Chest binders for trans and gender diverse young people

When a person’s gender identity is different from the gender they were presumed at birth, they may identify as being transgender (trans) or gender diverse.

Ellen Murray is a Nurse Consultant for the Women’s and Children’s Health Network Gender Diversity Service. She explains that in one of the largest-ever studies on the experiences of LGBTQIA+ young people in Australia (Writing Themselves in 4: National Report, 2021), it was found that 90% of trans and gender diverse (TGD) young people reported experiencing high, or very high, levels of psychological distress.

Ellen says, “TGD children and young people experience significantly poorer mental health than that of the general population.”

The study also gave insight into the fact that over 97% of TGD young people want to affirm their gender identity socially, for example, through chest binding.

Ellen Murray with one of the chest binders.

Ellen Murray showing one of the chest binders.

Chest binders

A chest binder is a compression top that flattens the chest to help a person feel more comfortable and confident in their gender identity. For many TGD young people, binders are vital to improving their wellbeing.

However, binders are costly and limited in availability, often making them out of reach. This can lead to young people seeking unsafe binding practices that can result in negative physical health outcomes.

In addition to these barriers, there can be significant wait times for young people to access the Gender Diversity Service, with the team receiving around ten new referrals each week.

Ellen says, “The use of chest binders while a young person is waiting and navigating the system can be lifesaving.”

In order to give TGD young people access to this care, the WCH Foundation has provided the Gender Diversity Service with $50,000 to purchase chest binders.

Now, Ellen has a whole shelving unit full of binders that she can offer patients upon their initial consultation.

The binders are safe to use, and patients are provided with information about how to wear them safely.

The Women’s and Children’s Hospital is now the only place in South Australia where young people can try on binders, which is incredibly important to find a size that fits and feels best.

Ellen says, “When they try them on for the first time, their faces light up and some of them burst into tears.”

Patient feedback

So far, around 50 young people have been given binders from this stock, and the feedback from patients and their families has been amazing. For many patients, wearing the binder is the first time they’ve felt like their true self while looking in the mirror.

One young person said, “I feel so amazing and confident! This is one of the best days of my life and one I will surely never forget!”

One parent said, “As parents, access to binders and other gender affirming resources means our child can be more confident and comfortable. It literally can mean their life or death, their health mentally and physically.”

The entire Gender Diversity Service team is so proud to be able to provide tangible and timely impact in this way.

Find out how to access the Gender Diversity Service here.


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