The Magic Comes After The Gracelessness
September 18, 2017 9:50 AM   Subscribe

"There are lots of reasons why a person might decide to wear a chest binder; chiefly, I think, you should try it if the idea of wearing a chest binder, even once, appeals to you. I fear this may sound more facile than gently encouraging, which is not my intention." - Product Review: When Every Bra Size is Wrong by Mallory Ortberg
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! (49 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
What in the soft green hell, I really don't know how to feel about this.

The reason binder recommendations start off with "it doesn't hurt much" and "you can move" is because safety is the number one reason they were invented. Because the stereotypical thing - wrapping bandages around your chest as seen in this music video - will literally warp your ribcage. It's phenomenally unsafe. But many trans dudes are so desperate to flatten their chest they will hurt themselves to do so.

Really there's no reason she shouldn't wear one, but part of me is like "what the hell lady" and "have you considered a sports bra".

PSA to Mallory Ortberg, you put one on by turning it inside out and rolling it down.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 10:23 AM on September 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

"what the hell lady"

This is Ortberg's shtick. It's like Larry David being uncomfortable about social interaction.
posted by bonehead at 10:27 AM on September 18, 2017

Mallory went to bindercon this year and seems to have jumped fully into it - if her style of writing is unfamiliar this might come off as weird. I posted it because it hit me right in the tenderest part of my early (incredibly unsafe) bandage binding and made me realize I should probably think about buying a real binder. For me she managed to describe exactly how inscrutable the idea has always felt on my genderqueer body.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 10:27 AM on September 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

LOL wait bindercon isn't about binding, I just saw a pic of her there and made some wrong assumptions it appears heh. But my point was that she's doing the thing she does and is very sincere. Ok, I'll stop hovering now.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 10:35 AM on September 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

This is Ortberg's schtick.

Indeed. This is perfect slightly befuddled prose:
Thus far I have endorsed an item of clothing where the selling points are, apparently, “You can still breathe when you wear it” and “It doesn’t hurt, exactly.” I have never before been moved to endorse any sort of undergarment, either in public or in private, and yet the highest praise I seem able to muster in this instance is “You can still move your arms when you wear this.” I have not yet built a compelling case. I will speak further.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:37 AM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Let's not go to far down the "lol WTF this is so ironic/bizarre/wrong" trail, if you don't mind. Maybe remember that there are a lot of people who do bind or would bind if it were socially or financially possible for them, and that a relatively mainstream figure like Ortberg talking about this as something that's not OMG-freaky-dangerous-extreme-who-would-do-that-except-someone-dying-of-dysphoria is kind of a big deal.

Also, there have been a number of historical periods where cis women flattened their chests - not to the really-tight-binder degree, but fairly flat.

If there's one thing I'm interested in, it's whether she's buying at the top of the size range or not - a semi-bind from a binder that is at the top of your size might have a different look and purpose than a bind from a very tight one at the bottom.
posted by Frowner at 10:43 AM on September 18, 2017 [33 favorites]

I don't think that there's a human I've never met that I love more than Mallory Ortberg. I was moved to tears by that piece, actually looked at and considered buying the binder she linked, and then remembered that I love my boobs and that they are an integral part of my queer lady gender expression. She casts a spell with her prose, and I am utterly in its thrall.
posted by donnagirl at 10:47 AM on September 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

Really there's no reason she shouldn't wear one, but part of me is like "what the hell lady" and "have you considered a sports bra".

Quite probably! Most AFAB people have at one time or another. However, a sports bra is still a bra, and for some of us wearing a bra of any kind doesn't feel right or appropriate. I've been wearing sports bras as my undergarment of choice for several years now and have been feeling increasingly dissatisfied with them. I'm very happy that Mallory wrote about this and am probably going to pick up one of the binders she recommends to see what it's like.

C'mon, folks. If you're somebody whose relationship with your breasts is unfraught, or if you're somebody who can't imagine how somebody's relationship with their breasts could be fraught, please consider commenting less and reading more.
posted by Lexica at 10:53 AM on September 18, 2017 [47 favorites]

(In re size range - by "top of the range" I meant that IME if your chest measurement is, eg, 40, you might buy one (and I'm making these ranges up) that is supposed to fit 38 - 40 or you could get one that's sized for 40-42, not that there is a "one size fits all", which is the opposite of how it works.)
posted by Frowner at 10:54 AM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Roughly one-third of my waking hours since the age of eleven have been spent nodding in vague affirmation at the reminder, “You know, you’re probably wearing the wrong bra size.”

