I wore a binder for the first time yesterday. I’m socially out as trans to most people that I know, and I always introduce myself as Christopher instead of my birth name. My binder, that I purchased for peanuts from some Chinese-based vendor on Amazon, has been collecting dust in my underwear drawer for almost three weeks as I’ve gathered up the courage to wear it.
When I put on the binder, I was extremely self-conscious. I’ve read and listened to many binder reviews and thought I had a pretty clear idea of what wearing my first binder would feel like. As I finished closing the clasps on the tightest row, I stood in front of my bedroom mirror confused. It felt more like a sports bra than something meant to “bind,” as the name would suggest. To my very discerning eyes, the bulge of my chest was still very noticeable. I could see no difference in wearing or not wearing the binder. I was convinced that my warped perception of my body had caused me to err in buying a correctly sized binder and that I should immediately return it to Amazon and purchase a smaller one.
My partner was in the shower during this little interlude into the existential. I forewent putting on a shirt until he emerged. He efficiently and effectively calmed me down, warning of the dangers of a too-tight binder and reassuring that the binder did, in fact, conceal my breasts by about 75% percent (I have 36C/Ds, so 75% is rather drastic). My concerns were quelled, I put on a shirt, and we went on our merry way.
It is fitting that I chose to wear my binder for the first time to the meeting of the college LGBTQ group of which I am currently president. We had a cute little picnic in Central Park. Many of my friends noticed I was wearing a binder, and that was very reassuring. After a while, I forgot I was wearing it and felt more comfortable with my body than I ever remember feeling.
At one point, I left the group to use the restroom. In places around NYC heavily populated with tourists, I err on the side of caution and usually use women’s restrooms. Tourists come from all sorts of cultural backgrounds that may/may not be hostile to transgender people, and I really don’t pass all that well yet.
Because I don’t pass well, I’m not used to female-bodied people looking twice at me when I use their facilities. Yesterday, there were many more double-takes and side-eyes than I have ever before experienced. Perhaps this was because of the binder, perhaps not, I’m not sure. No one said anything to me (thankfully, I’m terrible with confrontation), but the looks spoke volumes. It was a really fascinating experience, really. It felt really good to perhaps confuse people as to my gender. It gave me hope that maybe one day I’ll pass without double takes from anyone.
It’s a brave new world.