The LGBT Foundation has stood by its practice of safely and discretely providing teenagers with chest binders, despite a report in The Mail on Sunday attempting to smear the charity’s work.
The Mail on Sunday published an article titled “Trans activists send out free breast binders to 13-year-olds in unmarked packages… so their parents don’t find out” on December 1″ criticising the LGBT Foundation for providing teenagers with free chest binders without their parents’ knowledge.
A reporter contacted the Manchester-based charity, who provides various forms of support to those who identify as LGBT+, pretending to be a teenage inquiring about their free chest binders scheme.
“A binder is a piece of clothing, similar to a sports bra, which can be worn to flatten the appearance of the chest area when worn under clothes,” the LGBT Foundation described the garment.
The Mail on Sunday article described chest binders as posing risks to people’s health, but then did not report in full the safety instructions the charity provided to the caller in the transcript published.
“The alternative to this free service would be, in many cases, young people purchasing cheap and potentially damaging binders online or using other materials to bind which can cause lasting physical damage.”
— LGBT Foundation
The article attempted instead to cast a sinister light on the charity’s work, emphasising how the packaging would be discreet—to avoid inquiries from parents—and how the operator asked the caller about their chest measurements to provide the best fitting chest binder, since they were unable to come to Manchester for a fitting.
“This evening the Mail on Sunday published another misleading & inaccurate article about trans young people. Our message is clear—we’re proud to provide vital services that change & save people’s lives,” the LGBT Foundation wrote in a tweet on December 1, sharing a longer statement on the report.
“The person who took the call sought advice from a trained Safeguarding Officer and were offered access to a binder, on the condition that they would either visit our Community Resource Centre to try on a binder or could provide chest measurements to ensure that the correct sized binder was provided,” Paul Martin OBE, chief executive of LGBT Foundation and Smyth Harper, chair of LGBT Foundation, described in the statement.
How to use chest binders safely?
While chest binders do come with potential side effects, the LGBT Foundation said these were discussed in the call, in which their operator gave instructions on how to use the garment safely, “including how long to bind for, when not to bind, and guidance on safe and comfortable use.”
Similar instructions are discussed in popular articles on how to wear chest binders—such as this one in Bustle or this one on Autostraddle, as well as by several YouTubers who review chest binders on their channels.
“All of those involved did a brilliant job. We’re proud of how we responded to this reporter because we provided sensible, compassionate advice to someone pretending to be in need,” the LGBT Foundation stated.
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The charity maintained that the service they provide allows young people to access chest binders in the safest possible way.
“Many trans people, and younger people in particular, have nowhere else to turn for confidential information and support on binding, and the cost of quality binders is often prohibitive to people who are already more likely to live in poverty.
“The alternative to this free service would be, in many cases, young people purchasing cheap and potentially damaging binders online or using other materials to bind which can cause lasting physical damage,” the LGBT Foundation stated.
Free chest binders schemes help trans young people
The charity added: “The services we provide to trans people save lives and change them for the better. Every day trans people face discrimination, abuse and hatred and we’re proud to offer them support, help and hope.
“In a world where 48% of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide, and 2 in 5 trans people experienced a hate crime or incident in the last year, the sector needs more, not less investment to urgently tackle the poorer mental health, high poverty levels, and widespread discrimination faced by trans people in their daily lives.”
Other LGBT+ campaigners agreed that providing free chest binders is a service that is helpful and needed.
“Chest binding schemes provide a vital support for trans young people dealing with distressing dysphoria and who have no other safe way to express their gender. Binder schemes are an established harm reduction method. They give safer binders with safety and care information, and are shown to prevent young trans people using unsafe methods of binding like tapes or bandages,” Ellen Murray, executive director at the Northern Ireland-based non-profit organisation Transgender NI, tells PinkNews.
“These schemes don’t make people trans, that’s clear, but they do protect the health and quality of life for trans young people in need. I’m saddened to see the LGBT Foundation attacked like this today. Our friends at GenderJam NI have been running a successful binder scheme for years at our Belfast Trans Resource Centre, and the benefits it brings to young people are obvious,” she adds.
This article was updated with comment received after publication.