It’s Not a Race!

123 4567Justin’s note: As I’ve stated in previous comics it’s important not to forget that when it comes to wellness, personal safety is at the top of the list.  Not everyone falling under the LGBTQIA umbrella is protected by that umbrella.  So while it’s important to love yourself, express who you are, and take as much time as you need? it’s more important to survive so that you can do all of those things.

For some that might mean turning 18 and leaving home.  For others that might mean immigration!  Let’s also not forget that expressing your gender identity could get you fired in some states!

If any of the above describes your situation, then apply the “baby steps” principles to your escape plan.  Take the time to cover your bases, find a safe space (or better yet, safe spaces), and get out when the time is right!

The image features Justin wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a blue sweater.Justin Hubbell is a cartoonist and freelance artist from upstate New York. In an attempt to serve the greater good, he aims to create volumes of work revolving around the social politics that govern our daily lives. He posts his cartoons weekly at justinhubbell.com.  He has also been featured on The Good Men Project, UpWorthy, Digital America, Kabooooom, and submits comics regularly to local publications.  He has no preferred pronouns, she is a unapologetic nerd.

Editor’s Note: Transcript for this comic is pending and will be posted soon. Thanks for your patience!

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Why We Should Think Twice Before Idealizing Ruby Rose

rubyroseThe internet is abuzz about Ruby Rose, a genderfluid actor, DJ, and model who appeared in Season 3 of Netflix Original Series Orange is the New Black.

While Rose is undoubtedly stunning and a perfectly lovely person, our idealization of Ruby Rose represents a larger problem in popular culture – the very limited portrayals of androgyny, and more specifically, who is allowed to be androgynous.

When the only celebrated expressions of androgyny are idolizing those who are conventionally attractive, thin, white, able-bodied, and assigned female at birth, many of us who fall outside of these expectations can begin to feel as though we are not enough as we are, and that we are not androgynous unless we can conform.

This is not just about Ruby Rose, either. This is a norm that has existed for a long time. Simply plug “Androgyny” into a Google image search, and you will see an overwhelming sea of white, hollow faces. Thin, curveless bodies will be hiding underneath suit jackets and pinstripe trousers.

The reality, though, is that there are many diverse expressions of androgyny – and they are seldom celebrated, let alone represented, in popular culture.

As an androgynous person myself, beauty norms around androgyny have left me struggling to feel valid. I have curves, I have fat – my body can’t disappear underneath a suit coat, and my cheekbones will never be sharp or defined. The pressure to contort my body into this ideal, though, definitely weighs on me each time a new Ruby Rose is glorified by the media.

It’s alarming that we have such wildly limited portrayals of androgynous and gender diverse people, and on my more pessimistic days I wonder if we ever will. We celebrate a very specific body ideal while leaving countless other folks on the androgynous spectrum to contemplate their validity and beauty.

We’ve been told, through pretty explicit messaging that there is only one way to be androgynous. The reality is that there is an infinite number of ways to be androgynous – many of which look nothing like Ruby Rose.

Androgyny has long been defined by the mainstream on the basis of “passing” – that we be the chameleons of gender, able to be perceived as men OR women. But it is a problematic way to define androgyny because it limits it as an exclusive club, and validates our existence ONLY on the basis of others’ perceptions and cisnormative standards of beauty.

It does not allow for self-determination. It does not allow us to own the labels that best represent our gender identities.

There are androgynous folks of every color and every type of body, but we rarely see them represented. Shockingly, claiming an androgynous identity does not require that you pose with a cigarette in your mouth and suspenders (seriously, why are there so many pictures like that?). It does not require that you be white, thin, able-bodied and conventionally attractive. The only requirement for androgyny is that you identify that way.

Holding Ruby Rose up as an androgynous ideal only reinforces the idea that the only valid androgynous people are those who can pass and conform. In other words, the fanfare around Ruby Rose is part of a harmful ideal that already exists in our society – the rules of who is allowed to be androgynous, and who is not.

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A simple Google image search for “Androgyny” tells us who is allowed to be androgynous and who isn’t.

By all means, we can appreciate Ruby Rose’s divine looks (and great performance in OITNB, no?), but we should be critical of why she is celebrated, while other androgynous and genderfluid people are seldom visible.

And if I haven’t made it clear by now, we should by no means place her on a pedestal for all androgynous people to aspire towards – because it is an unattainable ideal for the vast majority of gender diverse people.

