1. A new
study in the journal Culture, Health and Sexuality
is believed to be the first to look at the health impact of
chest binding on transmasculine people.
Chest binding is the practice of wearing something around
your chest to flatten your chest tissue. It’s done — often by
transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were assigned
female at birth — to masculinize the appearance of the chest.
Some people use commercial binders (made just for binding) and
others bind with athletic compression shirts, multiple sports
bras, duct tape, elastic bandages, or other materials.
The study team, made up of researchers from Boston University
Schools of Medicine, Boston University School of Public Health,
and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, analyzed 1,800
survey responses from people assigned female at birth and
intersex-identified individuals who were binding at the time of
study concluded what many people who bind
already know: Binding can cause pain and discomfort.
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George Clerk / Getty Images
Almost all (97%) of respondents reported at least one
negative health outcome from binding — back pain, chest pain,
overheating, itching, bad posture, and shoulder pain were the
most common — though the survey did not ask about the
severity of the outcomes.
Peitzmeier said the more days per week people reported
wearing a binder, the higher their risk was for negative
health outcomes, and that over half of the respondents bind
every single day.
5. But the
researchers also confirmed another
common sentiment among people who bind: Wearing a binder
improves mental health and quality of life.
Although the authors are still analyzing the mental health data
(a full paper just on that part of the study is coming soon),
Peitzmeier said people reported that binding improved their
mood and reduced dysphoria,
depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
“People spoke very eloquently about how binding was so
important to help them safely navigate public places, to go out
and meet people, that it was hard for them to leave the house
without binding,” she said.
they found that the mental health effects of binding “were
almost universally positive,” the researchers recommend that
healthcare providers “avoid making categorical recommendations
8. This is
significant not just because doctors have likely never gotten
evidence-based recommendations about binding before, but also
because they might not be equipped to address transgender
health issues generally.
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As BuzzFeed Health has reported, there are various barriers
to quality healthcare for transgender people. A 2011
survey on transgender discrimination in the U.S. found
that the rate of HIV infection among transgender people is
four times the national average, that one in four people
experienced delays to medical care, and that 19% were refused
care altogether. In fact, 50% of transgender patients in the
survey reported educating their own doctors.
Peitzmeier pointed to a 2011 study on
LGBT content in medical school curricula that found that “the
median reported time dedicated to teaching LGBT-related
content in the entire curriculum was five hours.”