Truth. Also did you know you are wearing the wrong kind of bra? You should wear an underwired one. Or not an underwired one, definitely not an underwired one. Perhaps this one with padding to make up for your inadequately shaped breasts? Look it's not my fault the clothes are cut that way, you can look all baggy or not, up to you. Oh not you, your breasts look stupid in that top gaping out through the buttons, you should wear this other bra which will contain them a bit. NO NOT THAT ONE, it's making them look all squished up! Try this one. No, this one. No, that's a maternity bra, you're not - are you? Okay, wear this one until you can switch to this breastfeeding one, which looks like it was stitched out of your grandmother's tablecloth and comes in eight fetching shades of mauve. Right, now fasten it on the - no, not those hooks! You never use those hooks. Okay this is no use, you're obviously wearing the wrong size again. The size you need is... oh, looks like they're out of stock. Sorry!

How keenly I remember the day when my mother happily told me that it was time to buy my first bra, and I burst into tears and ran out of the room. Surprised me and my mother both at the time but looking back I think it made a lot of sense, really.
posted by Catseye at 11:09 AM on September 18, 2017 [52 favorites]

It sounds great for those days (not many days, but some days) when I just get tired of having the darn things.
posted by JanetLand at 11:10 AM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

A relevant article, from September 2016: Inside the Landmark, Long Overdue Study on Chest Binding:
Outside of the queer community, chest binding remains a relatively unknown phenomenon. It is more commonly discussed by trans vloggers (the search term "my first binder" brings up about 114,000 results on YouTube) than it is by healthcare professionals. But new research conducted by The Binding Health Project and published in Culture, Health, and Society—which they say is the first study on chest binding published in a medical journal—shows that a discussion on how to help people bind safely and effectively is long overdue.

A qualitative report from the five-person strong research project goes into more detail about the benefits of binding for those they surveyed: "Based on our preliminary analysis, for most participants, binding was a positive experience and led to improvements in mood and self-esteem, minimized gender dysphoria, anxiety, and depression, and helped them to feel in control of their bodies," a report they published on the study reads. "In fact, some reported that a positive impact on emotional and behavioral health makes the physical discomfort of binding worth it."
posted by Lexica at 11:25 AM on September 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

This is a purchase I've considered making for, well, years, and chickened out of for just that long. I don't know if this piece was the nudge I needed but it's close. Ultimately for a sorta-genderfluid-maybe person, it's nice to read something that says, "If you think this product might solve something for you, you're allowed to buy it and find out; it doesn't mean you're committed to anything other than a $33 purchase."

If you're not in that category of person I guess the reason for writing the review is fairly inexplicable. But if you are, it's fairly unusual to be addressed at all, let alone this directly, and it feels pretty good. I feel seen. It's nice.
posted by potrzebie at 11:26 AM on September 18, 2017 [33 favorites]

As a cis white male I knew nothing of binding. I was vaguely aware of the "Maybe you're not wearing the right bra-size" from over hearing discussions my wife has had with her friends. I also had no idea about the struggles transpeople have with normal body logistics. A Mallory Ortberg essay and an hour of youtube and reading, I'm now slightly less ignorant and sightly more aware of my privilege. Thanks for the post.
posted by herda05 at 11:26 AM on September 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

Uh. I'm a trans dude and my relationship with my breasts is extremely fraught. That's the only reason I commented at all, because I'm a trans dude and it made me kind of uncomfortable ... It's not that she shouldn't write this piece or wear a binder, it's just, that was my emotional reaction to it. I guess I associate binders with a lot of queer pain and it felt really weird to see them without that context at all.

