Breast binders and the helpful strangers pushing them on your “son”

Part 1 in a series. Part 2 can be found here.

Parents of teen girls, are you under the mistaken and old-fashioned impression that your parenting opinions should be respected by other adults when it comes to how your children are raised? Do you have the outmoded idea that you should have any input at all into decisions that might have an impact on the physical health and wellbeing of your offspring?

You’re behind the times, mom and dad. Didn’t you know there is a network of organizations, run by well-meaning, unbiased adults who only have your child’s best interests at heart? These people know more about what’s good for your daughter—I mean, son–than you do. Step right up, because I’ve got some news for you.

When teen girls go online and wander into the lair of FTM transitioners, one of the biggest topics of discussion is breast binders.  Despite how uncomfortable and frankly dangerous to health they are, and despite the fact that breast tissue is not a cancer or wart to be done away with, but a vital aspect of a female’s body, no dysphoric teen would be without a breast binder, to hear it from their promoters.

One of the biggest binder pushers is an organization called TransActive Gender Center, which (among many other things) is in the business of sending out free binders to minor girls who can’t get their skeptical parents to jump on board the transition train.

Because of the excellent sleuthing work done by the intrepid GallusMag and others over at GenderTrender, the shady practices of this organization are coming to light. The Executive Director of TransActive, an MTF by the name of Jenn Burleton, came under quite a bit of heat in a comment thread recently for misrepresentations about the nature of this “non-profit” organization. It’s worth perusing the whole thread here:

In the thread, GallusMag sums up their “In a Bind” program for us:

^^^ Jenn Burleton is king of the munchausen mommies at TransActive, a transgendering children political lobbying group. He is also responsible for a program called “In A Bind”, which sends “Chest Binders” out to children in unmarked packages so that the children can compress their rib cages and crush their pubescent breast tissue. The practice is considered dangerous or even life threatening, which is why many otherwise supportive parents forbid it. Jenn’s service is designed to bypass parental consent by providing the chest compression devices directly to children in secrecy.

How difficult is it for a child to qualify for one of these free binders? It’s easy as can be.


All of our binders are sent to youth ages 21 and younger. If you are 22 or older, please do not fill out an application.


Our binders go to people based on demonstration of actual need. ‘Need’ may be financial (can’t afford a new binder) or circumstantial (living with unsupportive parents). Please understand that we are a non-profit trying to help as many youth as possible. Please be honest with yourself and In a Bind when demonstrating need.


The “unsupportive parent” who might just have a few concerns about this in 2015 is the child abuser of yesteryear. Get with the program, you useless parents! (As an aside, I’ve been called a “child abuser” and told “I hope you die” multiple times by online strangers, typically childless, who fancy themselves parenting experts, because I dare to write this blog and have meaningful conversations with my own child about these matters.)

Are there any dangers to this practice of crushing pubescent breast tissue in a corset-like vice? Well, there are a few hazards, but they’re worth it! After all, gender dysphoria is the real deal, and any delay in folding, spindling, or mutilating healthy body parts is—well, it’s child abuse.

Yesterday, the blogger Stoptranschauvinism shared this helpful information about the dangers of breast binding from the McLean FTM top surgery clinic in Canada. The clinic specializes in top surgery. Hm. Wonder if they might have a reason to be publicizing this information? Nah. They’re just providing a public service.

From McLean clinic:

The following are some symptoms you should look out for:

  • Loss of breath
  • Back pain throughout the back or shoulders
  • Increased pain or pressure with deep breaths

Collapsed Lungs

Since chest binding can lead to fractured ribs, this can increase the risk of puncturing or collapsing a lung. This happens when a broken rib punctures the lung, causing serious health issues.

Once the lung is punctured, it has a higher risk of collapsing because air can fill the spaces around the lungs and chest.

Back Problems

If you bind your chest too tightly then it can cause serious back issues by compressing the spine, which is part of your central nervous system. The spine controls many functions, and you need to be very careful when doing anything that may cause damage.

Back pain from chest binding can also be an indication that a lung has been injured. If the pain is coming from the upper back or shoulder, consult with a doctor for further examination to ensure proper lung health.

And the piece de resistance from McLean:

Fractured ribs, damaged blood vessels, or punctured lungs can cause difficulties down the line and may stop you from being able to move forward with surgery. Keeping these issues in mind will allow you get the most out of using chest binding.

…until the day Dr. McLean liberates you (and some of the funds in your bank account) to feel like this handsome, Zen-like fella:

But don’t take it from the unbiased McLean clinic. How about hearing directly from FTMs who use these devices? The Internet is full of binder horror stories (Truth About Transition would be a good place to start), and a quick YouTube search will turn up many such stories. Try a video search for “binding injury.”

