"Binding is a part of daily life for many, but it can have negative impacts on your physical health—ranging from minor to severe—across a wide range of symptoms, from pain in different parts of your body, to shortness of breath, to bruising or other skin changes," explains researcher Sarah Peitzmeier. She is a member of the Binding Health Project, which hopes to "expand and contribute new information on the physical and mental health effects of chest binding." It comprises of Boston University medical students and graduates, as well as a PhD student at in public health at John Hopkins.
In a statement given to Broadly, Underworks said, "What we find is that many that want to bind have been frustrated in the past by the methods they have used in that they did not feel bound. These include layers of sports bras or athletic shirts, etc. Coming from such a thought process, they become more aggressive in their size selection as in going smaller than they measure in the hopes that they accomplish complete flatness. This is likely the biggest issue."Recognizing the discomfort associated with trying to achieve a completely flat chest, the company instead tries to promote a "masculine looking chest" as the goal. "We try to encourage one to only wear a garment when they are comfortable wearing," the statement reads. "Convincing the client that a masculine look is what is best rather than complete flatness has proven to be a challenge. We will continue to work as hard as we can to innovate and explore the best and safest binding options."Many trans and gender non-conforming individuals say that they would continue binding regardless of the physical health risks. The psychological relief provided by binding—as well as the increased ability to pass in public as one's correct gender—often overweighs any potential downside. Knowing this, the Binding Health Project wants to arm both medical professionals and queer people alike with information about binding, including how best to do it, what to use, and how often.
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[Binding] the only recourse I have to feeling OK in my body.
Others, like Max, use alternative methods to reduce their discomfort around their chest, such as working out more. "Until I get my hormones, I'm doing exercises to increase muscle mass and hopefully reduce fat around my chest. I feel a lot better psychologically as well. I highly recommend going to gym if you can, even though it is intimidating as hell. For me, considering my body as a tool and focusing on my muscles contracting and relaxing has helped a lot."Lola says that the physical pain of binding is worth it, though they emphasize that they see binding only as a stepping stone towards lasting treatment for their chest dysphoria. The 28 year old is currently crowdfunding, hoping to raise £6,400 needed for a chest reduction surgery."[Binding] the only recourse I have to feeling OK in my body. Sometimes it's very relieving and helps me feel happy and re-centered," they say. "[But] it's a temporary fix that should demonstrate to people how incredibly important it is for trans and non-binary [people] to have access to the medical treatments they need."
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