(as in, I actually can't wear a binder OR a sports bra because my shoulders are kind of messed up. I literally get panic attacks when buying bras. I see posts like "wish I could afford a binder" all the time. GC2B and other binder shops and queer bloggers all do regular giveaways because they know it might be the only way a teenager can get one. And also I see teenagers asking what packaging the binder comes in because they need to keep it secret from their parents. There was a big hullabaloo when Walmart said they might carry them and another hullabaloo when they didn't.)

None of this means anything to your personal undergarment choices. It really doesn't. It just means this piece hit some sore spots for me. But when I think about it I do fully agree with the message that the only requirement for wearing a binder is wanting to wear a binder.

Anyway if anyone here is gonna buy a binder I can recommend The binders there are all made by hand and also extremely affordable.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

I almost posted this tweet from her as the first comment - I think it might give some more context about her/her reaction to binding to people who might have missed it in the piece (or in knowing her/her writing).

my only other piece of advice, if you get a binder, is to sternly tell it "This better not awaken anything in me" before putting it on

To me this piece screams out about the unrecognized/unspoken dysmorphia issues and the befuddlement that comes when something core to us is out of place & it's put where it goes. And, like you say, just trying to let anyone know who needs to know that anyone can buy a binder and if that tickles the tiniest part of you, maybe try it out if you can. I can see being made uncomfortable by how she expressed some of this, I just think a lot of what you felt was missing from the piece was said in the spaces between the words.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 11:38 AM on September 18, 2017 [18 favorites]

Yeah, I agree with I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today!. "I immediately, and carefully avoiding too much direct thought about the matter, sought consummation with it." to me is the bit of the piece that does this most explicitly.
posted by brainwane at 11:43 AM on September 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

The way I'm reading this is that even for Mallory Ortberg, saying, essentially, "I do not always want to present my body the way that society says that cis-appearing women should" is a big, bold deal - that this is a circumspect essay because it's a difficult topic (Ortberg is queer, right?), and particularly a difficult topic for straight and cis people not to be jerky about. I really feel like a lot of people, including feminists, feel like if women aren't completely jazzed about making the most of their chests, etc, they are suffering from self-hatred - or at least, I base this on various comments I've heard over the years, both to me and in front of me - so it seems like it's a pretty bold stance to say "I would prefer to go through my day without, like, cleavage, and here is a garment which achieves that". People feel so very, very entitled to women's bodies.

As a transmasculine person who so far usually doesn't bind (due to work schedule logistics, gym, etc, rather than preference) I cannot even tell you the number of times that someone gets confused about my gender and then looks at my chest, and it's weird, and it goes away in the winter because of big cardigans. I mean, for one thing, we all know that having people look at your face and then your chest feels pretty gross, and when it's, like, everyone it's particularly depressing.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's going to be a better world for me if "women! display your breasts! do not flatten them, ever! the presence of your breasts is how we evaluate your gender!" stops being a thing. A world where there's less gender policing on women is going to be better all around .

Also, something I've noticed is that where one used to be able to get good old flattening sports bras, now they are all (usually pink and netting and) designed to give you cleavage, so not much joy there.
posted by Frowner at 11:43 AM on September 18, 2017 [43 favorites]

Also, it is totally okay with both feminists and non-feminists that women wear high heels, which are also painful and can also cause injury and also restrict motion. And that women wear spanx, and make-up, and do waxing and all that stuff. Whatever wave we're on now, feminist circles have definitely gotten to the point where "taking a lot of effort to present yourself as feminine, being willing to endure discomfort to get there and wanting to spend money on it" is positive/empowering/legit, so I think that it's okay that women (or men, or NB people, etc) are willing to endure a little discomfort for something else.
posted by Frowner at 11:47 AM on September 18, 2017 [32 favorites]

I just think a lot of what you felt was missing from the piece was said in the spaces between the words

You're right - although that's still coming from a different place than what I'm used to. It's another category of queer pain, another category of people, and another context for using them. That's probably a very good thing, for reasons that Frowner just said.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 11:48 AM on September 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Can I just point out that if some female bodied person puts on a binder and goes "oh this is certainly nifty in an unexpectedly emotional way", it seems odd to jump to the assumption that they are a necessarily a cis woman or that they will always identify as such.

Looking femme doesn't make you female; the absence of crippling dysphoria doesn't make you cisgender; everyone's gender journey is different, and every journey starts with a tiny step.

