The College of Saint Rose, a Catholic higher education school in Albany, NY, has made free chest binders available to all students through the college’s counseling center. The new program is the result of a successful initiative by student leaders to support gender minorities on campus, reported The Chronicle, the school’s student newspaper.
Chest binders are used most often by trans men and gender non-binary people who were assigned female at birth. They flatten the wearer’s breasts and allow the wearer to present in a more masculine or agender way.
A 2016 study of 1800 participants who had experience with binding found enormous psychological benefits associated with the practice. That report found that binding “led to improvements in mood and self-esteem, minimized gender dysphoria, anxiety, and depression, and helped them to feel in control of their bodies,” as reported by Broadly.
A group of students at Saint Rose knew the benefits of binding, but were worried about the cost, especially for students who may be financially dependent on parents to whom they had not come out. The team drafted a budget for providing binders to the student body and presented it to the Student Associate Budget Committee for funding.
The Committee approved the funding, and a student, Matt Eisner, worked with the counseling center on how best to distribute the binders confidentially. Any student can receive a binder in their size and choice of color by simply contacting the center, with no counseling or appointment required.
The 2016 study also found numerous health risks associated with binding, especially when participants wore binders that did not fit properly. Three-quarters of participants reported pain from binding, such as overheating or shortness of breath. Several dozen even believed they had rib fractures from improper binding.
Sam Rariden, a freshman at Saint Rose who identifies as non-binary, told Saint Rose’s student newspaper that they hope the availability of free binders will help students bind safely.
Rariden expressed to The Chronicle, the student newspaper, what binding means to them:
“Using the binder helps my battle with gender dysphoria! The first time I did it I remember looking down at my chest and then into the mirror, feeling euphoria at how happy it made me feel. It helps me feel in control of my body.”
One staff member at the counseling center, Sabrina Balbuena, told The Chronicle that “many students” have already accessed the program and expressed appreciation for the school’s efforts.
The College of Saint Rose was founded by and is currently sponsored by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. The chest binders program is in line with Saint Rose’s Definition of Inclusive Excellence, in which it expresses respect for diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
—Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, February 28, 2019