easily found by parents and to have the binder shipped to a friend’s address. Underworks and T-Kingdom (two major supplies of binders) also accept payments via paypal (although, as a side note, you do need a valid checking account to use paypal).
I’m having problems with X, Y, Z while binding. Is this normal/healthy?
These sorts of questions are difficult to answer, because we are not doctors. However, if you are having difficulty breathing, frequently feel nauseous, or are experiencing chest pains this is generally not good! To avoid these issues, it is important to slowly ease the body into binding. Start out by only binding a couple of hours a day to get yourself used to things. Even when you are used to binding and do it full-time, never bind for more than 8 hours or sleep while binding. When you take off your binder, we’ve heard you should take a deep breath and allow yourself to cough a bit to make sure you don’t have fluid in your lungs. Avoid strenuous activity while binding (a lot of guys wear a stretched out binder or looser binder to work out in, or just a sports bra and a baggy shirt). Also, make sure your binder is the correct size. If you’re having difficulty breathing or your stomach is compressed, that is likely a sign that your binder is too small. Even taking all of these precautions, you may still occasionally have issues. I always took these as a sign that I needed to take a short break from binding.
How should I wash my binder? And how often should I wash it anyway?
Most guys hand wash their binders in the sink with warm water and antibacterial soap or a gentle detergent (like one used for baby’s clothes) and then hang them up to air dry. Ideally you should do this every other day or once a week, but don’t worry too much if you haven’t been doing it that often (very few people do). The reason you should be washing your binder this often is that it is the innermost layer most guys wear, and therefore absorbs a lot of your sweat and can get pretty nasty after awhile. Also, an unwashed binder (or undershirt) can worsen acne.
For more information about binding, check out transguys.com, which has an excellent article about Chest Binding 101 that covers where to get a binder, how to choose one, how to measure for one, and how to put one on.