That said, being a cis lady introducing binders to other cis ladies also seems like a fine thing.
posted by quacks like a duck at 12:13 PM on September 18, 2017 [21 favorites]

1. All hail Mallory Ortberg / I still miss The Toast every day of my life.
2. I think the last picture I'd seen of Mallory before today was the headshot for Dear Prudence. Based on that, without intending to do so or even being consciously aware of it, I apparently made some identity assumptions (cisness, femmeness) that strongly colored the way I read this essay the first time around.
3. After reading the essay I went looking around for more Mallory-words and found the Mallory-instagram. After seeing more recent pictures, I realized that those assumptions were hanging around in my head uninvited and that I didn't really need them or want them, about Mallory or anyone else for that matter. It was a helpful reminder. After that, I read the essay again with a more open mind. It was good.

"There are things about living in a body in the world that feel inaccessible without quite being impossible; inaccessible in the sense that the gap between fantasy and reality is always present regardless of how one looks, inaccessible in that one often fears the extent, scope, and reach of one’s own desires, inaccessible in the sense that learning more about what one may want does not necessarily translate into being any closer to getting it, or even asking for it, or that there will be anyone to ask it of, inaccessible in the sense that what one wants is not always consistent, recognizable, or even legible, to oneself, much less anyone else."
posted by ourobouros at 12:18 PM on September 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

I guess I associate binders with a lot of queer pain and it felt really weird to see them without that context at all.

Also, I think it would be legit to ask her what she thinks of binders in the context of homophobia, it's more that for me, I feel like it's really easy to leap to "how dare she as a femme bisexual [I think that's how she identifies based on reading her work?]" and kind of shut down the conversation. But also, people's identifications change or expand or unfold, etc, and I know that I myself in the past have been like "how can this person who has this gender presentation describe their gender identity in this way", and I really wish that I had not.

Also it seems super intimate. Ortberg seems like she's in a funny position - she's got more feet in more worlds than a lot of people, because she has cred in queer and feminist spaces while also being Dear Prudence, which means that she has this very mainstream job that is also very public. It seems like this kind of thing would be a tricky essay to write, given that.
posted by Frowner at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I can't say how she identifies without asking her today, but lesbian is what she's said in the past and I wouldn't assume a cis version of femme, no.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 12:29 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm a straight, cis woman with enormous boobs. I was a gymnast. With boobs. Y'all, I would have killed for a good binder in the 70s and 80s, rather than the inelegant and unpleasant methods we used to strap them down enough for competition.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:51 PM on September 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm going to second checking out Mallory's instagram, if only for the massive amount of photos of Mallory looking dapper and happy (and now, in retrospect, definitely wearing a binder), and the sheer number of fun, short sleeved button down shirts.
posted by damayanti at 1:08 PM on September 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'm a cis woman with big boobs that I developed very young, and having a big chest is so totally central to my experience of femininity that I'm really curious about what it would be like to move through the world without enormous tits. (They're actually not that enormous. A lot of this is in my head.) So I'm actually sort of tempted, even though I feel like it would probably be appropriation and I probably shouldn't.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:22 PM on September 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I 💖 Mallory, so much.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:23 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I am... intrigued. I think I'll leave it at that, for now.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:38 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Absolutely do not think of it as appropriation. If nothing else it benefits queer people for binders to be a neutral thing and not a queer thing.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:48 PM on September 18, 2017 [21 favorites]

God damn Mallory Ortberg is such a good writer. If I went down to the crossroads and sold my soul to the Devil, I still would never be that good. Reading her writing about chest binders (a product that is not even relevant to me!) is like eating a delicious holiday feast, but without the ensuing bloat and shame.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 2:03 PM on September 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

I think this also helps clarify things. Mallory just tweeted:
- It is so difficult to disclose well and appropriately, and I have been anxious about discussing this, I fear to the point of being oblique!
- So to be clear, bc a few people have (kindly, gently) asked about this: I think I am discussing issues of identity, and, I think, dysphoria
- I don't mean to suggest - and hope the piece doesn't - that binding is merely a fun experiment for someone comfortable in a cis identity
- I don't believe I have much more to share about that right now! But I apologize if my fear of articulating myself made it seem casual
- Or elided anything! I appreciate everyone's understanding and grace. I do not know how to talk about this publicly, and it has scared me
posted by ChuraChura at 2:14 PM on September 18, 2017 [38 favorites]

It sounds like this is very fraught. Are binders by definition political/expressive or is it also just like an underwear preference? I still can't figure out whether or not they're comfortable. All other considerations aside.