So take heart, parents! Your son is in good hands with the likes of the TransActive Gender Clinic and, later (as soon as possible!) “renowned plastic surgeons.”

33 thoughts on “Breast binders and the helpful strangers pushing them on your “son”

  1. One of the websites for “transkids” offers to help find foster homes for teens whose parents are not adequately supportive of their desires to transition. This was one of the earlier red flags I encountered in research. The offer had nothing to do with actual abusive parenting. Just “let us help you if your parents won’t get with the program.” Way scarier than a free binder IMO.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is really insidious. We need to push back hard against this kind of usurpation of parental rights. Activists like this, who want to redefine parental concern and caution as “abuse” worthy of removing children from their parents’ care need to be exposed and vigorously opposed. I’ve seen child abuse. Attempting to separate children from loving families is despicable and needs to be called out wherever we find it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I will look for it. It may not still be there, because it’s been more than a year ago that I saw it. It creeped me out.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Trans adults are facing a homeless problem, and you have sex offenders like Alison Woolbert setting up programs for adults to get access to kids and remove them from homes to concentrate on a sexual obsession that the adult crossdresser in his 50s feels must dominate their life.


  2. 4thwavenow I spoke about this too and completely agree with your post. The idea that any organisation would secretly send out binders is absolutely fucked up and reading the page of that organisation put the hairs up on the back of my neck. What kids don’t understand is *they are talking to unsafe people*. They don’t “really understand you” and want to help. They have their own ends and you are serving them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just read your excellent post on this, chekistokrat.

      We need to keep writing about these kinds of organizations, because it appears to me that no one else is. Somehow, society as a whole is letting them get away with making these huge decisions for other people’s children. You’re in the UK, aren’t you? Is something similar going on there? Is the NHS sending out free breast binders to minor girls who purportedly have dysphoria, against their parents’ wishes?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been looking at a lot of stuff in the UK myself just recently, particularly into the disinformation produced by GIRES, the government appointed advisory body on trans issues. They provide ”information” leaflets that are distributed by the NHS. Here is the link to their leaflet/PDF ”Medical care for gender variant children and young people: answering families questions”.

    Click to access doh-children-and-adolescents.pdf

    Back to binders I haven’t found anything on the NHS providing binders to girls but I found an organisation in Manchester called MORF which is ”Manchester’s social & peer support group for trans*masculine people”, basically a social centre. Membership is for over 18 year olds, but they do have a free binder catalogue that would seem to be open to any age as they say that you can use ”any name and address that is convenient” and promise discreet packaging.

    The main support group in the UK for under 18 year old trans kids is ”Mermaids”, as you are probably aware. I found a lot of things on their web-site that really disturbed me, particularly a page from Natacha Kennedy’s blog from 2011 entitled “I would rather have a live daughter than a dead son.” There is also a direct link to Kennedy’s blog, ”Uncommon Sense”. Here is just a snippet….

    ”Predictably the accusation of “child abuse” has been levelled at those who advocate prescribing hormone blockers to children between the ages of 12 and 15 (they already are prescribed to those over the age of 16) in the UK. This flies in the face of the evidence in both the United States and Holland, where these drugs have been successfully, and harmlessly prescribed for many years. It also flies in the face of the experience of parents of transgender children, who have lived a day-to-day existence, hoping that their child is still alive and in one piece.”

    Putting ”information” like that in front of worried and confused parents is at the very least morally and ethically wrong.

    I hope the information is of use to you.


    • Thank you for this information about the situation in the UK. The suicide card is played in every story about kids who identify as transgender, and it is a very effective silencing mechanism. The worst thing that could ever happen to a parent is for their child to kill themselves, so we are highly sensitive to this tactic. The media is amplifying this meme: if you don’t allow your child to medically transition, they will die. Other possible reasons for the teen’s unhappiness are never considered. Online trans activist communities push kids to threaten self harm if their parents don’t immediately agree to hormones and surgery.

      I wrote about the chilling effect of teen suicide on dialogue several weeks ago here:


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  9. Does anyone know of any medical documentation (and I mean actual medical documentation, not the article published on the fantastic sites that want to ‘help’ my child) what address the health issues of binding?


    • This article, recently published in a medical journal, is quite comprehensive. It may be freely downloaded from the publisher’s website:
      Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community-engaged, cross-sectional study.

      The authors tread very carefully in what they say, clearly trying to avoid a confrontation with transgender activists. They use all the ‘right’ jargon: ‘chest-binding’ for breast-binding, ‘assigned a female sex at birth’ for born female, etc.

