Chest Binding Guide

I can haz emailz?

Hi Laci! I’m a female that identifies as male, and I’ve been curious about maybe trying to bind my chest (in a healthy manner). I’ve heard about all of these ways to bind your chest, but so many of them seem to have these side effects or health issues. Like one friend of mine tried to bind herself using Ace bandages (which, as you know, compress), so she unknowingly was binding her chest with bandages that compressed! I’m sorry if this is a really random question, but…Do you think you could help me out with a nice, safe way to chest bind?

I once tried binding my boobs down when I was in high school. My friends and I somehow decided that DUCT TAPE was a good idea. Dear lord….never again! I thought that shit was going to pull my nipples clean off.

Yeah….I know. Lesson learned.

For those who are wondering, FTM (female to male – female sex/male gender) binding is pretty common as a way to alter gender expression. Chest binding is also used for cosplay or to cross dress. While Duct Tape is the bottom of the barrel, Ace bandages are not a very sustainable idea either. These bandages work in a way that causes them to become tighter/less flexible every time they are used, which with multiple uses could: warp your ribcage, weaken your chest muscles, cause fluid to build up in your lungs, or other serious back harm. Do not want.

To reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of injury by binding with an Ace bandage:

(1) Use each bandage only a couple times.
(2) Don’t bind for longer than 8 hours.
(3) Don’t bind too tightly (try puffing your chest up while you’re binding).
(4) Wear something under it to prevent digging & binding too tightly (tank tops, t-shirts, and sports bras seem to work well for this).
(5) Stretch a little once it’s on – this helps, especially if it comes out a little lopsided. Take a deep breath, hug yourself, and twist back and forth a few times.

Safer Alternatives to Ace Bandages
For around $20, try using a girdle, control-top panty hose, or biking shorts. Cut off the bottom to create a stretchy tube for you to slide into. If you have a smaller chest, you might also get the same effect from sports bras.
For around $30, compression t-shirts are sold for men who have Gynecomastia and want to diminish the appearance of “man boobs”. These will do the trick. Check out The Tool Shed (FTM/trans* friendly!) or Underarmour for compression tops in this price range.
For between $30-70, consider a product specifically made for binding. T-Kingdom and Love Boat Shop both offer good deals on FTM binders.

General Binding Tips
★Whether you’re using control-tops or a specially designed binder, avoid the temptation of buying one that is too small! This will have the same poor effects on your body as the Ace bandages. To find the right size binder, try this tool to convert from your bra size.
★Don’t bind 24/7! Ace bandages are safe up to 8 hours while other binders are okay between 9 and 12 hours.
★If you wish to make the binder less noticeable, try layering shirts.
★If at any point you feel restricted in your breathing or light-headed, take the binder off immediately!
★To put on the binder, start with it inside out and upside down on the ground. Step into it, pull it up to your hips (still inside out/upside down), and then use the sleeves at the bottom as handles to roll it on you right-side-up.
★Many binders will make you feel hot because they don’t breathe well. Try wearing a thin cotton shirt under to help your skin out. I have also heard of people applying cornstarch to their skin first.

Binding can be a liberating experience, particularly for FTM trans*folk. Experiment with what works for you, and remember that maintaining physical flexibility is your key to safe binding!

39 thoughts on “Chest Binding Guide

  1. Gosh, this is one of those problems I would have never thought about on my own… =P I hope the emailer finds something that makes her comfortable, in every sense of the word. In my opinion, being comfortable in the more literal sense of the word, is more important than being comfortable with your image. I mean, that’s very important too of course, but… I think it’s a lot like confidence. You can be the hottest guy/girl out there, but if you’re not confident, you will still look ‘unattractive’. Don’t know if that makes sense, hope it does. =P

    Oh and Laci, you binding your boobs? I mean…as a heterosexual man, the very idea makes me a lil sad inside, but, and no offense meant, there is no way you could bind your boobs (successfully) without it ending up hurting is some kind of horrible way… =P

    If it were up to me: free the boobies! Check them for lumps regularly, pull them out when your baby is hungry, and be proud of them, for they give life. My apologies if this is a little out of place, but it’s how I feel about them…

    I hope the emailer will find a way to identify as a male, but will also be confident and proud of his (am I doing this right? =D) body and the awesome capabilities it has. I mean, our awesome ‘special features’, are that we can pee standing upright (but you girls kinda stole that from us already…) and grow hair all over our body (I know right, jealous much? =D)…

    “And there was much rejoicing”… =P

  2. Laci, I think you made a typo in your post. You wrote “Do not want.” with a line through it. (Above the “to reduce” advice and the photo of a girl binding her chest.)

    The reason I thought it was a mistake is because I understood it to be a double negative and thus mean “Do want” (warp your ribcage, weaken your chest muscles, cause fluid to build up in your lungs, or other serious back harm”) instead of “Don’t want” (warp your ribcage, weaken your chest muscles, cause fluid to build up in your lungs, or other serious back harm).

    Knowing the fair lady Laci, I imagine what you meant to communicate was that you don’t want her to get injured in any manner and that you simply made a mistake while writing.

    And back on topic.