I'm a little embarrassed for asking such a prosaic question.

(To clarify, my question is more: are they comfortable???)
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:19 PM on September 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

They are comfortable to the soul. Outside of identity issues, they feel good if you've ever thought a thundershirt would feel good or an outfit made out of those amazing weighted blankets or (forgive the kink angle) being in chest bondage all day. But mostly they're good for the soul.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 2:36 PM on September 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

Honestly, if cis women want to experiment with binding for fun, I do not care. Even if it is literally purely "this sounds interesting, I will try it today and today only!" If cis women went around saying "I want to feel like a trans guy", I would hate that. If cis women went to trans events on the assumption that they would be welcome purely because they had bound their chests, that would be screwed up. If cis women were all "it looks so neat when women bind, but trans guys are so gross and creepy", that would be awful. But if they were just thinking "hey, it's kind of tiresome the way my chest bounces around, also I would really like to wear button-downs with no gaps", then go right ahead for all of me.

I just...I don't think queer culture appropriation concerns map neatly onto POC/Indigenous/Black appropriation concerns, because how queer culture comes into being and how people become queer aren't the same. There are some echoes and overlaps, but for instance, I don't get my transness or queerness from my parents, and there is no traditional religious element that unites all queer people and is about being queer specifically. By contrast, I can't just wake up one morning and decide that I - the descendant of various people from northern Europe - feel Maori, and it would be grossly insulting if I were all "this image of the Buddha would look really swell on a lunchbox".

Also, when more people adopt queer signifiers, queer people are safer. Straight people who look like they might be queer may be a little frustrating from a "how do I find people to date" standpoint, yes, but honestly unless they are literally wearing a "kiss me I'm queer" shirt and then get all haughty and tell you that they're straight when you ask them out, it's just the risk of doing business. This is very different from when white people appropriate visual signifiers from POC, etc.

I also feel that queer and trans people don't own wanting to alter your gender presentation or body shape. That would make me sad if we did, honestly.

There are ways to be a straight or cis person who is kind of an asshole about using queer signifiers, but just the very generic stuff like men dressing in more body-conscious ways, women having super short hair, various people looking less gender-normative, etc - queer people don't own those things and it would be really sad if socially conscious straight people were all like "I had better not get a short, asymmetrical haircut because it would be oppressive since someone might think I was queer" or "whoops, those shoes are too fashionable, better swap them out for something duller since it would be oppressive", etc etc.
posted by Frowner at 3:40 PM on September 18, 2017 [41 favorites]


If One were to measure Oneself to go shopping for a binder, and One already has a pair of natural boobs, should One measure wearing a bra or bra-less ?

Asking for a friend ::aheam::
posted by Faintdreams at 4:24 PM on September 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Speaking only from my own experience: until age 45 I thought I was cis-het because all the narratives I'd heard or read about trans experience included something along the lines of "I felt massive dysphoria"/"I always knew that although they called me a girl I was a boy"/similar phrasings. It's only in the past few years, since I've been reading more about and from nonbinary people, trans people who didn't have significant dysphoria, and fellow autistic people whose neurodivergence seems to fundamentally influence our experience of gender, that I've recognized that I'm not cis or het.

And since then, I've felt so much happier, open, and freer. It hasn't changed anything overtly — I'm still married to the same person I've been married to for 19 years (and am profoundly thankful that my spouse actively supports me coming to understand who I am and always have been even if I didn't have words or concepts to describe it), I still work at the same job, I still like the hobbies and pastimes I've always liked… but as my spouse has said more than once, "You seem so much less burdened since figuring this out."