      Nonetheless, their findings show that binding is a very very dangerous and damaging practice.

      ‘…transgender community resources commonly discuss symptoms such as pain and scarring. … . Of participants [in the survey], 51.5% reported daily binding. Over 97% reported at least one of 28 negative outcomes attributed to binding.’ [from abstract]

      ‘These outcomes were: rib fractures, back pain, chest pain, rib or spine changes, bad posture, shoulder pain, shoulder joint ‘popping’, muscle wasting, numbness, headache, overheating, fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness or dizziness, cough, respiratory infections, shortness of breath, heartburn, abdominal pain, digestive issues, breast changes, breast tenderness, scarring, swelling, acne, itch, skin changes and skin infections.’ [p. 4]

      ‘ The most commonly reported outcomes were back pain (53.8%), overheating (53.5%), chest pain (48.8%), shortness of breath (46.6%), itching (44.9%), bad posture (40.3%) and shoulder pain (38.9%).’ [pp. 6-7]

      In addition to the material in that article, there are various blog posts and videos by women who used to bind, and stopped, that make sobering reading: they have reported continued pain in back and shoulders several years after they stopped binding.

      Here is a video (with transcript) in which a woman talks about why she is giving up binding.

      From the transcript:

      ‘I have pain in my back and my neck and my ribs from the way I hold my upper body to hide my breasts. When I was binding regularly I was also in pain from it. My binder is actually an approved commercial binder that many transgender and gender non-conforming people use, and it is supposed to be safe. But it hurt my ribs, and it constricted my breathing. I would get migraine headaches nearly every time I wore it from the compression of my nerves and from breathing too shallow. I can actually feel it starting to build… in my neck right now.’

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for referencing that study, Artemisia. It is an important one, yet it has not made any headlines. I think it is important for those who bind their breasts to realize that commercially made binders are harmful. There is a misinformation campaign which has been going on for years in the transgender community, which pushes the use of commercial binders, calling them “safe.” Certain brands are pushed as they are considered safe. However, the study you referenced found that “commercial binders were the binding method most consistently associated with negative outcomes (20/28), followed by elastic or other bandages (14/28) and duct tape or plastic wrap (13/28).”

        It is irresponsible of the FTM community to perpetuate the lie that commercial binders and/or certain brands of binders are safe. There is no such thing as a safe binder. They are tools of self harm.


  10. Wow this website is part of the reason why trans kids self-harm, commit suicide, have depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Maybe give your child the freedom to discover their gender identity by allowing not pushing cisgender OR transgender identity onto them. You say that “breast tissue is not a cancer or wart to be done away with” yet I know teens and adults who describe their breasts as “lecherous,” “parasitic,” etc. It is important for people to know the dangers of breast binding, but entirely harmful to their psyche to misgender Jenn Burleton and to do it from the perspective that being transgender is incorrect or bad. If your child is trying to secretly receive a chest binder, maybe you should rethink your parenting strategies rather than blaming the internet and the transgender community.


    • Thanks, Sam. Just what I needed–another teenager who has no clue what it’s like to be a parent telling me how to be a parent to my kid. I truly hope that if you ever have children, their teenage friends come and tell you what a shitty parent you are because you won’t let them damage their bodies. Because, you know, teenagers have ALL the answers. I may be 40-something, but I certainly haven’t lived the full life with all of the responsibilities and experiences of a teenager. [insert the same eyeroll I get from my teen here]
      There comes a time in life when EVERYONE has to accept the body they were born in. We only get one. I would prefer that my daughter learn to accept hers eventually without pumping it full of hormones and having cosmetic, risky surgeries. I don’t want her to spend the rest of her life fighting the reality of her biology.


  11. Sam – why do you, and your friends, persist in coming here and telling us, as parents, that we have no right to parent our children? That we should leave our children’s health, well-being, and sanity, entirely up to you, your fellow trans-activists, and the internet? it’s going to be you, who takes over our children’s long-term medical care when it turns out these interventions are horribly dangerous, but nobody ever even cared enough to study that? It’s going to be you, who comes to pick up the pieces when it turns out that “transition” didn’t cure our kids’ pre-existing mental problems and in fact made them worse? It’s going to be you, when our kids decide however many years down the line that they could have gotten better without hormones and drugs and surgeries, but now the results are irreversible? It’s going to be you, when our kids can’t get a decent job, find somebody to marry, are sterile and can’t have children?

    Didn’t think so.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I, as a parent, believe that you should listen to your children rather than ignore them. It will be you, not I, who deals with a child who hates you, who hates themselves, who hates the world. Who is in constant pain and shame because you thought that their inner struggle and turmoil was part of a phase or a trend. It is you in your belief that a transgender person cannot find work or a spouse that will raise a child that believes they are worthless if they are transgender.

