Some well known information about binding was finally proven empirically, for the first time ever, and published last week in Culture, Health, and Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention, and Care. The data was collected in the form of an online survey, where participants self-reported about their preferences, habits, and symptoms, as it relates to binding their chests. The sample size was 1,800 people, from 38 countries, ages 18-66 years old, who were either assigned female at birth, or intersex, but encompassed 70 different gender identities. The data was collected in April and May of 2014.
I highly recommend reading this article. View the full article here: Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community engaged, cross-sectional study.
Although very little from this study may be surprising among people who have experience with binding, this data is so important, because sometimes it takes surveys and studies to change public opinions, and hopefully that continues to happen sooner rather than later. Specifically, if harmful effects are proven, maybe pressure will be put on health insurance companies so that more people can access top surgery.
97.2% of respondents reported at least one negative outcome from binding. The most common symptoms were:
1. back pain (53.8%)
2. overheating (53.3%)
3. chest pain (48.8%)
4. shortness of breath ((46.6%)
5. itching (44.9%)
6. bad posture (40.3%)
7. shoulder pain (38.9)
Other symptoms included (and some of these are really severe):
8. rib fractures
9. rib or spine changes
10. shoulder joint “popping”
11. muscle wasting
18. respiratory infections
20. abdominal pain
21. digestive issues
22. breast changes
23. breast tenderness
27. skin changes
28. skin infections
From the article:
“Although binding is associated with many negative physical health outcomes, it is also associated with significant improvements in mood and mental health. In response to open ended questions about mental health effects and motivations for binding, participants consistently affirmed that the advantages of binding outweighed the negative physical effects. Many participants said that binding made them feel less anxious, reduced dysphoria-related depression and suicidality, improved overall emotional wellbeing and enabled them to safely go out in public with confidence.”
“Commercial binders were the binding method most consistently associated with negative health outcomes, possibly because such binders have the potential to provide more compression than other binding methods. This finding is inconsistent with community perceptions that commercial binders represent the safest option.”
-multiple sports bras
The first time I bound my chest, I used duct tape, for a drag show. This was about 10 years ago. I quickly moved on to ace bandages. Shortly after, a trans-friend gave me one of his old binders that had stretched too much for him to feel comfortable in. It was too big for me, but it was pretty effective anyway. Still, I didn’t like it at all, preferring to just layer my shirts. Over the next 10 years, I’ve purchased 2 binders from Underworks, and 3 binders that were actually almost tolerable, just compressing the breast region, and from the outside looking like a ribbed tank-top. Still, I didn’t like it at all, and only very rarely wore any of these things. Like, if we were going out and then going to a movie, I might wear the binder, but as soon as we’d get to the movie theater, I’d go to the bathroom just to take the thing off, because it’s not a huge deal, while sitting in the dark.
If you’re interested in another study about trans- and gender non-conforming people, Here’s an interesting one that I summarized: “A Gender Not Listed Here.”
-Works cited: Sarah Peitzmeier, Ivy Gardner, Jamie Weinand, Alexandra Corbet & Kimberlynn Acevedo (2016): Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community-engaged, cross-sectional study, Culture, Health & Sexuality.