A recent episode of The Allusionist was about navigating vocabulary for sex and associated body parts for trans and gender non-conforming people. I found myself spontaneously punching the air in recognition when one AFAB nonbinary person said (misquoted from memory) "I knew I wasn't a man, I just thought I was shit at being a woman."
posted by Lexica at 4:38 PM on September 18, 2017 [31 favorites]

Measure braless. After all, you're probably wearing the wrong size bra. /s

Gc2b will answer sizing questions, BTW, you can email them for real answers
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 4:50 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Huh. Even Mallory Ortberg doesn't know how to express her feelings about her gender identity.

Best wishes to her in figuring out whatever it is she's working through, and I look forward to reading (probably on the Blue) whatever she writes about it if and when she gets to a place where she feels like she wants to do that.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:17 PM on September 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

As someone who is constantly wavering between having tons of complicated , inconclusive feelings about gender and just not wanting to think about any of it at all, ever, I really identified with the indirectness of this piece. I am AFAB, have walked through my entire life identifying as cis just "by default". Over the past few years, I have made a series of unconscious decisions that culminated in me looking in the mirror a couple weeks ago and realizing that, if I encountered myself as an absolute stranger - someone with my hair, my clothes, my mannerisms, my voice - I would be nearly entirely gender indeterminate (which, in our society, seems to be read as male by default). My reaction to this revelation has been largely, "...huh."

I guess what I'm saying is, rather selfishly, I hope Mallory writes more on this topic, just so I get the chance to read more from someone as intelligent and articulate as she is working through some stuff that hits close to home.
posted by btfreek at 7:25 PM on September 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

I bound my chest when I was a teenager. I loathed my breasts. Loathed with a self-hatred that I still recall sometimes, when I am looking in the mirror. My mother sat me down after a few months and ordered me to stop - I was going to injure myself, I was hurting myself, could she please have all the bandages back now.

I went on loathing my tits, right up until my husband. He loves them, and spent a lot of time with me doing what I now realise is exposure therapy. Then I had a baby, and wow wasn't that a trigger-laden experience to nurse for 3 and a half years?

I've mused, on and off, about buying a binder or having a reduction. Reduction means losing what little sensitivity I have and I fear will spark an even greater kind of disassociation from my own body. I've talked with transmen and genderqueer people I know about binders and they've all kindly offered me advice and help, including getting them delivered to the US and I can come collect it when I am there next (shipping to Oz being a nightmare).

And yet, I haven't. I haven't because coming down the stairs in my sleeveless plaid button up, fauxhawk, and skinny jeans my husband kissed me fondly and said "you are getting more and more lesbian" and later on revealed he isn't so keen on the butch thing. Which is fair enough. And I still like dresses just fine, they're comfortable and useful things.

And so I sit here in my useless terrible sportsbra which is just spandex squish, boobs still as big as my head, and muse again on getting a binder.
posted by geek anachronism at 7:53 PM on September 18, 2017 [7 favorites]

my only other piece of advice, if you get a binder, is to sternly tell it "This better not awaken anything in me" before putting it on - is afaik a Community reference to the Dean, no?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:43 PM on September 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

as a trans guy I agree with Frowner that any normalization of these is good. It gives cover to the closeted and further separates "gender expression" from "gender." It would be amazing if these were sold in the underwear department, just like anything else, so that young trans boys can nonchalantly throw one in their shopping cart.
posted by AFABulous at 9:28 PM on September 18, 2017 [15 favorites]

they feel good if you've ever thought a thundershirt would feel good or an outfit made out of those amazing weighted blanket

I *do* have a weighted blanket.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:09 AM on September 19, 2017 [3 favorites]

My dear friend passed this to me in tears yesterday. We're both great admirers of Ortberg. She (my friend) is queer and femme and also has a lot of complicated thoughts about gender and bodies and whether she is allowed to bind while not explicitly identifying as trans (spoiler: she is). I'm transmasc and bound (with GC2B binders, fwiw, though I prefer the full-tank option) for years before getting top surgery this spring.

This didn't matter so much to me, the part about binders, since I don't have a use for them anymore, and I'm not a cis woman, which as far as I'm aware Ortberg is. But this:

There are things about living in a body in the world that feel inaccessible without quite being impossible; inaccessible in the sense that the gap between fantasy and reality is always present regardless of how one looks, inaccessible in that one often fears the extent, scope, and reach of one’s own desires, inaccessible in the sense that learning more about what one may want does not necessarily translate into being any closer to getting it, or even asking for it, or that there will be anyone to ask it of, inaccessible in the sense that what one wants is not always consistent, recognizable, or even legible, to oneself, much less anyone else.

