Binding Guide for Female to Male Transsexuals
An FTM how to guide about binding breasts to create a male-appearing chest
The pre-op FTM often finds himself in a dilemma when trying to pass as male because their their breasts may cause others to question their gender. Before surgery, if chosen at all, female-to-male transsexuals may chose to bind their breasts to further their masculine appearance. The goal of binding is to flatten the breasts down to create the illusion of a man’s chest. Binding methods, product, and size vary by an individuals weight and personal preference.
The History of Binding
There is historic precedent for binding. There was widespread use of corsets during the Victorian Era to accentuate the female figure. Similarly, the Japanese kimono involved the use of a sarashi that was bound around the chest.
Up until the 1930′s, Catholic nuns were required to wear a linen breast binder under their outfits. The rationale was that binding the breasts of nuns would reduce distraction and encourage faithful obedience to abstinence. Oftentimes they were embroidered with crosses as an additional measure to represent their faith and commitment to Christianity.
Famous women have used binding to help them pass as male in male-dominated societies. For example, Joan of Arc used binding to help her appear male so that she could be accepted as a soldier.
Reasons for binding
Reasons for binding may include:
- Create an aesthetically male appearance
- To appear less feminine
- To hide breasts or breast development
- To speed recovery after reconstructive chest surgery by reducing movement. Reducing movement post-operatively allows the scars to heal without excess stretching caused by localized movement. Pressure on the chest region can also reduce swelling.
- Male to female transsexuals who have started hormone treatment may bind their breasts to continue presenting as male, such as in their occupation.
Reasons for binding in people who are not transgender:
- Men with gynecomastia may bind their chests. Gynecomastia is a medical condition that may be caused by obesity or by abnormally enlarged mammary glands in males. It can result in male breast development or puffy nipples. Gynecomastia may also be caused by excess synthetic testosterone usage , for example, in bodybuilders.
- To create a male stage appearance, or play a male character
- Adolescent females may bind their breasts out of modesty or to avoid embarrassment, humiliation, or ridicule
Adolescent females, particularly those who are early developers, may use binding to hide their breast development. They may not want their peers to notice their early breast development. Puberty can also be a source of embarrassment and adolescent females may fear that they will be ridiculed or humiliated. In other instances, adolescent females may desire to retain their pre-pubescent figure because they are not ready to have breasts yet. Breast binding in adolescent females may be a sign of body dysmorphic disorder or indicate gender identity issues. On the other hand, it may be part of their normal development and acceptance of their growing-up.
Risks of Breast Binding
Binding can cause breast tissue to break down because of the excess pressure on the fatty deposits that make up the tissue. Adolescent females who bind their breasts risk deforming the shape of their developing breasts. The newly developed breast tissue is more pliable and may conform to the restricted shape, which may result in permanent, life-long deformity.
Other risks may include: overheating, tearing, scratching, dryness, or irritation of the skin. These are discussed in more detail below. Excessive use of a binder can lead to back pain, breathing trouble, and even compression of the ribs.
A binder should always be the right size. Never wear a binder for longer than 12 hours.
Products and Methods for Binding
Neoprene waist trimmer and abdominal trimmers
Neoprene waist trimmers are effective and inexpensive. The range from $10 – $20 and may be purchased at a local drugstore or athletic store.
However, neoprene does not breathe, which can induce chafing and blisters from sweat accumulation between the skin and the binder. Neoprene may have an artificial, rubbery scent.
When binding, apply the neoprene waist trimmer evenly across your chest. The velcro fold is best hidden when it folds along the side of the torso. It may be necessary to trim the corners off the neoprene waist trimmer to keep the rough material from scratching the soft surface of the underarm or side of the torso. It may be necessary to shorten the length of the waist trimmer so that it is not double-wrapped. A light layer of cornstarch may be helpful to absorb residual moisture, prevent chafing, and prevent your skin from losing its natural moisture. A regular application of lotion may help to keep your skin moisturized.
Elastic Bandages (The ACE Bandage)
ACE Bandages have been used for chest binding for years. They’re cheap, available at any local pharmacy, and they are effective. Despite its effectiveness, the ACE Bandage can be incredibly uncomfortable, especially for larger guys. There are more effective products for binding that are more comfortable and safe.
Elastic bandages were developed for medical use. They are intended to constrict blood flow and gradually tighten with wear. Incorrect application or prolonged use can be hazardous and may result in breathing difficulty, broken ribs, or bruising.
The ACE Bandage can restrict your range of motion, cause bruising or chafing and tearing of the skin. It does not breath well and may cause your skin to become dry. Remove it when it becomes uncomfortable. Once discomfort sets in, the discomfort will not subside. If you must keep wearing the ACE Bandage, some ibuprofen may help ease the discomfort until you’re able to remove it. Overheating can also be a concern because the ace bandage does not breath well. It is not recommended to use the ace bandage during exercise, in extreme heat, or when performing vigorous activity. A moisturizing lotion in the mornings and evenings may protect your skin.
When wearing the ACE Bandage push your breasts out to the sides towards your arms. This technique works especially well for larger guys because it flattens out the chest more. Apply the bandage evenly of the area to avoid pressure points. If you’re fairly thin and don’t have many curves, the bandage may slip down–it’s not the easiest thing to fix alone in a small bathroom stall. To avoid this, wrap the bandage both over and above your chest. The ACE Bandage has a tendency to crumple up, which can cause it to be visible when wearing a thin shirt. It may be necessary to wear an extra shirt to hide the ace bandage from visibility.
Sports compression bras
Sports bras for binding can be found at sports stores because these bras restrict movement of the breasts. This is a good option for small guys, unfortunately breast size does make a big difference for the FTM. The larger the breasts, the harder to bind.
Do not wrap tape around the sports bra. Tape is not elastic enough to allow room for your lungs to expand. As a result, it can cause difficulty breathing. It may also cause severe chafing and irritation of the skin.
Tight Swimming Suit Top
A tight female swimming suit may effectively compress the breasts of smaller chested guys. However, the swimming suit may need to be several sizes too small. It may be necessary to trim the elastic along the suit in order to relieve pressure, but this method may cause the swimsuit to tear. Since the material is very thin, this is not a very effective binding method.
Miscellaneous Binding Tips
Layering of shirts
Many binders can be visible through thin shirts. It may be necessary to wear an extra layer to prevent the binder from being seen. For the extremely small chested guy, layering of shirts can just as easily hide the breasts as binding them down. Layering is most effective if you start out with the tightest layer first, with each successive layer becoming a looser fit. Make sure that your clothing is appropriate for the weather in order to avoid overheating in warm climates.
Creating a flatter chest
When you put on the binder, sometimes it’s best to lay down on the bed. This automatically allows your breasts to fall to the side, and can flatten out the chest for more effective compression. By doing this, I was able to bind with a simple waist trimmer and go out of the house with just a tight T-shirt on. It may help to wear a tank top over the binder so that the line at the top of it doesn’t show if you do wear tight shirts.
Binder exchange programs
Binder exchange programs can be one of the most cost-effective ways to acquire binding products. Oftentimes used binders are exchanged because they are no longer needed after post-operative recovery from chest surgery. Alternatively, binders may be exchanged because they were the wrong size. Binding exchange programs may be offered by a local FTM Support Group. There are also online groups where individuals post regularly to either sell or donate used binders.
For online exchange opportunities, check the posts at http://ftm.livejournal.com. Visitors may need to sign-up for a free livejournal account and join the community in order to view and respond to the non-public posts. Also see the Big Brothers Binder Disbursement and Repository Program by The Transitional Male
Products and Online Shopping
For a list of recommended binding supplies, visit the Products page