      I am not telling you to allow your sons to bind their chests or get surgery. But I am urging you to listen to your children when they tell you that they want a chest binder because maybe there are other options out there that could help them and that won’t harm their health.

      I did not come to this site to tell you not to parent your children. I found this when researching the health risks of chest binding so that I could help my son decide if it is right for him. I am not telling you NOT to parent your child. I am telling you that your children need your support rather than your disbelief.


      • You obviously haven’t spent much time on this site. If you had, you’d know a few things. One, your presumptuous “advice” about how to parent, and your arrogant assumption that our kids are bound to hate us, that we are “ignoring” or “not supporting” them, is the same tired crap we see dished up by trans activists on the daily, and guess what? We dare to question it. It’s why this site exists.

        With our support and love, several of our kids have come to question the need to transition too, and have reclaimed themselves without having to bind their breasts, take hormones, or move on to drastic surgeries. In other words—they desisted. They changed their minds. And it just so happens some of our daughters now agree with us that they’d rather be gender nonconforming women than spend the rest of their lives haunting surgeons’ and endocrinologists’ offices. That you dare to call our daughters our “sons” while knowing nothing of the circumstances of our family lives is very telling.

        The other thing you would know, if you bothered to do more than a drive-by shaming, is that parental support of young people doesn’t always mean simply endorsing whatever they say. This used to be an uncontroversial aspect of parenting, but now trans activists have twisted parental common sense into “abuse.” One can love, one can accept, one can listen, one can even know that, in adulthood, our children will do as they please. But supporting a teen can mean providing an alternative viewpoint in an age when transgenderism is a fad spreading like wildfire all over social media—and many young people are being irreversibly hurt in the process. Several of these young people have written their own blogs about desisting from a trans identity. Some have even decried the lack of “gatekeeping” in the mental health community.

        So do as you please with your own “son.” But coming here as a scold, telling us you know more about how to love our kids than we do, is entirely unwelcome.

        Before you think about pontificating again to our group of dedicated, very well informed parents, try doing a bit of reading here. You might be surprised at what you learn—if your mind is not completely closed to alternatives.

        Liked by 2 people

      • There’s no way to get rid of your boobs that is “healthy” or risk free. Binders aren’t good for your physical health and elective double mastectomy comes with plenty of documented risks. If you believe in telling your kid the truth, these statements are the truth. Unpleasant truths for those with dysphoria, but … yeah.

        As a parent you get to parent your kid the way you desire. We’re gonna do the same. Support comes in more than one flavor, regardless of what you think. There is a difference between being straight with your kid regarding the potential downsides of transition and telling your kid they are “worthless.” There was a time when I’d have written long posts trying to convince you of this. Explaining that there is some middle path between “instantly affirm/agree” and “shame/ignore.” But it’s all pointless air. You don’t really want to dialogue, you just want to slap us while making yourself feel virtuous.

        Do what you will.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. I have read this article, and all of your comments, and would like to share my take on this. I’m a transgender ftm boy, and I am currently fourteen years old. I have been binding for about six months, and it has helped me so much. My suicidal thoughts are depleted, and I am so much more confident.
    I understand your concern, and there are unhealthy ways of binding. As is your concern of your children going behind your back. I want to say that while binding is not the best for your health, it is the best option available. Would you rather have your child wear a binder, or wrap ace bandages around their chest so many times they cant breathe?
    I want to make it clear that this comment is not meant to be hurtful or accusatory, I want to start a conversation and understand where you’re coming from.


    • I have no control over you or your choices or your parents. You are THEIR kid and your situation is between you and them.

      My own deal is my daughter felt much the same way as you when she was 14. I found her binder in a pile of laundry I’d been nagging her to deal with for almost two weeks. I told her that if she couldn’t be trusted or depended upon to do laundry, she certainly wasn’t capable of making a decision to bind her breasts — an act which is dangerous, period. Also, teenagers are kind of engineered to take risks and parents are the brakes and prefrontal cortex to manage those impulses. A binder is unhealthy, ace bandages are unhealthy. But, if looking like she didn’t have breasts made her more comfortable, well, I would compromise with any sports bra of her choice. At least she’d get some compression and look more closely aligned with how she desired, but I would know she was wearing a garment designed to allow her to breathe and to not damage breast tissue. Because, real talk — many teenagers change a LOT before their brains are fully mature, in their early-to-mid-20s.

