Getting Myself into a Bind: An Exercise in Chest-Flattening

Listen my children and you shall hear of the first time binding for this ol’ queer. Don’t ask me why Longfellow is in my head right now, because I don’t know and also it’s been a long week – a week made longer still by the persistent and awkwardly placed rash on my left side. Sexy, no? Allow me to tell you the story of this rash, which is also the story of my first time binding my chest. It’s a tale of heroes and villains, of danger and romance, of tragedy and triumph. Well, really, it’s a story about boobs, which is just as good.

This past weekend, I attended a party hosted by MadFemmePride, a popular Boston-area femme group. The theme was centered around the gender spectrum – namely, its opposite ends of “very masculine” and “very feminine.” In keeping with this theme, guests were encouraged to dress in a way that displayed one of these ends. You could choose to dress as the opposite of your daily presentation – femmes going butch and vice versa – or you could choose to amplify your actual gender presentation. Since I had no intention of stepping into an evening gown and stiletto heels, I chose the latter option. This presented a bit of a dilemma – how could someone who dresses entirely in men’s clothing every day make a “more masculine” costume?

My solution: Go full-on Drag King.

My Drag King checklist was short, as it only required the addition of three things to my daily appearance: binding, packing, and fake facial hair. The last two were easy to pull off. I shoved a pair of (good-sized) rolled-up socks in my jeans and stood very still while my GF drew me a dashing eye liner goatee. Doneski.

Binding, however, was a whole different story. I’ve toyed with the idea of binding for some time now; as you all know, my relationship with my boobs is complicated at best. The idea of a magically flat chest is very appealing to me and my button-up shirts, so I was quite the eager beaver (heh) to try this out.

First off, I gotta fess up that I did a shitty job researching binding before attempting it. And by “shitty job,” I mean, “I did no research at all and just went looking for ACE bandages, because that’s what people always talk about.” I mean, I know all about compression shirts and I’m sure they’re a better option, but they’re also pricey. For a one-time experiment like this, I wanted to keep things relatively cheap. That’s how I found myself in the first aid aisle at CVS, staring at ACE bandage packages for a good 20 minutes. Growing up with an ER orderly father and having done a stint in the ER myself as a patient advocate (worst job ever, BTW), I knew that these suckers were usually held on with metal clips. However, the ones I found were of the “self-sticking” variety. Thinking this would somehow make things easier, I bought a couple of packages and went on my merry way.


When the moment of truth came, my disturbingly excited GF began to wrap me up like a lesbian mummy. We didn’t even get through one roll before it was apparent that the bandages were self-sticking in all the wrong ways, rolling themselves into little useless ropes. This wasn’t good. With about 45 minutes to spare before we had to be at the club, we darted to the nearest Rite Aid (thanks for nothing, CVS) and found old school ACE packages, metal clips included. We raced back home with our quarry and got to work. That’s when the torture started.

TMI time, people. So besides being roughly three sizes bigger than I’d like them to be, my boobs are also extremely sensitive. As they were squeezed and flattened by their elastic oppressors, RB and LB were all like, “AHHHH WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS OMG WE’RE GONNA DIE!!!!” It sucked. A lot.

Then there’s the whole not-being-able-to-breathe thing. Let’s just say I have a new appreciation for the women of olden times who were subjected to whalebone corsets. I also totally understand why fainting couches were so popular, because I felt like I was going to pass out after about every five steps I took. (We need a butch/FTM equivalent of a fainting couch. A fainting La-Z-Boy?)

But honestly, I could have dealt with the boob pain and the crushed chest. The straw that broke this butch’s back was, literally, my back. The bandages compressed an area of my back – my left shoulder-blade and just below it – that has bothered me for years. I’ve seen doctors and nobody knows why, but this is a spot that really hurts me at random times. The second I started moving with the bandages on, the shooting pain in my back almost took my remaining breath away. This was going to be a long night.

The party was a bit slow. We had missed all the mingling and ice breakers, so all that was left was dancing. With each step causing me ridiculous amounts of pain, dancing was the least appealing activity I could think of. I would have been more excited by the prospects of wrestling a hungry tiger or playing Russian roulette – at least those options offered a quick end to my suffering.

Truth be told, I lasted maybe 20 minutes into the party before I had to find the nearest bathroom and tear that Medieval torture device off. My orgasmic relief was quickly followed by the “oh, shit” realization that I had not brought a sports bra as a backup and was now flying free. I dragged my GF into the stall with me (which, under other circumstances would have been really hot),  and she made me a makeshift sports bra by rewrapping the bandages muuuch more loosely than before. I was then free to boogie oogie oogie without feeling like my death was imminent. Other than a smudged goatee, the rest of the night went well. Phew.

I’d like to end this unnecessarily long post by tipping my hat to you, my MOC brethren who bind their chests on a daily basis. More power to ya, because binding is not for the faint of heart (or of breath).

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About Bren

I'm a self-identified butch lesbian geek Masshole with a passion for comic books, action figures, queer issues, flannel, and pretty ladies. Oh, and comments. I love me some comments (hint, hint).

18 thoughts on “Getting Myself into a Bind: An Exercise in Chest-Flattening

  1. I’m giving you major props for 1) attempting the binding and 2) actually going to the party bound after you experienced the first shooting back pain. We all make sacrifices for fashion, sure. But… if I were you, I would have immediately moved to “Well, I tried!”

    That said… my relationship to my boobs is complicated too. Not in the same ways, I’m sure. But still. I’ve recently been interested in binding. Not on the daily, but… just to see. If I’d been invited to your soiree, I would have bound too. Then you and I could have commiserated. And then fashioned makeshift sports bras to dance in.

  2. A personal question, Bren: do you slouch a lot? Because I’d bet that your back pain was the result of forcibly improved posture courtesy of your Ace medieval torture device. You might be able to have better binding results after a while with some back exercises.

    • I do indeed slouch. However, the spot below my shoulder blade hurts when pressure is applied to it, not when I stand up straight. Could that still be caused by slouching?

      • It might, though that sounds like a question better suited for an actual medical professional and not a random person you know from the Internet.

      • Point taken. I’ve been to my doctor about it and she thought it was just a weak ligament. Might be time for a new doc, though.

  3. Bren,
    Shakes my head sadly. I thought you would know better then to bind with ACE bandages. Heck you could have just DM’ed me and I could have saved you some pain! But I must say I did get quite a few chuckles out of this that I wouldn’t have if you had not used the ACE’s. That being said, next time you can get an inexpensive single layer compression shirt from Wal-mart, They carry then in the mens section as runners shirts. 😉

    • I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an inexpensive compression shirt! Every one I’ve ever seen has been pricey. I don’t know if there will be a next time, but if there is, I know who to call. 😉

  4. Oh nooo, I’m sorry your first experience with binding was so painful (albeit amusing to read about)! If I lived close to you I totally would have given you my old binder to use instead of ACE bandages. (Fortunately) I’ve never had to bind with ACE bandages, but I’ve heard an awful lot of horror stories about them!

  5. Oh, that sucks. If you ever want to try binding again, you can get some relatively cheap binders from Underworks. Relatively cheap being in the $30 average range. Some of them don’t work as well as others for completely flattening your chest, though, so I would check that out before buying one. But I don’t think they should put too much pressure on your back.

    I’ve been binding for a while now (and just this weekend began experimenting with packing which I’m liking more than I thought I would), and yeah, it can be a pain sometimes. I’m glad you were able to still enjoy the party, though! That makeshift bra was some quick thinking! 🙂

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