Offering free chest binders is mainly a matter of safety, as improper binding can be extremely dangerous. Worn to compress the chest and minimize its outward appearance, binders can help relieve gender dysphoria. However, finding a well-fitting and high-quality binder can be difficult. Many are financially infeasible, or the process of buying one could require outing oneself to family or fear of doing so. Besides, many who want to buy a binder still wonder what a properly fitting binder would feel like and wish to try different sizes.
That’s why Lila Feldmann PZ ’24 launched Pitzer College’s first-ever free chest binder program for students.
“The way that the program works is that we have an anonymous order form for chest binders from this company called gc2b,” Feldmann said.
gc2b was founded in 2015 by a Black trans man named Marli Washington. They say their binders are the first gender-affirming chest binders specifically created for trans people — as opposed to chest binders previously designed by and for cis men. The company also donates binders and sponsors organizations that support LGBTQ+ communities.
“Improper binding can be really dangerous. You can damage your organs, you can fracture your ribs,” Feldmann explained. “Specifically, [binders] are really interesting in terms of finances. I wanted this program to be accessible to all students regardless of their financial background. Sure, some students may have a lot of money, but what if they aren’t comfortable coming out to their parents as trans?”
“When people are in need of binding their chest, they’re going to find a way to do it. It’s our responsibility as a queer community to provide them access to a safe way to do it.”
Despite attempting to start this project for a long time, Feldmann struggled to find funding. However, the Queer, Trans, Plus Student Alliance at Pitzer was able to support her. Feldmann hopes to expand the current six-week trial run for Pitzer students to make it available to all 5C students, if it is successful on this smaller scale.
First, Feldmann placed an order for binders in every size available to keep for trying on in the Lavender Resource Room at Pitzer. After speaking to many friends, she realized the necessity of having the option to try one on before placing an order. Students who want to try on a binder could do so in the Resource Room starting Monday. This option also offers the students the opportunity to explore their identity before owning a binder.
On Monday, an anonymous order form was sent to Pitzer students, with results processed before delivery to the mailroom so that mailbox numbers and students weren’t connected. Students also had the option to pick up the package in the Resource Room, for those apprehensive about anonymity. The binders come in inclusive size options, fun colors and a variety of nudes — all of which can be found on the gc2b website. Anonymity, according to Feldmann, was the most crucial part of the program.
Taking advantage of resources for queer students can require comfortable being out. She established the program knowing that there are students who are still exploring their gender and that there needs to be space for such exploration without it being public.
Feldmann also knew that lack of access to a quality binder often leads to improper binding, so she took matters into her own hands.
“When people are in need of binding their chest, they’re going to find a way to do it,” Feldmann said. “It’s our responsibility as a queer community to provide them access to a safe way to do it. There needs to be space for people not fully comfortable with everyone knowing their gender identity.”
This program also highlights a common question: what is a school obligated to provide? Does the administration do enough for queer and trans students, especially those with less socioeconomic privilege?
Feldmann emphasized that students are the ones who primarily fund the Student Senate, which then pays for many student activities and resources, so she is attempting to provide more for the students with the money they already spend.
“With this program, we’re trying to provide things for free back to students,” she said. “Not just providing the resources for where students can find these chest binders, but actually providing them for free, taking every opportunity to give Senate money back to the students.”
The basic needs of students are often overlooked. Having resource centers and displays of support does not compensate for the fiscal and physical needs that the colleges could be providing.
“The one thing I want to make clear is … [that] people should not feel guilty for taking advantage of this resource if they do have the financial means to pay for a binder. It is okay to use this resource because you’re not comfortable being out, not only if you can’t afford it,” Feldmann said. “Put yourself first and use the programs provided to you.”