3 min

In a bind

Adventures in chest binding

I don’t know why it took me so long to get here, but here I am almost 32 years old and just stepping into the incredible world of chest binding. I have been doing my reading and picked up a tensor bandage last week as a cheap way of trying it out before committing to something more expensive.

Last night Andrea and I had concert tickets; I was wearing a black dress shirt and a grey wool sweater, and I just wanted to look clean and simple. So the occasion to bind had finally arrived. I had read some warnings about using a tensor bandage — about chafing and pain and things like that — but personally, the only trouble I had is that the bandage slips down over time and you have to coordinate the length of it so the clips end up under your arm.

Otherwise, for a short period of time, it’s all good. It felt good to be held in like that. I found myself checking out my profile and running my hand over my chest regularly throughout the night. It was comforting to feel so solid.

In general, I was not turned on by 99 percent of the chest binders I came across in my research, maybe because my purposes put me in a small demographic of people looking to bind. I don’t want my chest to look “male,” necessarily; I just want it to look flat. I like wearing tops that are considered typically feminine, like tube tops and halter tops. So I am actually looking for a strapless binder — and there aren’t many of them — which makes the tensor bandage not such a bad option for me.

My breasts are small, barely a handful even during my time of the month, for which I am absolutely grateful. I have waffled since puberty between hating them, loving them, wanting them to be bigger (only for a very short time — back when I was really skinny and thought I had to wear a bra for the rest of my life and hated how I had never filled out any bra I’d ever worn and was contending with regular deliveries of the Victoria’s Secret catalogue to my parents’ house in Scarborough) and wanting them to disappear.

I have never found a bra I felt hot in, although I love black bra straps with a passion and have sacrificed comfort on many, many occasions for that dark little line. But really, at the end of the day, discomfort does not equal hot, at least to me. Ill-fitting does not equal hot. And a good solid sports bra with two-inch wide straps — no matter how flat it makes me look — does not, to me, equal hot (although it usually equals very, very sweaty). All of those fucking bras I have worn in my life!

Sometimes I just want my whole body to be tight, tight, tight, yet there are these two pieces of me (four if you count my ass cheeks, but good boxer briefs and a pair of jeans can usually take care of those) that just aren’t tight, that bounce and jiggle and change shape when I lean over. I hate how they want to squish out around the straps of my harness. Sometimes my breasts complicate my profile and make me feel over-accessorized, like I am wearing big clip-on earrings when I would rather be wearing studs.

When I just want to throw on a V-neck and go, like a lot of guys can, my breasts get in the way. I envy those guys, especially in the summer when it’s hot, and who wants to wear two layers all the fucking time? But after spending years, back in the day, not wearing a bra, I am unwilling to revisit having random people stare at my chest all day, and I don’t want to stress over walking into air-conditioned convenience stores. The last thing I want to do is draw more attention to them.

Sometimes my breasts are inconvenient. They obscure the chest muscle I am building at the gym. They make it more than I can stand to go swimming in just my shorts — because I know people will stare. Even though it’s legal and even though, physically, I feel more comfortable that way. Even though, like bras, there is not a bathing suit in the world that really works for me and my breasts.

Sometimes, though, my breasts are perfect. When they brush up against my partners’ when we both have our shirts off, when they touch her back as she leans against me and reaches for my neck. In a sexual context I love my breasts, and I am glad I never got rid of them.

I love when I am naked and my nipples get hard.

I love my breasts when I am lying on my back and they almost disappear, and I can see my stomach all the way across.

And I still do love those black bra straps.

So I am caught, old chasm in a new context, between the worlds of masculine and feminine, trying to reconcile the love and dislike I feel for my breasts at this stage in my life. It is nice to have this new option of binding, although I have yet to find the perfect way to do it, if one exists. There is a strapless binder in Amsterdam waiting for me, a tensor bandage in my top drawer and more to this story. And gratefully, a beautiful girl at home who will take me either way.

Street Smarts appears in every second issue of  Xtra.