Lancs Trans students more vulnerable during COVID-19 pandemic
Binding is putting trans and non-binary people at a higher risk of COVID-19
Transgender and non-binary people who bind their chests are at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. The medical recommendation is to avoid binding altogether as pneumonia and other respiratory illnesses can be exacerbated by chest constriction.
Some trans and non-binary (NB) people with breasts choose to flatten their chest under bandages or tight vests to present themselves as more masculine or less feminine. It comes with some medical risks, including fluid build-up, cracked ribs and spinal damage.
The Tab Lancaster spoke to Lancs students about their experience binding during the coronavirus pandemic: “I only saw that you shouldn’t bind rather late (I already had a cough when I found out). There absolutely needs to be more done to provide info about these dangers” – Skye, trans-masc.
Quin Pitcher, a first year trans student, told The Tab Lancaster about the dangers of binding: “It slowly compresses your lungs and I’ve found that I can’t inhale nearly as much air as I used to. That kind of thing means that if you have any illness that affects respiratory stuff, then wearing a binder makes it a lot worse.”
So why, when the university is posting plenty of other welfare materials during the pandemic, is there an obvious lack of trans-related info?
“I haven’t personally seen anything from the uni about binding during COVID-19,” Quin told The Tab. “A couple days ago Mitch [LGBTQ+ PTO] retweeted a post full of info about binding safely during the pandemic but other than that I haven’t seen anything.”
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To all my trans-fam who wear binders, Amelia and I have made a resource for navigating #COVID19 and chest #binding. Binding while sick and coughing can cause fluid build up in the lungs and extra complications, so it's important to look after yourselves. These are just a few tips to help you. Please feel free to share this with your trans families and networks. Also remember with mixed levels of scare mongering in the media, that it is important to get your advice from your local Department of Health, the Centre for Disease Control or the World Health Organisation. Here in Victoria the best place for up to date information and advice is https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/victorian-public-coronavirus-disease-covid-19 Look after yourselves, your mates and your community. We've all known what it means to feel isolated and afraid. Now is the time to reach out and help to spread calm, kindness and compassion. And share your toilet paper if you have spare – running out of bog roll is just nasty. Jack.
When contacted, LUSU responded: “[We] refer members to authoritative information from known and trusted sources in relation to the Coronavirus outbreak. It would not be in the best interests of students to repeat unverified information from the internet where we cannot be certain of the authority of the source, or its accuracy.”
But the co-creator of the info above explained, in a comment on the original Facebook post: “The virus is only months old and studies take time and funding. The advice above is based on existing advice relating to binding, pneumonia and respiratory illness, coupled with the limited information we do have about COVID-19 and its complications.”
So, the Students’ Union is faced with an interesting choice. Do they share potentially life-saving information with vulnerable students or do they withhold it until studies (which may never receive the funding to carry out) can back it up?
Quin told The Tab, “I physically cannot go out without a binder if I’m only wearing a shirt. I’m too self-conscious; I have a pretty big chest and it freaks me out when it’s noticeable. Not binding is like adding another problem to your list of things to worry about.”
“I’ve come across maybe 3-4 PSA on the potential problems caused by binding while sick, all seen on Facebook. No other info that I noticed or have been given,” – Matthew, closeted trans student.
The PTO for Welfare assured The Lancaster Tab: “The SU has been sharing information in line with the University for our students.”
But Quin says: “I checked the LUSU website and haven’t found anything about binding. There isn’t any info for trans or NB students about the dangers of binding right now. Information should be posted on the university’s social media pages more, especially for LGBTQ+.”
“Binding has a huge impact on mental health: it’s the only thing that helps me pass as male in public. Even not in public, I’m feeling dysphoria. Information has been scattered about the dangers of binding during the pandemic and more needs to be done,” – Jasper, trans FTM.
“Visibility and putting things out there is really important. This is a global crisis – transphobia and ignorance is threatening our lives. The uni should have been on top of this.”