Holy shit. Normalizing the malleability of bodies and identity. That's the good stuff.

I had such fears before getting surgery, that I'd regret it. Still find my body uninhabitable. I mean, it is still. That's just the way I'm wired. But the five minutes of inexplicable glee I feel every morning in front of the mirror as I'm getting dressed: they're genuinely priceless.
posted by libraritarian at 6:13 AM on September 19, 2017 [10 favorites]

That above was careless of me, assuming Ortberg's relationship with her gender identity. Regardless of how she identifies publicly or privately I shouldn't have done that. Because of her readership I was thinking of the intended audience of the piece (cis women who are negotiating their feelings about their bodies), but what's going on with her is her own business.
posted by libraritarian at 6:23 AM on September 19, 2017 [7 favorites]

I posted randomly on Twitter the other day, trying not to be creepy about it, that I really wish Mallory had a place to write about queer issues because the little snippets she does post on Twitter are super fascinating to me as a butch lesbian with complicated gender feelings. Like, I would die if she joined Autostraddle as a columnist. I went back and read her entire Twitter archive after she asked for other binder recommendations a week or two ago (I believe the conclusion was still gc2b). I am so so glad that she found a place for this piece and shared it with all of us, because I know it spoke to me and to a lot of other queer folks out there.

I have been toying around with the idea of occasionally binding for a while, just to see what it is like, and to hear Mallory say, "It doesn't have to mean anything, unless you want it to," really helped. Even though I knew it was true in my heart, it is important to have someone else articulate it publicly. So much of being queer to me is like finding out that you're not alone, again and again. It's coming home.
posted by possibilityleft at 6:51 AM on September 19, 2017 [8 favorites]

"There are things about living in a body in the world that feel inaccessible without quite being impossible..."

That really is an extraordinary paragraph and I'm not surprised to see people quoting it in its entirety multiple times. The paragraph itself is evocative of that sense of things about oneself "that feel inaccessible without quite being impossible".

This resonated for me in two ways.

First, in that I am disabled and have a lifelong congenital illness and though I've never felt alienated from my body, there is a kind of sense of something else being possible.

Second, about gender I feel the same way, except even more subtly and mysteriously.

What does it mean to say that I don't at all feel like I have a need to self-identify or present as anything other than male, but if I were somehow given a choice of how I'd been born, I would prefer AFAB? I've always been aware of this about myself from childhood, which I suppose is meaningful. I can't articulate why and I really don't feel entitled to what would seem to me to an encroachment on any sort of trans* identity -- even "genderqueer" seems a stretch. But there's still this sense I've always had about my relationship to my gender that is that it feels like there's something apparently inaccessible and which I don't comprehend, but possible, something I'd prefer. Something that would be more comfortable. Because this isn't comfortable, really. It's not distressingly uncomfortable, either, which is a big part of why it's just kind of this ambiguous question mark in my psyche that I don't much worry or think about.

But, then, I'm the sort to have very similar feelings about my body with regard to my illness and disability. I'm reasonably comfortable in a body that to most people would be agonizing and frustrating. But although I am in pain and am frustrated, I don't really think about "what if" or feel particularly alienated from my body.

Though perhaps that's a psychological self-defense. And so, maybe, there's some of that involved also with how I think I feel about my gender. I don't know.

There is something both breathtakingly beautiful and breathtakingly terrifying in the kinds of ineffable possibilities as described by Ortberg's words and her experience. No wonder she's scared. Hope is what is revealed when you open that door to the possibility of being more comfortable in your body... and hope is terrifying. In my experience.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:14 AM on September 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

But the five minutes of inexplicable glee I feel every morning in front of the mirror as I'm getting dressed: they're genuinely priceless.

Yes this. and omg I just went camping for two weeks and frolicked around shirtless without a care in the world. It was glorious. I want this for every mammary-inflicted person.
posted by AFABulous at 12:12 PM on September 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

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