by Ayotemitide Nabila
Using chest binders is one way for some Trans, Non-binary and Gender Nonconforming people to affirm their identities. Many Trans and Non-binary people suffer from gender and body dysphoria and more specifically chest dysphoria. Chest binding is especially used by Trans men and Non-binary people to flatten their breasts which helps reduce feelings of dysphoria. It also serves as an alternative to an unaffordable top surgery procedure.
Not all Trans and Non-binary people who use binders use them to reduce feelings of dysphoria. Dele says “sometimes (most times these days) I don’t want to have boobs and binding is the solution to that.” Chest binding can also help Trans and Non-binary people ‘pass’ in public, modify their appearance and attain gender euphoria.
Access to binders in Nigeria is low and getting good binders isn’t easy. Good quality binders are usually out of the price range of most queer people and normally have to be ordered online and shipped from outside the country.
Eli talks about his experience finding a binder “I can’t really name the places that I checked but I know there was gc2b, I checked AliExpress, I checked Amazon and this was in 2017 or so but I didn’t get one till 2019 and it was very bad quality. One day I was scrolling through Instagram and there was this store that sells tank tops and they thought it was a tank top and they were selling it for the same price of a tank top and I bought it. The anticipation was the most intense I’d ever felt waiting for something. When it came I kept taking pictures with it, it made me feel gender euphoria and it was a very good day. I eventually outgrew it and was fortunate enough to get another one.”
After getting the binder delivered, there are still problems that could come up. Geejay, recounts their experience after getting a binder “I was finally able to buy one which took forever to get here, only to wear it and discover it wasn’t my size.”
To improve the availability of Binders to Queer people in Nigeria, The Oasis Project plans to host a series of binder drives around the country to give out binders. The Oasis Project is a nonprofit organization and resource centre committed to facilitating community and contributing to the welfare of Queer people in Nigeria. Matthew Blaise, Head of The Oasis Project says ‘The Binder Drive project is necessary because a lot of people are dealing with body dysmorphia, unable to affirm their gender identity and existence due to this “unavailability of binders”
The Oasis Project while giving out binders also donates binders to Queer events. it provides an avenue for Trans, Non-binary, Gender Nonconforming, Intersex people to get Binders at no cost to them. The organisation has distributed more than 80 binders in Nigeria and held a binder drive in Lagos.
Abiola got his binder from The Oasis Project’s donation to an Ace Week Event. He describes how finally getting a binder has improved the way he feels about his body: “Having a binder makes me feel great. It helps me be able to get rid of something that threatens the person I want to be.’
Jordyn, another recipient of a binder from Oasis’ Binder Drive said “my experience finding a binder was stressful at first, seeing as being in Nigeria and delivering things from other countries feels like hell. I tried a shopping site once and the quality was piss poor but I couldn’t complain cause that was on me. It made me scared cause I always wanted a perfect fit and I didn’t want to waste my money on something that wouldn’t work again. The oasis project recently did a binder drive through and I was able to get binders that fit for myself. I tried on the small and as soon as I felt it was uncomfortable I took it off and tried the medium and it fit and felt so perfect. The first time I wore it fully like I could see myself in the mirror and all of that, I cried and couldn’t stop staring at myself/ gassing myself up.’
Adil has also gotten a binder through The Oasis Project after having trouble finding a binder that fit him. “The first time I wanted to wear a binder was early last year. I experience gender dysphoria and tight sports bras weren’t doing it for me anymore, so I went on Jumia, asked around, I even checked for binder vendors on Twitter, they were all really expensive for me. The first one I ever had was given to me by my partner. Then I got my second one from the oasis binder drive donation to the ace week event. I don’t feel so dysphoric when I put it on. The first time I wore a binder that actually fit, I cried because it was just a very surreal amazing feeling of being comfortable in my body for the first time in a very long time.”
The Oasis project is filling a gap in resources available to Queer folks and their Binder Drive has been essential in improving the quality of life of Queer people. The project has plans to hold Binder Drive events in Abuja and Ibadan in November. Queer people in Nigeria can also message the organization on their social media handles (@oasisproject.co on Instagram and @theoasis_pr on Twitter) to request binders.