We should push for more and better representation of genderfluid people – not just those who reach this ideal, but for folks of all sorts of diverse expressions of gender. That means moving away from these white, thin, AFAB, “passing” folks and featuring, instead, androgynous people of color, genderfluid fatties, gorgeous AMAB genderqueers, bigender cuties with disabilities, and every intersection in-between.

Holding up Ruby Rose as a sign of greater acceptance of gender fluidity is misleading, because Ruby Rose’s look has been celebrated in magazine spreads and movies long before she was born. This ideal precedes Rose’s fame, and is an ideal we need to break down in order to have true representations of androgyny, and other kinds of gender diversity.

So, by all means, swoon over Ruby Rose. I’ll be right there with you.

But while it’s exciting that mainstream media is having a conversation about gender fluidity, we shouldn’t call this progress. Glorifying a very limited, singular representation of androgyny and calling it gender “diversity” can do more harm to our community than good.

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Binding While Broke: I Tried All These Cheap(ish) Chest Binders so You Don’t Have To!

The image features two characters talking. One says to the other, "My binder is so old I can put it on over my head!" They laugh together.

Comic via Tumblr

So if you didn’t know, I got married last Saturday! Hooray! It was magical, and queer, and everything I had hoped it would be.

(And if you somehow missed the momentous announcement, this is a great opportunity to like our Facebook page so you’ll never miss another update like this again. Harhar.)

As someone who is trans and has a lot of dysphoria around my chest, one of my biggest concerns for the wedding was finding the right binder. It had to be comfortable enough to wear for the entire day, offer excellent compression for all of those wedding photos, and breathe so I could bust out my best dance moves without feeling gross. It also had to accommodate my larger chest and tummy.

Most importantly, it had to be cheap, because, like many trans folks I know, I have very little money.

For the last year, in anticipation of my wedding, I’ve been trying out a whole assortment of binders. And as a service to those of you who are broke but still wanting to bind, I thought I’d review three of the binders that I think are worth knowing about.

For the record, I’m not getting paid to review any of these binders… though if I’m being honest I totally wish I was (hit me up; I’ll be waiting!). I’m doing this because I know what it’s like to desperately need a binder but wonder if emptying out my wallet was really worth it.

From least impressive to most, here are the three cheapest (but still reputable) binders I could find, and how they held up:

Tri-top Chest Binder from Underworks

tritop

My smile is deceiving: This binder is a pain!

Compression: 5/5

Comfort: 2/5

Mobility: 2/5

Price: $30 + shipping

The tri-top is a really popular binder, priced at around 30 dollars. It’s often the first one that folks will try out because it’s such a recognizable name. But despite its popularity and hype, I’m personally not a fan.

The compression was superb; I am a very busty queer and getting things to flatten out is a real challenge. If your primary concern is compression, you won’t be disappointed.

It is an enormous challenge to squeeze into at first, but overtime, this binder will lose some of its shape; great, because it’ll be easier to get on, but not-so-great, because it will also lose some of that impressive flattening. This is the case with most binders, but it’s a complaint that I hear about tri-tops most often.

Even with its magical compression, I couldn’t get past how uncomfortable this binder was. The material has very little give to it, my mobility and breathing were noticeably restricted, and no matter how many hours I spent in it, it wasn’t the kind of binder that I “forgot” I was wearing – I seemed to be aware of its annoying presence almost constantly.

Even after trying a couple different sizes to ensure I had the right one, it never felt right. It’s a basic binder that is fine for shorter hours of use, but it’s not a binder I find myself wearing often, if ever.

Overall, I wouldn’t say this is the worst binder. It’s just not an exceptional one. It’s worth noting that there are folks who absolutely love the tri-top, and it tends to rate highly, so as with any binder, what it really comes down to is personal preference.

Just not my cuppa tea, it seems.

Extreme MagiCotton Sports and Binding Bra from Underworks

The image features the author waving a rainbow flag and saluting.

Thought I should look as queer as possible for this photo. Featuring: The binding bra!

Compression: 3.5-4/5* (depending on cup size)

Comfort: 4.5/5

Mobility: 5/5

Price: $35 + shipping

This is one of the best kept secrets of the binding world. Because this is marketed as a bra, most folks miss this one entirely. But if you’re binding or interested in trying it out, you need to know about this binder’s existence.

I first heard about this from a couple of trans guys who were buying these damn things in bulk because they were great for working out. A traditional binder just doesn’t offer enough mobility for exercise, so they sought out something specifically designed with athletes in mind.

In the time since I first wrote about this binder on Tumblr, I’ve found out that folks who have chronic pain and can’t wear traditional binders have also started trying this one out. I can confirm, as someone with on-and-off pain in my shoulder from an injury, that this is an option worth looking at if you need a binder that’s less harsh on your body.

