When I tried on my first ever binder back in 2022, I instantly felt over-stimulated, unable to breathe and itchy… but at the same time, I LOVED how flat my chest looked. I was battling between avoiding overstimulation and finally seeing myself for who I am in the mirror.
I wanted to wear the binder because it brought me so much euphoria and joy, but I also knew I had to take it slowly to not overstimulate myself. Still, to this day, I take wearing a binder on a day-to-day basis: weighing up the pros and cons, and listening to my body and mind.
Those of us who experience sensory overload when wearing tight-fitted clothing or specific fabrics may choose to avoid these items to reduce overstimulation. However, those of us who bind may find this difficult because binders have to be tight and well-fitted to achieve the desired flattened effect!
Not only is the tightness of binders an issue for some folks, but the seams and labels on the binders can cause issues, too. Binding tape (tape that you can use to bind your chest flat) can also cause sensory issues, particularly during summer.
So, what are we meant to do?
If you’re someone who experiences sensory overload, you don’t need to avoid binding; it’s about finding the binder and methods that work for you!
Before we get into it, I want to say that you don’t need to wear a binder every single day to be valid in your identity! It’s important to take rest days, wash your binder, let your body breathe, and listen to your senses. Taking a day off (or many days off) is not invalidating your transness!
The first step is buying a binder which fits you perfectly, in a fabric that doesn’t over-stimulate you, in a length and design that feels right to you. Binders should NEVER hurt or leave you with rashes or red marks. If this is the case, you need to either up-size or change brands. Making sure you measure yourself correctly and check sizing charts is vital in ensuring the binder you buy is right.
Personally, I love the ‘sports bra’/short binders. I was already used to wearing these sorts of clothing items under my t-shirts, which made the transition to binders much easier. I like to let my tummy breathe (particularly as I bloat and have chronic pain), but some folks may prefer a tight-fitted t-shirt binder that feels like a hug from shoulders to waist. You can also go for a zipper-binder, which is way easier to put on (and easier to get off if you’re feeling overstimulated), and they typically have less compression, so are not as restrictive. I highly recommend starting with one of these binders!
When looking for a binder, keep in mind what might cause you to feel over-stimulated, such as seams, stitching and fabrics. Most binders are made from spandex and nylon, with a layer of padding on the front to help achieve the flattened look and a stretchy back, but always check how the binders are made, with what fabrics and how they are stitched together.
Once you’ve found a binder that is your size, your desired design and in a fabric that feels good to you, you might want to remove any tags that may irritate or over-stimulate you. Luckily, most binder brands have teeny-tiny labels, which I’ve found I can leave on without noticing - however, feel free to cut these out if you want to.
Once de-tagged, the next step is to prepare yourself for putting it on. If you use a zipper binder, putting it on is much easier and doesn’t require much preparation, but if you have a non-zipper binder, getting it on and off can be rather tricky at first (trust me, the first time I tried one on, I panicked!) You will want to put one arm through an arm hole, then your head, then your other arm, and finally, pull the binder down to cover your chest/stomach (if you have a t-shirt binder). You may want to rearrange yourself; I personally will move my chest with my hands under the binder so it sits comfortably.
So, you’ve got it on - yay! However, you don’t have to keep it on for hours for the first time. It’s good to start slow with binding, especially if you get overstimulated easily. Try a few minutes at first, then take it off - this will also help you to get used to putting it on and taking it off again. Then try again for a little longer, and repeat until you can wear it however long you want.
If you aren’t able to wear it for a full day - that’s okay! Even a year later, I take my binder off after a few hours. On the day I wrote this, I only had my binder on for half an hour before I had to take it off - and that’s totally valid! Taking breaks is valid and recommended; removing your binder for specific activities or only wearing it for specific events is, again, totally okay!
Listening to your body and mind whilst binding is essential - not only for reducing overstimulation, but for keeping yourself safe and healthy!