FTM Chest Binders and Physical and Mental Health
Chest binding has arguably been around since the dawn of time. Historians have found evidence of gender fluidity as far back as 1458 BC. Moreover, Roman and Greek societies also, in many ways, embraced gender fluidity. Historical accounts of FTM were found as far back as the Middle Ages and throughout the 20th Century. Chest binding has provided a way for trans men and others to feel more comfortable with their bodies or overall outward image. There are still safety concerns as any body compression suit can cause discomfort and lead to permanent damage to muscle, skin, and other tissues if worn incorrectly or continuously. It's important for both one's physical and mental health to learn how to properly wear a compressor garment or an FTM chest binders, while still being mindful of the potential long-term effects.
What Are FTM Chest Binders?
FTM chest binders are essential compression garments that offer a flattened chest or a more masculine chest look. This allows trans men and gender non-conforming individuals (tomboys, non-binary people, etc.) to have the desired look without the expense of FTM top surgery. Overall, there are several chest binding methods that have been used in the past. Today’s chest binding practices, for the most part, include compressor garments, body compression suits, and compression sports bras. Note that many people try to create their own compression/binding clothing at home (DIY). We strongly advise against such practices, as do most medical professionals.
The Mental Effects of Binders
The mental or psychological effects of binding are universally positive. Multiple studies confirm an overall positive mental effect when binding is done safely. In fact, there are several reasons why wearing a chest binder improves one's mental health. For starters, binding provides trans and gender non-conforming people with a way to better handle their body dysphoria. Compression garments, in turn, are proven to increase self-esteem and self-confidence, while drastically reducing suicidal tendencies brought by body dysphoria. Some studies even indicated that there was a significant mood increase from positive to very positive before and after binding. With so many clear benefits, it's not hard to understand why people continue to use compression garments and chest binders.
The Physical Effects of Chest Binders
The real issue with binding tends to, therefore, be more physical. A compression suit can negatively impact physical health when worn over an extended period of time. Mild effects include back pain, overheating, skin irritation, itching, discomfort, a decrease in range of motion or movement, and so on. The more severe health effects were shortness of breath, rib fractures, swelling, damage to muscle/breast tissue, scarring, postural changes, and more. To make matters worse, older compression suits or DIY home remedies have only exacerbated these physical effects. Compression garments can increase bacterial/fungal infections when worn for more than 8-10 hours or overnight/while sleeping. With the potential for so much harm, people still continue to wear chest or tummy tuck compression garments in an unsafe/unhealthy manner. This only leads to more issues down the road, as many people within the trans and gender non-conforming community don't necessarily have the best access to health care. As a result, many physical effects can be left untreated.
The easiest way to reduce the negative physical effects of chest binding is through proper use/wear. You should limit your time wearing binding or compressor garments. This may be difficult, especially if you'd rather bind all the time to combat your body dysphoria. The reality is you're only harming yourself in the long run if you don't have rest days or time frames when you don't use a compression garment at all. You should also refrain from working out in your chest binder—wear a compression sports bra instead.
Other possible remedies, or rather, prevention tips, include wearing the right garment in the correct size, avoiding DIY methods, and binding less if you plan to have FTM top surgery in the future. Finally, listen to your body. If you're experiencing extreme discomfort, pain, or difficulty breathing while using a compression garment, don't simply choose to ignore it. Remove your binder immediately if you experience symptoms such as these. Consult a healthcare professional if you've noticed any adverse effects from wearing your chest binder. Ultimately, using your chest binder/garment in the correct manner will ensure that you can reap the mental benefits without increasing the likelihood of injury or harm.
The Future of Binding
With that said, binding isn't going anywhere. There are clear benefits to the LBGT community. People need to be educated on the adverse effects and proper usage of a compression garment. There needs to be easy access to health care to ensure that the physical effects of binding aren't left untreated. The good news is that many LGBT centers have programs that provide treatment, educational materials, and those in need with chest binders and compression garments. Plus, there are binder garments donation programs to ensure that older versions aren’t available at resale shops or other places.
At the end of the day, when used with care, chest binders and compression garments can be extremely beneficial. If you're thinking about purchasing a compression chest binder or flattening garment, make sure you take the time to find the right size, type, and fit. By following directions, medical guidelines, and these suggestions, you should be able to wear your compression clothing or chest binder safely. That said, if you can't afford a binder, then check into the binder programs at your local LGBT centers. Lastly, if you're considering FTM top surgery later on, then wear your chest binder accordingly. This will ultimately reduce the likelihood of post-surgery complications.