Recommendations for Binding or Taping Your Chest Safely
Many trans, non-binary, genderqueer, and agender people experience chest-related dysphoria, and some choose to use tape or a binder to flatten their breasts. Binding can have significant benefits to mental health and mood, and is associated with improved well-being and quality of life for those that experience dysphoria related to their chest.
General Safety Information for Chest Binding and Taping
Binding (by wearing a binder or using tape) can have a range of potential side effects, but binding less often and taking breaks, as well as binding less tightly, can lessen these side effects. Common side effects include rib, chest, shoulder, and back pain; overheating; coughing; and skin irritation.
If you experience any side effects, consider taking a break from binding or binding less often, and consult a doctor if side effects become serious. If you live in the Lansing area are concerned that your doctor isn’t queer-affirming or doesn’t understand trans issues, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to connect you with a doctor who can help.
It’s important to take break days (for example, on the weekends) when you don’t bind.
People with larger chests are more likely to have skin issues, including scarring, excess skin, and rashes.
There is no evidence that chest binding increases the chances of catching COVID-19, but binders may worsen symptoms and increase complications and risk of death for those that have the disease. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, avoid binding until you recover.
General Tips for Binding and Taping
Binding is intended to make your chest flatter, but not totally flat. A completely flat chest is generally an unrealistic goal and isn't consistent with typical body proportions (even for cis men).
When evaluating how you look when binding, look at yourself in a mirror. Looking straight down gives a distorted view, and is from a perspective that others don't have.
Your chest’s overall appearance is dependent on the shirt you wear as well as other factors, and you may prefer a binder in some clothes/scenarios and tape in others.
There is a lot of good information about binders online, but you should still be careful about trusting what you read. This page is good and comprehensive:
Critical Safety Information for Binders
Get a binder from a reputable company, like gc2b (https://www.gc2b.co), underworks (https://www.underworks.com), and shapeshifters (https://www.shapeshifters.co) (gc2b and shapeshifters both have instructions and tips on their sites, and it might help to read a few examples, not just one).
Never wear a binder for more than 8 hours at a time, and take breaks if you can.
Never size down. If it's hard to breathe, the binder is too tight/small.
Take break days (for example, on the weekends).
Never exercise in a binder. A sports bra is much safer and you need to prioritize safety. Avoid strenuous physical activity while wearing a binder.
If you have any concerns about potential side effects or risks related to taping, talk to your doctor.
Helpful Tips for Binders
If you're small-chested, try wearing two shirts (e.g., a cami-style tank top under a regular shirt) instead of a binder or tape.
The Salus Center is a great local resource, particularly the Transmasc Support Group (nonbinary folks are welcome!), and you may be able to get a binder directly from Salus.
It can be difficult to find good information about taping online, but these three pages are helpful:
Transguy Supply: How to Bind With Tape | FTM Binding Tutorial
See The Stars Ablaze (Note: Has very helpful animated gifs showing how to bind, which may be considered NSFW)
Critical Safety Information for Taping
Only use tape that is designed to stretch and to be applied to skin. If the tape doesn't stretch, you face the same issues as wearing a binder too long (see below). Athletic/kinesiology tape should be used (KT Tape and TransTape work well). Never use duct tape or other types of tape: You will get hurt.
Don't fully stretch the tape when you apply it (stretch it around halfway). This gives the tape the flexibility to not restrict your chest dangerously. Keep in mind that the tape is already slightly stretched on the roll before you take the backing off.
Don't wrap the tape around your entire chest. Leave room for it to expand when you breathe and move, etc.
The tape is designed to stick strongly and stay on for days, so take it off very carefully or you'll hurt your skin. Taking it off in the shower helps, but rubbing baby oil into the tape first and letting it sit for around 10 minutes before getting in the shower works magic.
You can wear binding tape for a few days at a time without removing it, and you can exercise and shower with it on. Try to give yourself a break between binding sessions to be on the safe side (for example, leave it off for the weekend or overnight before putting on new tape).
Either protect your nipples with something (so that the tape doesn't stick directly to them) or be very careful with them when you remove the tape.
If you have any concerns about potential side effects or risks related to binding, talk to your doctor.
Helpful Tips for Taping
Watch a few example videos before putting it on yourself.
It may be easier to put it on while laying down on your back, so that things fall naturally into a flatter starting shape.
It may help to try putting tape on a test patch before using it to bind your chest, to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction to the adhesive.
Taping is generally more effective for people with smaller chests (tape has less flattening power than a binder).
Danny Feldscher (they/them)
Grey L. Pierce (they/them)
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Chest binder image: Genusfotografen (genusfotografen.se) & Wikimedia Sverige (wikimedia.se) / CC BY-SA