An additional benefit for some is that, if you are still not out as trans and living under your parents’ roof, this passes easily as a sports bra and won’t raise any red flags.

The downside is that because of its stretchy material, you might not achieve the same level of compression, depending on your cup size. As a larger-chested queer, I definitely wouldn’t wear this binder if I needed complete and total compression, but I can assure you, smaller-chested folks need not worry about this.

With a little bit of layering, this can totally work as an everyday binder for larger-chested cuties; with a smaller chest, layering isn’t necessary at all.

I love this binder, and I wear it when I’m exercising or when my body needs to recover from a couple days of more intense binding. I now consider it an essential in my closet.

It’s important that we take care of our bodies as we bind; binding definitely takes a toll. I’d recommend that everyone who’s interested in binding give this one a shot, especially if comfort is your primary concern.

GC2b Half Binder from GC2b Transition Apparel

weddingphoto

Before the wedding ceremony! Featuring: The GC2b!

Compression: 5/5

Comfort: 4-4.5/5* (depending on size)

Mobility: 5/5

Price: $33 + shipping

Let this photo from my wedding speak for itself.

There’s Ray on the left (my spouse, whoa) and me, wearing the GC2b, on the right. This binder not only made my chest look terrific, but I was able to dance at my reception and party the night away, comfortably and happily. I forgot I was even wearing a binder.

Seriously, I forgot. It was amazing.

And, y’all, you would have never guessed that I have a large chest, right? It’s magic.

I’d first heard about this binder through a rave review at Autostraddle, and from there I kept seeing gushing reviews popping up all over the net. I was skeptical, but as it turns out, I didn’t need to be – this binder is fabulous.

The design is quite brilliant and one of the reasons why folks are so excited about it. There is a panel on the front that flattens, but the material on the back is more of a stretchy mesh – which means the binder can expand and contract as you breathe, but the front will still compress just the same. It also means it’s more flexible than your typical binder, making it easier to get on and off.

This thing is comfortable as all get out, which, if you didn’t know, binding is seldom a comfortable affair. I was amazed that this was nearly as comfortable as the binding bra I mentioned previously, but was much more effective at compressing.

There are some downsides – the cut won’t work for everyone, especially us chunkier babes who may find there’s some arm spillage or a little more pressure around our ribs depending on sizing. I’m actually in-between sizes, so I own both a large and extra large (the large for when I want extra compression, the extra large when I want more comfort).

It’s a lower cut, which I recognize can be a good AND bad thing. Good so that you can rock that v-neck with no problem, but bad if you’re dysphoric and the last thing you want to see is cleavage when you bend over or take your shirt off.

That being said, this is now my favorite binder and the one I rely on for near-daily use. Usually you have to sacrifice some compression for comfort or vice versa, but I find that it binds exceptionally well without sacrificing your comfort or safety.

This binder gets my absolute highest recommendation. I’ve heard mixed reviews here and there, but I’m in love with this binder and I think it lives up to the hype.

* * *

But, hey, wait. Before you run to grab your debit card, here’s some shit I want you to know:

First of all, binding isn’t a walk in the park. It can leave you feeling a bit sore, constrained, and uncomfortable. But that being said, if binding is causing you a noticeable amount of pain, you, my friend, need a different size or a different binder altogether.

Do not settle for pain or think that pain is a necessary part of binding. Binding shouldn’t hurt and it shouldn’t make it difficult to breathe.

Too many people – particularly trans folks – are somehow convinced that hurting themselves is just part of the process when, in fact, it shouldn’t be.

It’s also worth knowing that a binder could be recommended a thousand times over, but it just might not be a good fit for your body. The tri-top comes with some serious praise, but no matter how I contorted my body and what size I tried, it just didn’t work for me.

In other words: It’s silly to think that there is one binder that’s ideal for every single person. It’s just a series of trials and errors before you get something that works for you.

Lastly, I recognize that 30-35 dollars isn’t “cheapish” for everyone (and honestly, it’s a stretch even for me these days). So I want you to check out Micah’s list of binder resources over at Neutrois Nonsense (and just familiarize yourself with Micah’s work because it’s fantastic), which includes some binder exchange programs.

I also hope folks will weigh in via comment if they know of any great initiatives that help increase access to binders or have any thoughts about binding more generally.

That’s it for now! I’m off to enjoy my “honeymoon” now (ie Netflix, eating leftover wedding cake, and cuddling with my sweetie, because what else could a queer need?).

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