A reader writes: “I’m in high school (Junior), but am very open about my gender identity (cross dress, bind, etc). At this point there isn’t a whole lot I can do about hormonal treatment or surgery. So instead I try to do what I can, at my age. I bind, as mentioned, and use a commercially available binder.
“It has been fine, but lately I’ve gotten a lot of pain, difficulty breathing, and nasty bruising on my rib-cage. I wear it too often as it is (about 12 to 14 hours a day, nearly every day), so I know the best thing to do would be to just stop wearing it so much.
“Unfortunately, this is a problem for me as my gender dysphoria has also gotten much more severe as of late (and includes thoughts of self-harm and things we don’t need to get into). It’s a difficult trade-off for me to consider – wear it less and hopefully not end up with a serious injury in the hospital and cause my dysphoria to be that much worse (which, when paired with my depression, anxiety, and raging teenage hormones can be a serious and kind of terrifying problem), or continue doing what I can to suppress (no pun intended) my dysphoria and likely end up in the hospital.
“My mother doesn’t take my depression or dysphoria seriously (it took her witnessing one of my most violent panic attacks to convince her to let me see the school therapist), so advice from her doesn’t help (especially when she doesn’t offer any).
“So that’s problem one. My other problem, which is much less serious, is standing to pee. I really would love to be able to stand to take a pee, but the price of commercially available STP devices that also function as packers is insane! Not to mention the harnesses! The cheapest set I found would still set me back by $50 that I do not have (a lot of money for a jobless teen who’s worried about affording college, a car, gas for that eventual car, animals, etc). Do you have any ideas in this regard?”
Last question first – have you tried a coffee can lid? I never got the hang of it, but a lot of guys use a plastic coffee can lid with the edge or lip part cut off so that it’s just a flat circle. Then they roll it into a kind of tube and pee through it. You can also buy a sheet of thin plastic at the hardware store and cut a coffee-lid-sized circle out of it. It’s explained here on TransGuys.com, along with other suggestions, tips, and links for the Stand to Pee situation.
As far as the binder, I have never worn one, so I will have to consult my readers with regard to this. However, one thing I would suggest is that, if you can afford it, you have a couple of different binders that you trade off. That way, skin that is irritated by one binder is given a break while you wear the other, and vice versa.
In addition, the difficulty breathing and the bruised rib cage sound to me as if your binder is too tight. I know you want it as tight as possible to do its job, but you might want to consider loosening it and possibly wearing a couple of layers of clothing – a T-shirt and a button-down shirt over that, or something similar – to add additional cover.
Ribs are sturdy, but they can be broken, and if your breathing difficulties continue even after you have removed your binder, you might want to consult with a doctor. It’s possible that you have injured a rib somehow and it’s pressing inward or preventing a lung from fully expanding or something similar.
Also, check out the Transguys.com feature Chest Binding 101. It’s a helpful guide that addresses some of your exact concerns.
Readers who bind or have bound, what do you think about this situation? And what are your Stand to Pee ideas?