Chest binding can be a vital practice to improve self-esteem and body positivity for many LGBT+ people, and with growing concerns over COVID-19, here are some helpful guidelines towards binding in a safe way.
Binding refers to the practice of covering the chest area and those who do so are advised to use a chest binder purchased from a trusted source. The material can place pressure upon the airways and create a varying degree of agitation.
Clinical Lead of the National Gender Service, Dr Karl Neff, has advised, “Binding is not expected to put you at higher risk of infection. However, if you become infected, binding could accelerate the symptoms and infection. This is not proven to be the case but is reasonable to assume. Therefore, if you bind and you get symptoms of #COVID19, the safest thing to do is to avoid binding while you have symptoms. Symptoms of #COVID19 and general advice on self-isolation etc. can be found on the HSE website.”
If you #Bind then you are NOT expected to be at higher risk of infection.
However, if you bind AND get infected, then your infection could deteriorate more quickly if you continue to bind. This is not proven to be the case, but is reasonable to assume.
— Dr Karl Neff (@karljneff) March 16, 2020
To help navigate chest binding alongside worries over the coronavirus, Queer Health Collabs, Jack Metcalfe and Amelia Arnold, have created eight insightful tips to look after respiratory health.
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To all my trans-fam who wear binders, Amelia and I have made a resource for navigating #COVID19 and chest #binding. Binding while sick and coughing can cause fluid build up in the lungs and extra complications, so it's important to look after yourselves. These are just a few tips to help you. Please feel free to share this with your trans families and networks. Also remember with mixed levels of scare mongering in the media, that it is important to get your advice from your local Department of Health, the Centre for Disease Control or the World Health Organisation. Here in Victoria the best place for up to date information and advice is https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19 Look after yourselves, your mates and your community. We've all known what it means to feel isolated and afraid. Now is the time to reach out and help to spread calm, kindness and compassion. And share your toilet paper if you have spare – running out of bog roll is just nasty. Jack.
On Facebook, Metcalfe wrote, “Binding while sick and coughing can cause fluid build up in the lungs and extra complications, so it’s important to look after yourselves. These are just a few tips to help you. […] Look after yourselves, your mates and your community. We’ve all known what it means to feel isolated and afraid. Now is the time to reach out and help to spread calm, kindness and compassion.”
Navigating COVID-19 and Chest Binding acts as a breakdown of the various challenges that trans and non-binary people who are binding face and how best to overcome these issues. Giving time for regular breathing exercises has been advised in order to clear the airways and lessen the pressure.
In the guidelines, it states, “It is recommended to avoid binding if you are sick. If this does not feel possible for you, consider if you have worn in-binders that could be worn sparingly, or tight singlets or shirts to wear under your clothes.”
Going without chest binders can be a daunting challenge as many people struggle with body dysphoria and similar challenges. However, the guideline highlights that a person does not have to stop chest binding due to coronavirus concerns, rather adopt a routine which best suits in relieving pressure.
Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) are also available to offer support and help during this time of ‘social distance’. They said, “We understand that spending a lot of time at home, where you may not be able to be yourself or are dealing with unsupportive family members, can have a significant negative impact on someone’s mental health. We are working with peer support group facilitators around the country to provide online peer support. If anyone has any concerns or questions, I’d encourage them to contact TENI at offic[email protected] or on 01 8733575. We are here to help!”
Over on the TENI website, they provide a list of Lifehacks for chest binding. Anyone who has made the decision to start binding can find informative tips on where to find a chest binder and how best to bind. Most online shops, such as Underworks, will provide home delivery to maintain the advisory social distance.
Transgender health campaign This Is Me are available to offer support and advise through their Twitter and Facebook page as well as emailing [email protected] They shared Queer Health Collabs’ guidelines on Twitter along with the following message, “We understand that many people are feeling particularly isolated right now with community support groups and social events on hold. Reach out to us if you need to & take care.”
Community check in! How are we all doing? Feeling?
Is there anything we can do to help? Feel free to suggest!
— ThisIsMe Campaign (@ThisIsMeIreland) March 18, 2020
Navigating COVID-19 and Chest Binding guidelines further states, “Where possible, give yourself a total break from your binder. If you have to be out in the world, consider finding a bathroom stall where you can take your binder off and do some deep breathing.”
Routines and habits work differently depending upon the person so it is about taking time to test out what is best. Chest binding is an important part of life for many trans and non-binary people, especially those stuck waiting for medical transition, and COVID-19 does not have to stand in the way of this practice. A shift in approach can greatly help towards ensuring safety and comfort.
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