I’ve spent most of my life wearing regular bras. Since I’m pretty large-chested, I’ve worn bras with underwire – fairly big contraptions. Uncomfortable, but seemingly necessary. As we all know, bras are meant to accentuate the chest. I didn’t want this, nor did I like it, but thought I had no choice but to wear it because I certainly wasn’t going to go without. If highlighting my chest was a by-product of needing to keep the flesh bags under control, well, I thought it was just something I needed to deal with. The feeling of boobs flopping around unrestrained was not an option.
Wearing those bras was frustrating since they prevented me from fitting into the clothes I wanted to wear. Thing is, I thought I had no other choice: this was my body and that was all there was to it. Did I like how I looked or felt? No. But, I never questioned it or imagined that another option was available.
After years of this, I realized, “Hey, I feel a lot better when I am wearing sports bras during exercise. Why don’t I actually just wear them ALL the time?” It was a huge realization for me and I began to to do it – what a change! While friends teased me for having “uni-boob”, I didn’t care – I felt a lot better and my button-downs suddenly fit better. Not perfectly, but better. Such a relief!
I’ve spent the next several years wearing sports bras exclusively. As time has gone on, I’ve purchased smaller and smaller sizes to hide my chest more and more. I’ve worn bras so tight that I could barely breathe just to compress my chest. The results paid off: seeing pictures of me with a smaller chest (not invisible, but smaller) and fitting into clothes a little better made me feel SO good. I felt more “myself” and that made me very happy and relieved.
I had a photo shoot for a creative gig I was doing and it was formal, so I wore a very formal outfit. I wanted to look good and that involved compressing my chest more than usual. The sports bra wouldn’t cut it. So for the first time, I tried to bind. I used an ace bandage (I know, I know – not good) but it worked – my chest was small enough that I couldn’t really see it and my shirt and tie fit perfectly. I felt so great! The bandage didn’t hold for long, but I had a moment of knowing what it would feel like to feel totally free of my chest – and it was amazing.
That was two years ago. Since then, I have only worn sports bras, but my dysphoria has gotten worse and worse. So, I decided back in September to try an actual binder for the first time. I bought one from Underworks. It was a full-length binder (covered my chest and torso). It was hard to get on and made it very hard to breathe, so I could only wear it for a short period of time. BUT, the affect it had on my chest was astounding. It really, truly looked like I had a flat chest. The sense of joy and ease I felt when I saw myself in the mirror wearing it was unforgettable. I went clothes shopping and found a shirt I absolutely loved – something that would normally never fit correctly while wearing a sports bra. I put it on and it fit perfectly. Unbelievable! I wish I could explain what it was like. I saw myself looking back at me the way my brain sees me. I was home. I was finally home.
Thing was, as GLORIOUS as it felt, it was so uncomfortable to wear for long stretches of time. Not only did I get sweaty but it was truly difficult to breathe and getting it on nearly caused me to dislocate my arm. The whole process was such a pain that I only wore it for special occasions, so while I LOVED the effects, it was a “once in awhile” thing. The rest of my days were spent still wearing sports bras and thus still dealing with the same old issues: I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror, couldn’t fit into the clothes I wanted to wear, etc. I knew that if I wanted to get serious about my transition, wherever it took me, I would have to start binding more regularly to know how it made me feel on a daily basis.
I heard many rumors about GC2B‘s binders. People cited incredible results and phenomenal comfort. I didn’t have a ton of money to spend but figured it was worth a shot. The half tank seemed like the best idea – perhaps it wouldn’t compress my lungs so much and I’d be able to breathe better!
They were out of my color of choice and delivery took two days longer than expected, but regardless, the products were not very expensive and looked great on arrival. I got one green and one grey half tank. They look like nothing special – in fact they resemble sports bras. But putting them on was another story.
THE DAMNED THING WAS SO COMFORTABLE!!!!!!!!!
