Many transgender and non-binary people wear specific types of clothing or accessories to change how their body appears. For example, some people wear binders to flatten their chest, or prosthetic breasts to create a rounder chest. Some people who do not have access to – or cannot wear – specialized clothing, wear extra layers or baggy clothing to hide their body. While our summers in Maine are short, the hot and humid days can be exceptionally challenging for people who depend on extra padded or compressing layers of clothing, or who hide their bodies through thick clothing.
So, why do individuals wear clothing that compromise their well-being in the summer? One reason is for mitigating the effects of Gender Dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a diagnosable medical condition in which an individual has a strong and persistent discomfort about their sex assigned at birth. To be diagnosed, the individual must show clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The term also refers to the anxiety and/or discomfort a person experiences regarding their sex assigned at birth, whether or not they have been diagnosed with the condition.
One person we talked to described the feelings of gender dysphoria as “When I think about being seen as a woman because of my body, it makes me feel nauseous. Literally makes my stomach churn, and my chest tightens and it’s hard to breathe. I avoid looking at my body, and anything that forces me to acknowledge that I have a body that is seen as female puts me into a state of panic. Sometimes it feels like my skin is crawling, and it makes me feel so overwhelmed with how bad it feels that it makes me freeze. I know some people feel like this all the time, but for me, I only feel that way when I’m reminded that other people see me as female when that is not how I actually feel. Wearing a binder and more baggy pants helps me feel like my body is not betraying me.”
If wearing t-shirts or more lightweight clothing does not feel an option for you this summer, here are some ways to keep you healthy and safe:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. The more we sweat the more water we need to be drinking. While drinking water is important 365 days, it is also crucial for keeping your body healthy in the summer months. Keep a water bottle on hand so you can guarantee you stay hydrated!
- Keep yourself cool in the shade, air conditioning or by a fan if layering is part of your summer attire. Your safety is top priority and keeping yourself out of the sun for long periods of time will be the most helpful action you can take this summer.
- Take breaks from your binder. Take a few minutes to stretch, drop your shoulders, and massage any tight muscles. Check for any skin irritations.
- If binding in the summertime, it is important to do it safely. Remember, do not wear a binder while swimming unless the binder is specifically designed to use in the water. Swim binders are generally made of nylon and spandex and can be purchased through TomboyX, Underworks, Shapeshifters, and gc2b. When wearing a binder swimming have a designated binder for swimming only. Once you are done swimming, change your binder for a dry one! It is not recommended to wear a binder for more than 10 hours a day and never use ace bandages or tape (duck tape, masking tape, scotch tape, etc.) to bind with.
- If you are interested in a binder. OUT Maine has a free binder program for youth ages 14-22. For more information, please visit our website!
If you are worried about a young person’s physical safety due to the clothing they are wearing and the heat, do not force them to change. Offer them a shady or air conditioned place to be, and make sure they are drinking enough water. Do not force them to participate in physical activities if that is not safe or comfortable for them to do.