As more and more children are exposed to the concept of gender identity, many youngsters are experimenting with using clothing to smash down body parts they don’t like.
A growing number of children and teens are turning to “tucking” their male genitals or “binding” their female breasts as a way to get relief from gender dysphoria or just experiment with their gender.
Now, some pediatricians are sounding the alarm.
“The physical risks and harms of tucking should be immediately obvious as it involves manipulating the male genitals into positions which encourage pathology,” said Dr. Jill Simons, co-executive director of the American College of Pediatricians.
Tucking, which sometimes involves actually pushing the testes back up into the inguinal canal, can cause negative effects including urinary tract infections, urine flow problems, skin irritation, fungal infections, testicular inflammation, and testicular torsion as well as low sperm count and infertility, Simons said.
Meanwhile, binding, or using a tight undergarment to compress female breasts in order to look flat-chested, “not only harmfully reinforces a negative self image, it is physically harmful,” she said.
Binding can cause a litany of negative effects including rib fractures, shortness of breath, back and chest pain that can be chronic, bad posture, overheating, numbness, lightheadedness, and fungal infections.
Doctors have also pointed out that rib fractures from binding could also puncture and collapse a lung, and tight binding also risks permanent damage to small blood vessels, which could cause blood clots or even a heart attack.
A 2016 study found that more than 97% of people reported at least one of 28 different negative effects due to binding. Only half the participants bound their breasts daily, and while some used more risky methods like duct tape and plastic wrap, some found that commercial binders caused negative effects as well.
Chloe Cole, who identified as male as a teen but has since detransitioned, said she bound her breasts for two years before getting a double mastectomy.
Even though she was only a B-cup, at a healthy weight, and used properly-fitting binders from a supposedly safe company called GC2B, she still ended up with complications, Cole said.
“I was given the impression that it was generally safe to do as long as I did it ‘correctly’ and didn’t experience any pain while binding,” Cole told The Daily Wire. “However, the binder would uncomfortably trap sweat and stick to the skin on my torso even if I just walked around in the 90-110 degree heat that comes during the warmer months in California.”
“Over time, my ribs slowly became more deformed from binding. To this day, well over two years since I last used a binder, my ribs still flare out slightly. It doesn’t cause me any serious discomfort but I hate the way it makes my body look,” she said.
Cole added that binding along with taking testosterone also caused her breasts to lose their shape and sag over time, one of the reasons she ended up getting them removed.
“I thought of my breasts as ‘disgusting’ and ‘ruined’ and that nobody would ever be attracted to me as long as they were on my body, so I believed there was no going back and no point in having them anymore,” Cole said.
Apart from the physical risks, binding also has profound psychological effects, said Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and best-selling parenting author.
“Encouraging children to change or hide parts of their bodies induces shame,” Meeker told The Daily Wire. “Would we ever have overweight children with body dysphoria wear tight girdles to see what being thinner is like?”
Meeker said that encouraging questioning children to hide their body parts also causes “mental confusion” because it teaches them to “wrongly believe that becoming another gender will actually assuage the deep feelings of dysphoria they feel.”
It also causes confusion for the non-questioning child, she said.
“When an adult tells them that a boy can be a girl or a girl a boy, they become confused and feel as though the realities they see are not in line with the realities of teachers and other adults. Then they conclude that they do not have the ability to adequately assess what they see. This causes them to doubt their thinking for years to come,” Meeker said.
“My belief as a pediatrician of 35 years is that the feelings of dysphoria aren’t about gender at all — they are deeper signs of depression, grief, insecurity and more,” she said.
In 2018, about 150,000 teens ages 13 to 17 identified as transgender in the U.S., about 0.7% of that age group, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Now, that number has doubled to 300,000 teens or 1.4%, according to a June study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Teens 13 to 17 are only 8% of the U.S. population, but they make up 18% of those who identify as transgender, according to the study.
As the number of youth identifying as transgender has increased, so has the demand for tucking and binding aids.
In recent years, companies have started marketing these products to children, including tucking underwear and chest binders. Sock Drawer Heroes says its children’s tucking underwear is “suitable for all ages.”
Some companies even sell fake penises or “packers” for young girls to stuff into their underwear in order to feel more male. One company sold small knitted fake penises so small they were demonstrated on the company’s website using a teddy bear.
Stella O’Malley, a psychotherapist who works with young people, said that binding and tucking ensure the child focuses on that part of his or her body.
“Binding and tucking are short-term measures that cause long-term damage. If a young person feels alienated from one part of their body such as their breasts, then they would be better off using more progressive strategies than barbaric practices that compress the body painfully,” O’Malley told The Daily Wire.
“Many young people feel a sense of self-loathing towards their bodies,” she said. “These practices are a form of self-harm and they should not be encouraged by adults.”