Honestly, it feels no different than wearing a super lightweight sports bra. It’s amazing. The fabric is moveable and yet the compression is astounding. My chest, normally a 38D, looks quite, quite flat. In fact it seems like I have kinda buffish pecs. Whaaaaat is happening!
Wearing this not only felt good and allowed me to fit into my clothes, but felt like the kinda thing I could wear frequently since it was so comfortable. So that’s what I started to do. A couple of weekends, I wore wear the binder (and my packer) and began feeling so aligned with my maleness that taking it off began to feel weird. On weekends, I was a flat-chested guy. On weekdays, I was a butch dyke with big boobs. As time went on (and it didn’t take long) the dysphoria spiked and I felt terrible. I noticed more and more how out of alignment I felt: I became so aware of my body: the way I spoke, the pronouns people were using, even the sound of my own name. To get through work I had to dissociate entirely because feeling all of that dysphoria was paralyzing. Yet on weekends, I felt happy and easeful and very much in my maleness. I started feeling like I had a double life.
So this week, though scared, I began to use the binder at work, too. Since my chest is so big I knew it would be noticeable, and I was extremely nervous. So I wore a t-shirt and hoodie the first two days. I was SO anxious. My chest was remarkably flat and I wondered if anyone was paying attention. By the end of day #1, I kinda felt like most people didn’t notice anything. People are so wrapped up in themselves that I doubt they were looking at my chest. A few people may have noticed I looked a little different, but perhaps couldn’t place what it was. I suspect maybe those closest to me, like 3 people, might have caught on to the specifics, but given that we work in a corporate office, no one was going to say anything, and that was a relief.
Day 2 was slightly better and it became clear that I would be binding on a daily basis from then on. It was so comfortable using the new binder that NOT using it made no sense at all anymore. It was an interesting shift. Just a few days before, it felt impossible to go to work in a binder. But after just 1 or 2 days, it felt impossible NOT to go to work in a binder. In fact, I truly wonder how and why I didn’t know this was an option before.
The answer is complex but part of it is simply not having known that binding could be so easy and accessible. Now that I know, its an option right up there with a bra and sports bra. In fact, there’s nothing any more unnatural about wearing a binder than a bra or sports bra. None of those items are born on our bodies, and both of them serve to accentuate our breasts. Well, okay. Why not also have the option to de-accentuate them? The idea felt rebellious and reprehensible. God forbid a female-bodied person has agency over their own body. God forbid I make a choice to move away from objectification. I had no idea these things were at play – but the choice to bind, and to do so in public, went deep: far beyond my own gender identity and expression.
But I digress.
Binding my chest has been one of the best steps I have taken in my transition / experimentation process. It has made me feel so much more like myself. I can look in a mirror and see myself reflected back more than ever before. I can wear clothes I feel more confident in. I can feel more masculine on a daily basis. And as I do this, I am able to start recognizing how I want to continue to feel this way everyday. It isn’t an experiment anymore. It’s me. Binding has been a relatively easy first step out of fear and doubt about my gender identity. It has made me more confident and, in some ways, celebratory about who I am.
As I’ve addressed my chest dysphoria, binding has made me aware of the additional ways that I still need to work towards aligning my body and mind. For example, I am beginning to consider going by a new name. I am now going by “they/them/their” pronouns with a few people in my life. I’m going to schedule a consultation with a top surgeon. I’m coming out to more people in my life. I’m even feeling a sense of pride about who I am and where I am in this process.
I don’t know what all of this means; I am just taking it one day at a time. Each day I ask myself how I feel about all of this. Some days I feel doubt. But most days, when I really listen past the fear and sink into my body, I feel so good. There is no mistaking the ease and calm I feel in my body when I put on that binder, toss on a shirt, and look in the mirror. My anxiety loses its grip, I can breathe easier and something just clicks into place.
It just feels right. And there are no intellectual arguments – others’ or my own – which can talk me out of that.