So I’ve done something recently that I never thought I’d be doing. To be honest, the back of my mind had timidely been flirting with the idea for a while, but for some not good enough reason, it had felt like too big of a thing to actually go ahead and do. It had felt like I wasn’t allowed.
I bought a chest binder.
A chest binder is an article of clothing that often looks like a tank top or a crop top, specifically designed to flatten your chest. Like so.
For reference, I am naturally a 32F size. That’s right. I just posted my bra size online. That’s probably a smart thing to do.
Now, why would it take me so long to get myself one of these things? Mainly because binders are traditionally used by the FTM (female to male) trans* community.
All my life I have tiptoed around the edges of transgender, never quite daring to step in. Internalized transphobia, maybe, or simply confusion. If I were completely, definitely, transgender, from one binary to the other, then maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long, and it wouldn’t have been as daunting.
As it was, though, some part of my brain had to be told I was doing it for practical reasons. Bras my size aren’t cheap, and oftentimes don’t work as well as one would hope. A heavy chest pulls on the skin and causes pains when badly supported. With a binder, the weight would be spread out.
The other part of my brain, the one that knew there were other reasons, was scared. This was a dive head first into my trans-ness, a step off the cliff. What if I couldn’t swim? What if I couldn’t fly?
I was shaking when I clicked “confirm order”.
The binder arrived a few days ago and I was rather excited about trying it out. It’s tight, obviously, but not uncomfortable. Certainly more comfortable than high heels and mini-skirts. It’s a bit tricky to put on, a bit tricky to take off, but I seem to be managing better than some other people out there so… sorry guys. Guess I’m lucky. It also led me to notice things I had never paid attention to before. Like my left breast being just a tad bigger than the right. Ah, fun times!
The day went fine. I felt like myself. I felt comfortable. I could look down and see my feet – I have big feet!
When I took the thing off in the evening though, I experienced a slight gender shift, feeling more like the girl me, and I had a pinch of vulnerability. It felt a bit like I’d betrayed or abandoned that feminine part of me. Which is silly but I suppose it’s the lot of genderfluid people.
I think this moment of distress came from the huge importance I had placed on the binder. Building it up in my mind, like it was something that had the power to change me. It’s not, and I don’t think it’s quite healthy – for me at least – to think of it that way. It’s just cloth. It’s comfortable and it allows me to wear shirts that were designed for male bodies. I genuinely like it. But it does nothing to impact my gender identity. You are not your clothes, surprisingly enough.
Now I’m getting used to thinking of this as just another addition to my wardrobe. Some days I’ll wear a bra, some days I’ll wear a binder. It will depend on the clothes I’ve decided to wear that day, and on my mood. It means I can now feel right and comfortable in clothes from both sides of the shop.
The most important thing is that wearing a binder does not make me any more transgender. Just like wearing a bra does not make me any less transgender. And that is quite a freeing thought, don’t you think?