CHEST BINDING

It is not uncommon for media to portray the use of bandages as a safe method of chest binding. In truth, the use of bandages is extremely unsafe and compresses the ribcage dangerously, preventing normal expansion of the ribcage. Check out these depictions of bandage binding, taken from Boys Don't Cry, 3 Generations, Degrassi, and BOY.

 
 

This is generally not the outcome you get if you try to bind with bandages on your own. I guarantee that these actresses had help, for those bandages to sit mostly straight and untwisted. Binding with bandages is difficult, uncomfortable, and suffocating. A person binding with bandages is more likely to get this kind of outcome (film still taken from 52 Tuesdays).

 
A film still from 52 Tuesdays.
 

Many mainstream depictions of gender non-conformity and transgender masculinity like to portray bandage binding as an easy option. Because we’re all slender, underweight, small-chested people who have someone to help us wind bandages around our ribcage… right?


To my immense disappointment, genderfluid star Ruby Rose perpetuated the myth of easy bandage binding in her video Break Free, which has (to date) been watched over 53 million times. Her video, much like other media depictions of bandage binding, cuts from footage of her manually wrapping herself in bandages, to footage of bandages perfectly wrapped around her, and clipped down… behind her back.

 
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She had people to help her bind with bandages in this scene, I am certain of that. But thousands of vulnerable (and probably young) gender non-conforming people have been given the impression that this is the kind of effect you can achieve on your own. I know I got that impression from this video. I was put at risk by this video. I bound with bandages, and seriously hurt myself.​


I recommend watching these videos about binding.

 
 
 

On the topic of unsafe binding, here are some film stills from TRANS (2012), a very cis-centric documentary about trans experiences.

 
 

Scenes like this are dangerous. Don’t double bind. Double binding is just as unsafe as using bandages. You’re increasing the pressure on your ribcage to a dangerous extent, and you’ve counteracted any design features that one binder may have on its own. Binders (good ones, anyway) are designed to be looser across your back, but taut at the front, so that your ribcage can expand as normally as possible while you’re compressing your chest. Double-binding eliminates any safety measures that binder companies may have offered.

 
 
 

TRANS, in another scene, also features a velcro binder that doesn’t have straps over the shoulders. This is very unsafe. The only way such a binder is secured to you is through extreme pressure on your ribcage, without any loose areas to give your ribs a break. Generally speaking, if a binder isn’t using your shoulders while putting a lot of pressure on you, don’t buy it.

 
 

3 GenerationsRomeosUnsound, and Man Made all depict trans men lifting weights while wearing binders. Some people can exercise while binding, but most experience pain and long-lasting health impacts if they attempt this. Any activity that involves energetic movement and necessitates deep breathing should probably not be attempted while you are compressing your chest. Sports bras are a much safer approach.