      My kid is now almost 20. She desisted/reidentified. She knows she’s female, she is a lesbian and she seems much more content in her body — her female body. Without alterations.

      I think a lot of this is because puberty brings big, noticeable changes to bodies and somehow we’ve got this idea that it’s a breeze for some people and if you’re struggling with it, it means you must not be the sex you are. That’s such nonsense. EVERY HUMAN STRUGGLED WITH PUBERTY. My mom did; I did; my kids did; my husband did; you are currently. As a child, you didn’t have breasts and then you got some and suddenly the world saw you as a developing woman and some people in the world started treating you as a woman when you were just a girl in a teen body. It’s a tough go — learning about this new body you have, learning how other people see you (sometimes as a sexual object, and you don’t really want to BE a sexual object). Honestly, there’s a lot going on and presenting like you don’t have breasts must feel safe and like a place you’ve been, where you didn’t have to cope with all these issues.

      Change takes time to adjust to. Puberty and adolescence is a time of intense and difficult change. Your body is changing, your brain is changing. You are becoming an adult, from a child. Lots of parents here have said it many times — you have only been a child and a teenager. We have been children and teens and adults. You might want to give us some credit for understanding some of what you’re going through and also telling you, from our vantage point, that life is long and you will likely CONTINUE to change for years to come. Don’t put all your eggs in a binder, is what I’m saying. You might be surprised at where you end up when you have a fully-matured brain. Hell, you might be surprised where you end up in two years. Or ten.

      Good luck.


    • Nobody is going to put you on blast here, Con, but they are going to give you the real deal, which is that binding your breasts, no matter how it makes you feel, is going to deform them. That’s how anatomy works. Back in China, women’s feet were bound with tight straps to make them tiny, and so the women couldn’t walk (it showed how wealthy the family was). The result? Little, stub-like, deformed feet and crippled women. In Victorian times, it was considered beautiful for a woman to have a super-slim, squinched-in waist, so women wore extra-tight corsets. The result? Deformed rib-cages, injured lungs … you’ve heard of fainting couches? Those were real, because women often fainted away due to the sheer inability to breathe. Even my own mother, growing up in the 1950’s, has super-tiny feet, size 5, because back then women wore these tight, tight pointed shoes. Today the average woman’s shoe size is size 8, because (thank goodness) we all grew up wearing sneakers and not high heels.

      Especially when you are growing, compressing or squeezing part of your body, all day every day, will make that part of your body become smaller. Why wouldn’t it? Eventually you’ll find your breasts will no longer resemble normal breasts, just like the Chinese women wound up with tiny stumps at the end of their legs. No backsies, either.

      In binding, no matter what you tell yourself about why you’re doing it, you’re actually part of a long tradition of women doing permanent harm to their bodies, to serve some notion of what women ought to do. The people around you might tell you it’s progressive, but from what I can see, it’s anything but.


  13. This is absolute bullshit, and these comments about trans men being women are fucking disgusting. You are all transphobic or very royally uneducated and misinformed. I am a trans guy. Im 15. I would like to be referred to with male pronouns because I AM A GUY. You’re completely forgetting that gender dysphoria has been scientifically proven to exist. Your daughters aren’t going to see a trans dude and say “oh hey look im trans now”. The part about binders being life threatening is true in very, very, few cases where people didn’t listen to the warning signs their body was giving them and didn’t do their research. You can go to any site that talks about binding and it’ll say not to exercise while wearing it, to only wear it for 8 hours, and take it off immediately if there is pain. I’ve been binding for almost a year now and I’ve had no problems. Also, in more cases than not, the child knows more about their body than the parents do because they live in that body. The parents can only make their choices for them for so long. Do you know what happens when parents become too intrusive and such? The kids end up druggies on the streets and eventually killing themselves because the second they were free, they didn’t know regulation because they weren’t ever allowed freedom. Let people make their own body choices, and let them bind. The trained and certified people probably know a lot more than you because they specialize in the field. While I agree that the whole “not letting your child bind is child abuse” thing is incredibly stupid, I have to agree to an extent. It can be emotionally exhausting to have to live like this and parents seem to not understand this. Finally, trans guys don’t give a shit about how their chest looks. Its gonna be taken off anyway when they get surgery. Yes, you shouldn’t bind unless you’re ready to live with the consequences. Also, in the comments i see posts saying “oh you don’t know where you’ll be some day. You’re just insecure and one day you might be a beautiful lady” like shut the fuck up Karen, i think I’d know better than you if its insecurity or gender dysohoria, so i will not be a beautiful lady. I will be a handsome ass man.

    Thank you, and please go to Hell.

    -Every transgender individual who has had to read through this bullcrap


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