    Hmmm, I don’t know. I find myself not having many thoughts on the matter. It feels a very alien idea to me.

    People are people first and are men or women second is all I have to say I guess.

    • It doesn’t feel more alien to me that wearing push-up bras. And I can see no reason not to do either or both (not at the same time, obviously) as long as you don’t injure yourself.
      And duct tape..? It’s great stuff…. but I wouldn’t let it anywhere near my boobs.

    • I didn’t mean binding her chest, or rather I didn’t mean -just binding her chest-; I meant the entire wanting to be male gender role as a female human.

      And I don’t mean that as a bad thing. I just mean that I don’t understand it and I think that means that I am not in a position to judge it wisely or to give suitable advice.

      I am beyond my usual lack of qualification. I cannot even remark fairly because I have limited to no experience on the matter.

  3. Very nice Laci ^^ I’m a Cisfemale lesbian, but I cosplay as men occasionally, and binders are definatly worth it. Also, for open shirt binding/binding with tape: Put some cloth or tissue over the nipple, and then proceed to bind the breast to the side/up (this is to give a more ‘toned/muscled’ look or to take on more of a male body shape from what I understand. Also, it hurts to bind with the breast in a different position)

    Also, love the Mulan Gif. Perfect for this particular entry :D

    • Without trying to be rude or anything, but seriously just curious – what does ‘Cisfemale lesbian’ mean? I’ve never heard the term before, so I was wondering what you mean.

      Jade :)

      • Oh, no, I don’t find it rude at all. Honestly, I think that it’s important to ask questions when you don’t understand something, so that way you know it for future reference. Based on your other comment, I’d say you have a pretty good idea of the way things work for the transgendered community, and for that, good for you!

        Cisgendered means that I was born female, and my gender is female. Most people are Cisgendered, although, many don’t know the terminology. And, I’m a lesbian, so I like girls xD I don’t normally crossdress, I do it for cosplay, but I see nothing wrong with crossdressing, whether the person doing it is gay, straight, bi, and there’s /definatly/ nothing wrong with it when a person is dressing to fit the gender that they’re most comfortable with. It’s a pity that so much of the world doesn’t see that being LGBTQ is okay

        • “[..]so I like girls xD”
          I can’t blame ya =D

          Wikipedia says the following:
          “Cisgender [..] is an adjective used in the context of gender issues and counselling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual’s gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one’s sex.”

          This would suggest that being cisgendered means you are content with your gender identity and the associated gender role, despite what your biology says you might ought to be… Or am I misreading something?

          So if, say, you have ambiguous genitalia and your parents decide to raise you as a boy while in fact your biology says you’re a girl. If you identify yourself as a cisgendered male, this means your gender identity is male and you are content with the associated gender roles. That makes sense right? =P

          • Cisgendered is when your sex (biological) matches up with your gender (psychological). I identify with the female gender, and I have female biology; I would be trans* if I had male biology but identified with the female gender, or had female biology but identified with the male gender.

          • Basically it’s a man with a penis, or a girl with a vagina.

            As opposed to transgendered which is a man with a vagina, or a girl with a penis.

            To put it extremely basically.

            • However, Zuriki, to say as such is very much not ok with transgender folk. It is not up to you, the medical establishment or anybody else to identify what ones bits are called. So to say a trans person is a person with the opposite sex’s genitalia is really quite not ok. To do so can retraumatize the body dysphoria of someone who is trans, so be sure to be more sensitive about it. Trans bits are not for public commentary. It is a private matter, and very personal in terms of naming ones genitalia.

              • Hey! Zuriki, I know you were well-intentioned, but that particular statement is a bit…ill-put? Sorry, just flipping through comments on this as a person who is on the trans* spectrum, but doesn’t identify completely male. Trans* people are people whose bodies fit the gender they were assigned at birth, but don’t fit the gender they feel better fits them as a person. Dysphoria sucks. Please be just the tiniest bit more careful about the language you use. <3

                • I think Zuriki was simply trying to break it down in the simplest form possible for people who might have no clue whatsoever about trans people. You have to start with the basics to educate. My sister dated a trans person and explaining it to my extremely closed minded and not well educated extended family when they met him did not go well when my sister tried to be delicate about it, they literally had no idea what she was referring to. So we broke it down much like Zuriki did, and then began to build on the basics. Would it have been better to say a male who identifies as a man, and a female who identifies as a woman? Because even then I know some people who would not understand, they would go but that’s how everyone is- because they are ignorant. Give Zuriki a break for trying to help the ignorant.

          • In chemistry, there can be mirror images of the same molecule – one is trans and the other is cis, so the terminology has been borrowed to refer to those who are comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth (based on their apparent sex) – cis sexual.

            Trans is someone who is not in alignment with what was assigned to them at birth. They may have been identified as one gender based on the sex the doctor perceived at birth “it’s a girl!”, but as they grow older (and it tends to show up in early childhood for many trans people) they realize that what gender they were assigned is not who they are. So if you are a cis gendered male, you were assigned male at birth by a doctor identifying you by your genitalia and as you grow, you are in alignment with the gender roles and expectations and identification of male.

