November is Trans Awareness month on our QWC sexual health calendar. In this series of articles we will aim to assist you in better undertanding the issues facing the Trans community.
Essential tips for tucking, strapping & packing
Whether it’s tucking, strapping or packing, we all have our own philosophies when it comes to our bodies that help us not only create our desired body shape but contribute to making us feel whole. And with so many new products coming onto the market, it’s becoming even easier to express ourselves in a painless, comfortable, safe, and in many cases, a fashion-forward way.
The most important thing is to learn to love your body and embrace being your unique self. As Oscar Wilde famously put it – “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”. For many of us tucking, binding and packing is a huge part of our daily realities. But, like with everything in life, there are risks involved if not done properly. We outline key tips to keep in mind to ensure you stay safe (and away from the ER) when tucking, strapping and packing.
- Chest Binding
Binding for so many is an absolute non-negotiable. But, while chest binding can significantly improve mental health and anxiety, it can cause negative side effects. A 2016 study that examined 2 outcomes among people who bind found only 2.8% of individuals out of 1800 had rare and severe outcomes like rib fractures. This reinforces the fact that binding is not inherently harmful if the right precautions are taken.
Safe ways to bind include:
- Take a break every couple hours. Prolonged binding could cause adverse side effects including breast, back and chest pain, skin irritation, or fungal infections. The golden rule is to try to give yourself a break every 8 to 12 hours. Make sure you also avoid exercising and sleeping in your binder.
- Find the right fit. Wearing binders that are too tight will not only restrict your breathing but can cause tissue and muscle damage. Bodies change over time, especially if you’re on hormones. Make sure you wear a binder that fits your body comfortably and correctly and change the size when you need to. Trust us, you don’t want to be out somewhere and not be able to breathe!!
- Bind properly. Commercial binders, sports bras, strategic layering, and bandages, are the safest ways to bind. Do NOT bind your chest with duct tape or plastic wrap as this can damage your skin.
- Be careful how you wash it. Hand wash and air dry your binder regularly (Every few days). Make sure you don’t put your binder in the tumble drier as there’s a very high chance it’ll shrink.
As with binding, tucking (no matter how you choose to tuck) needs to be done safely and comfortably to ensure no adverse and damaging side effects. Risks associated with improper tucking include skin irritation and discomfort, UTIs, dehydration, infections, and bladder and kidney damage.
Safe ways to tuck include:
- Don’t tuck for too long. Tucking for too long can lead to testicular discomfort and pain. As with chest binding, we recommend taking regular breaks from tucking.
- Be mindful of the tape you choose. Not all tape is skin safe to use, especially when it comes to sensitive skin. It’s therefore super important to choose the right adhesive to avoid chafing and skin irritation. We recommend testing a small area before full application. It’s also a good idea to shave the area where the tape will be used, so there’s no irritation or pain when the tape is removed.
- Keep it clean. The increased moisture caused by tucking can cause skin irritation, rashes, and infections. Make sure you keep the area dry and clean. Consider applying anti-fungal powder or creams to prevent odours and infections.
While packing comes with far fewer health risks than binding and tucking, a small percentage of people do report some negative side-effects from wearing certain prosthetics.
Safe ways to pack include:
- Be careful if you have allergies. If you’re allergic, be extra careful to check ingredients carefully when purchasing a prosthesis. We recommend purchasing silicone because it is non-allergenic and non-porous. Silicone is also much easier to clean.
- Store your packer carefully. You obviously want your packer to retain its shape which means storing it carefully as opposed to throwing it into a cupboard or into the bottom of your bedside drawer.
- Watch out for the adhesive. Be careful of the ingredients contained in the adhesives used to hold the packer in place. This is directly applied to the skin and can cause significant skin irritation, especially if you’re allergic.
The bottom line
Binding, tucking and packing are vital for so many for a variety of reasons. Just make sure you do it as safely as possible to mitigate any potential health risks and side effects. So, what are you waiting for? Get outside and rock the look that makes you feel whole and happy. With a little tuck here or a little packing there, you do YOU! Above all, feel comfortable, be safe and take care.