Here is a picture of me a little over a year ago, in January 2011:
And here is a picture of me in October 2011:
Notice anything different? Same clothes, same hat, same sunglasses… different hair… Let’s try some better lighting.
I know I got thinner between January and October, but did I get thin enough to completely flatten my chest? No, no I did not. I have the High Performance Velcro Short Binder to thank for that.
This binder is made by Juya and I bought it from Les Love Boat, which is based in Taiwan. I chose it because the reviews said it’s comfortable but still effective. I wanted to look less female-bodied, but comfort is more important than looks for me since I can’t actually be read as genderless until society at large recognizes genderlessness as a thing. I don’t have any experience with other binders, so I can’t compare, but here are my thoughts on this one.
It cost me $66 including shipping, and it arrived in just under two weeks. It actually arrived before something that I had ordered on the same day from California. The package was very small and inconspicuous, but it did need a signature, so I had to go to the post office and pick it up because I was at work when they tried to deliver it. My parents didn’t seem to pay much attention to the little blue plastic envelope, but I guess that me receiving a package from Taiwan didn’t seem that strange to them by that point.
I am about a 34-36C and I chose a medium. I was afraid that it would be too small, but it turned out to be perfect; I’ve had room to make the velcro tighter as I get thinner, and if I needed to I could go a bit bigger, though not much. The scratchy part of the velcro will be off the soft part and touching my skin if I make it much bigger.
Wearing this binder feels like wearing a tight sports bra made out of swimsuit material. It doesn’t restrict my breathing or cause any pain unless I do the velcro much too tightly, which I sometimes do by accident when I haven’t washed it in a while and it’s getting stretched out. At first it was hard to get things to stay in place and not slide down to the middle and turn into a single, uncomfortable (i.e. sweaty) bump, but with practice I figured it out. It helps to do the velcro slightly unevenly, with the bottom of the binder tighter around my body than the top, which stops downward slippage. I’m glad I got the velcro instead of a pullover for my first binder, because I needed to adjust it a lot at the beginning, but now it’s starting to annoy me a little bit. There is a loose corner on the bottom that you can actually see in the pictures on the website, because the velcro doesn’t reach down the whole length of the fabric. Most of the time this is fine (it makes a nice handle when I want to pull it off quickly) but sometimes it catches on my shirt, or makes a bump if I’m wearing a t-shirt.
On that day in October 2011 when my sister took pictures of me and the Giant Cream Puffs of Doom, it got way too hot for my liking, and I ended up sweaty and miserable. A lot of it was because skin was pressed against skin and was sticking together, which is going to happen with every binder when you are a C cup, so I can’t really blame my binder for that. My back felt fine, not hot at all, so I’m guessing that this binder is one of the better-ventilated ones and I just can’t stand binding when it’s really hot. Which is fine, because I don’t do it every day anyway.
You can judge for yourself from the pictures above, but I’d say that this binder is very effective. I’m not sure how it manages to be so comfortable and yet so effective. The magic of Tactel, whatever that material is.
When my person saw me wearing my binder for the first time, she immediately put her hands on my chest in a casual way, as naturally as if it was a male-assigned flat chest. When I’m not binding and she touches my chest she is always surprised and pulls away quickly, though it doesn’t bother me.
Three times I have been read as a boy while binding, twice around the bathroom. The first time I was coming out of the women’s bathroom and two little kids were coming in, and they froze and looked at me in fear. I smiled, kind of confused. One of them whispered to the other, “Is this the boys’ room?” The second time, I was waiting for my sister to come out of the bathroom and a man pointed to the men’s room and asked me, “Are you in line?” I’m fortunate that I haven’t had any bad gender-and-bathroom experiences.
The third time was when I went to the NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. My NaNo name is Seabird and doesn’t indicate any gender. A few people asked if I was in the Young Writer’s Program, which is for novelists 17 and under. They were very surprised to hear that I was 24 and started calling me “she” instead of “he” after that, and one person said that I should play twelve-year-olds in movies. I suppose I don’t mind being read as a twelve-year-old boy. Since I left high school I have often been read as much younger than I am, but a girl, so this is a nice change.
Most of the time, though, I am still called “she” and “miss” and included in “ladies” and “girls”. Even a great binder can only get you so far, I’m afraid. My face and voice still make people see me as feminine, even when I’m wearing a blazer and a tie. For this reason I don’t stress about binding, and when I don’t feel like it, I don’t bother. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference to most people.
But, of course, it does make a difference to me, and that’s why I still do it about a third of the time. When I look at my silhouette when I’m binding, it finally looks right. For me, that’s what counts.