What's happening

14 Jun 2019

Product design which aims to transform the lives of transgender people

Final year Industrial Design and Technology student Miles Kilburn, has produced a chest binder for transgender men and non-binary people that is both safer and smarter than existing products, as his final year project.

Miles has produced a chest binder for transgender men and non-binary people that is both safer and smarter than existing products.

Chest binding is the act of flattening one’s breasts using a tight garment to make the chest appear more masculine. This can have immense mental health benefits for the user; however, some chest binding methods can have serious physical health implications, in particular with DIY methods that can using household objects such as duct tape, plastic wrap, bandages, or sewing their own garment.

The physical impacts of this – particularly if worn over long periods of time – include back and chest pain and even rib fractures.

Over-binding is also a risk; users may wear a chest binder that is too small or wear one for too long due to the difficulties to discreetly remove it during the day.

This is where Miles’ product, Breathe, provides a safer option for the community.

The chest binder he has created is a garment made with smart materials woven through the fabric that enables the user to take breaks throughout the day without removing their clothing and needing to go to a private space.

The binder includes a smart alloy called Nitonel, which when electrified, decompresses the garment and loosens the binder.

It is battery-operated and controlled using a small remote, allowing the user to take discreet breaks as and when they choose.

The binder is machine washable, has flat seaming and includes mesh panels to make the product breathable and keep the user cool.

Breathe is also designed to be movement-sensitive, so should the user wish to participate in sport, the garment will automatically loosen for them if the user enables this setting.

Speaking about the future of Breathe, Miles said: “My long-term vision for Breathe is to see it as an alternative form of treatment for transgender people through the NHS.

“A lot of transgender people who are wearing chest binders are often experiencing a lot of pain while binding, so much so that they can feel pressured into having top surgery – which is the removal of your breasts – so that they have a permanently flat chest.

“Top surgery is very much an expensive and permanent decision, so for many transgender people having a product like Breathe could be an alternate option which gives them more time to consider whether they want surgery whilst experiencing much less pain from binding.”

Miles was interviewed on BBC Radio Leicester, and this can be heard here (interview starts at 10:54)

More information on Breathe.