  4. OUCH! I thought it was like universal knowledge that if you’re using duct tape that you have to wear a thin cotton tshirt under it so the tape adheres to something that won’t hurt coming off of. *cringes at thought of nipples and duct tape* That’s even more sadistic that I would be okay with. Eeish.

    About the male to female or visa versa concept … it’s a very interesting thing to think of, to me anyways. It isn’t something you naturally think of – whether or not your gender matches your sex, when your pairing is the accepted norm. I can’t imagine having to deal with being judged for it, or treated differently because of how I express myself. People can be cruel, especially as kids.

    I think it’s really awesome that they have that kind of thing out there if you look for it. I’m actually kind of considering getting one to use when I run, since being well endowed in the chest area, it is really hard to find a good bra for sports!

    Love and Light,

    Jade

    • And, side note to the other commenters – if the person in question is male sex but female gender **usually** their pronouns are that of their gender not their sex. So in this case, the emailer would be referred to as ‘he’ … just sayin’. In case he’s reading, I hope he doesn’t take any comments use of the opposite pronoun as offensive, since I doubt they have been meant as such.

      And @Laci – SOPA was defeated a while ago, so the corner can probably be changed to the new bill they are trying to pass through now.

  5. On your list of safer options, you may want to add http://ftm.underworks.com/ The way to put on a binder is going to vary according to body shape etc. Personally, I prefer to put it on like I’d put on a shirt (I actually tried the “pull up”-method and it was not gonna be an option for me >.>), just with more patience XD

  6. As a transwoman who is developing breasts while on hormone therapy but still presenting as male in public, I would strongly support Laci’s recommendation of compression T-shirts (I like the Nike Pro series myself, but Under Armour and other brands have similar) or even wearing two of them if you have a bit more to hold down. Although other people in my situation have used sports bras, with the “Frog bra” being highly recommended as a boob squisher, if I’m trying to present as male, I find sports bras still show a bit more under shirts than I would like.

  7. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but isn’t being trans adjusting to society’s harmful stereotypes of what each sex should be? I am a girl, I am XX, I have breasts, a vagina and female internal organs. I have my period each month. I don’t think there’s anything else that makes me a girl. Boys can have long hair, boys can wear skirts and lipstick and eye shadow and nail polish and still be boys. There are no characteristics that all members of a sex share, except for genetic and biological traits.

    To identify as a woman or a man without belonging to that sex is, to me, to assume that there are traits that all women or men share, other than biological, that makes them belong to that particular “gender”. I might want to cut my hair and have no breasts and watch sports and do all the stuff my male friends do. That does not change the fact that I was born a girl, I developed as a girl, and I will forever be a girl.

    My point is, I think gender identity is arbitrarily decided by society and is just one more impossition on what you should or should not do as a member of a sex. I don’t understand how can there be such a thing as “feeling as a woman”. You either are a woman or you aren’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging the standards of what women should be, but how can that make you a man? Female or male are simply unchangeable genetic divisions of nature, and how we act or dress or feel has nothing to do with it.

    • See, the problem is that a lot of people don’t understand that XX doesn’t necessarily mean female, and XY doesn’t necessarily mean male. It’s great that you break stereotypes while still identifying as a female-bodied female-gendered person, but not everyone *can*. People can literally be a boy in a girls’ body, or vice versa, or maybe a bit of both or neither. Gender =/= sex, and being gender non-conforming (breaking gender stereotypes) is part of expression. Identity is the innate sense of who you are, and trust me, you would know if something was up and it wasn’t matching your biological sex. It’s not about conforming to stereotypes, it’s about being able to be who you are inside and being forced to socialize and live and be viewed as something you aren’t, seeing a body in the mirror that can nauseate you. Trust me, it’s not something you would want to experience, and living with it is a terrible experience, especially if friends and family refuse to support the person in question. Hopefully that clears things up a bit.

  8. I use a sports bra (in a smaller size than I would normally wear) with another (racerback) sports bra worn backwards over it. This is really good for making it look realistically masculine, but unfortunately you can only wear shirts that come all the way up to the neck with it, or the backwards bra will show.

  9. I only use it for cosplay (and I admit it, I secretly like the feeling of bondage-like compression, so sometimes I wear it around the house), not on a daily basis, but: both Ebay and Aliexpress have a wide range of EXTREMELY affordable binders. I’m talking $6 to $15 depending on style, with free international shipping most of the time. They range from strapless-bra/cropped tube-top-like binders to cropped sleeveless binders to actual plain old wifebeater-style shirts.

    I don’t know if these are double compression or what since normally the sellers don’t post technical specs, but I’m a 34D and they work great, especially when used underneath a regular shirt. Even without, the worst I get is slight lumping (which is helped by spacing my boobs out and squishing them down like you do to avoid uniboob) and nip pokeage, which can be solved with bandaids or what have you.

    Almost always the listings are some variation of “New Les Lesbian Undershirt Tomboy Chest Binder”… no, I don’t know why.

    Though a word of advice that the sellers usually post about too: go TWO SIZES UP in American sizes. My first binder was Medium and WOW I could not even get that around my chest. (like I said, 34D.) XL fits tight but comfortably for me. Look for sizing charts on the listings.

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