Gender Affirming Gear

Binding involves wearing tight garments to flatten out your chest. It’s a do-it-yourself option for changing your appearance so that it matches your gender expression. You may bind to feel more at ease in your body, feel more comfortable in your clothing or help others read your gender correctly.

Some people buy specially made binders. Others use sports bras. Find out more in Commonly Used Binding Methods.

This section outlines some of the most commonly used ways of binding, including layering of shirts, sports bras, athletic compression shirts, back support devices, and chest binders!

Please note that many external resources are linked on this page, and you may want to do your own searches on the topics presented. When exploring external resources please be aware that many of the services linked to chest binding also provide education and gear related to sexual health.

  • Layering of shirts: wearing a tight fitting undershirt with looser shirts on top. This method can be used when taking a break from other binding methods or for those who don’t want to wear any binding devices. A button down shirt as the top layer can help hide the chest and hip curves if these are a concern to you. Since wearing many layers in warm weather can be uncomfortable, breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics can help.
  • Sports bras: wearing a tight fitting sports bra. Sports bras made with “lycra” material work well and are breathable. Some folks may wear multiple sports bras in layers and combine this method with the layering of shirts.
  • Athletic compression shirts: wearing compression shirts made of spandex, lycra, or other stretchy materials. These shirts can most often be found at sporting goods stores. Companies like Underarmour make compression gear for athletes. Recommended Underarmour shirts are the HeatGear compression shirts as these are designed to be very breathable and help keep you dry. Underarmour also has youth sizes if smaller sizes are needed. This method often works well for those with minimal chest tissue. Folks with larger chests may want to consider medical/binding compression wear.
  • Neoprene waist and abdominal trimmers or back support devices: neoprene is a thick, rubbery material that is inexpensive and widely available. It does not breathe well but can offer effective compression. If chafing is a problem, it is recommended to wear a moisture-wicking thin undershirt or absorbent body powder underneath the neoprene. Waist trimmers and back supports are designed to wrap around the torso. They are usually blue/red on one side and black on the other with a velcro closure. The neoprene should be wrapped tightly around the chest and fasted with the velcro closure placed along the side of the body. 
  • Chest binders/medical compression shirts: Chest binders/medical compression shirts: the most common binding method. An effective method of flattening a range of chest sizes. Medical compression shirts provide more compression than athletic compression shirts and can be purchased through a specialty supplier such as Underworks.

    There are also companies that make chest binders specifically for trans folks such as gc2b, and some local stores in Edmonton, AB may also carry chest binders such as The Quiltbag and The Tickle Trunk. If you would like to purchase a binder, TransGuys.com has a brief review of the most well-known companies used in North America.

    Binders can be expensive and if cost is a barrier, contact your local Pride Centre to see if there is a free binder exchange program near you. There are also binder exchange programs run online such as Come as You Are’s Chest Binder Recycling Program (for which the contact email is binders@gendergear.ca).

Here, we will explore some of the health impacts that binding for a long period of time may have, as well as some tips for safe binding.

Binding for long periods of time may result in:

  • Sore neck, back and shoulders
  • Acne or irritated skin where the binder is worn
  • Discomfort in warmer weather
  • Increased symptoms of existing health conditions such as Asthma
  • Especially with unsafe binding practices, circulation and other body systems may be impacted

Contact your Primary Care Provider if you experience pain, difficulty breathing, ongoing tingling/numbness, skin rash, or sores.

Safe binding

Here, we will explore some of the health impacts that binding for a long period of time may have, as well as some tips for safe binding.

The first tip to safe binding is ensuring the binder is the correct size. It is not recommended to wear smaller sized binders to enhance an even flatter chest appearance as a binder that is too small can cause severe pain and injury. A general rule of thumb with binders: If it hurts, cuts your skin or prevents you from breathing it is too tight.

It is not recommended to bind with elastic bandages, ace bandages, duct tape or saran wrap. These methods can restrict blood flow, make it hard to breathe, cause rashes and bruising and even break ribs.

To avoid negative health outcomes from binding you can try:

  • Binding for shorter periods of time (no more than 8 hours per day)
  • Finding looser alternatives such as a well fitting bra or medical compression shirt
  • Taking time off binding if possible. 
  • Ensuring your skin is completely dry before putting on a binder
  • Using a non-irritating body powder or thin undershirt beneath the binder to help prevent skin irritation.
  • Practicing regular stretching of the back, neck, shoulders and chest to alleviate binding discomfort. 

In this section you will find some resources that are specific towards binding and can provide you with more information and support.

While many people feel that binding, at least sometimes, is necessary for their sense of wellbeing, some may prefer a balance between binding and alternatives, or relying more heavily on alternatives. Some common alternatives to binding are included in this section.

  • Wearing shirts that include buttons, patterns, or material useful for cutting curve lines to the viewer’s eye.
  • When taking a break from binding, curating strategies for mental wellbeing, self-love, maintaining safe(r) spaces, and utilizing safe and supportive social networks.