If you are a supportive parent of an FtM child one of the first things that they will probably ask for from you is a binder. Since we all know about teenagers poor decision making skills, you may have to enforce safe binding rules for them because when worn improperly or for to long binders can cause some minor health problems. If you do not buy your child a binder there is the obvious risk of increased feelings of gender dysphoria but also the risk or them finding alternative binding methods that will not be as safe. Without a binder your child may feel the need to use things like ace bandages or duct tape to flatten the chest and that can cause serious health concerns.
A binder is essentially a super sports bra (although your child will probably not appreciate you referring to it as such), it’s a compression garment that your child will wear on their chest to flatten the breasts. It is important to note that most FtM people prefer to use the word chest when referring to their breasts because other terms can cause dysphoria as they are associated with femininity and womanhood. They are typically made of a synthetic fabric and most commonly are found in white, black, and nude.
Your child probably knows about binders and which type they will want, but here are the basics:
- You will want to buy a binder from a well known company and don’t go for cheap, this means skip Amazon and go for a company like GC2B, Shapeshifters, or Underworks.
- The best binders are the type that pulls over the head and do not have clasps or stings. Although a few quality ones do have zippers they are best to be avoided unless you are buying a very expensive medical grade binder.
- There are two main styles, tank top which as you can probably guess looks like a tank top, or half tank which ends at the midriff.
- You will have to measure your child around their body as instructed by the company in order to figure out their size. Usually this means measuring around their shoulders, bust, and under their bust. Don’t buy from a company that does not offer a sizing guide.
Sit down at the computer with your child and pick out a binder, only buy one at first to make sure that they like it and it is the right size, then you will probably want to buy a few of them so that they can change them every couple of days without having to constantly wash them. It is usually nice to have a nude colored binder and a white binder, although the color choice is really up to them.
Binders should not be washed in the washing machine like normal clothes, they have to be hand washed. You can make this your child’s responsibility, but most binders just have you put them in a sink of cold water with some laundry soap, let them soak, swirl them around and scrub any stains out and then rinse them out and hang them to air dry. If your kids were anything like me their binders will probably find their way into the laundry basket a few times. While going through the wash once or twice probably will not destroy them it will shorten their lifespan before they get stretched out and have to be replaced.
A growing kid will need to be resized and get new binders as they age. Old binders can be donated online to a number of trans charities who will gladly take them even if they are a little bit stretched and worn.
A binder should not be worn for longer than eight hours a day depending on the binder companies guidelines. For most kids this means that they can put one on in the morning and take it off when they get home from school with a little extra time. You may have to set a rule of not wearing the binder in the house in order to keep them from wearing it 24/7. Try not to be to rough on them with this rule, as it is necessary for their physical health to take it off, not wearing a binder causes them dysphoria. When they can’t wear their binder they can wear a properly sized sports bra with the padding removed which should still give them a flatter chest especially when worn under baggy clothing.
Binders should also not be worn during extreme heat or exercise since they add a thick extra layer making the wearer even warmer, they can restrict the ribs making it more difficult to take full deep breaths, and hold in sweat which will irritate the skin and probably cause acne. In the summer this means binders should probably be avoided if your child is the outdoors type. Binders should also not be worn in gym class which can be very difficult for your child. If there are gendered locker rooms then they are already probably very uncomfortable and changing from their binder to a sports bra will only make them feel worse. Sadly it is necessary that your child understands that it is dangerous to wear their binder during gym and must change. They also should not be worn during marching band.
Binders do put pressure on the spine and ribs, but if the proper wear time is observed than usually it is not an issue unless your child has scoliosis or another pre existing condition. If your child does complain about soreness, skin irritation, or some other condition then they will need to stop wearing their binder until the issue clears. If you have any concerns about binding, especially if your child has a preexisting condition you are afraid might be affected, consult your doctor.
Your child asking you for a binder is a sign that they trust you and want your help in their transition. Not everyone who wants a binder is trans and not every trans person wants to or is able to bind. If your child asks you for a binder or if you find a binder and they have not come out to you as transgender do not jump to conclusions. They might just want it for costuming or just be experimenting. Take the time to talk to them about safety and if necessary their gender identity.
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