Binders are the antithesis of a bra. Bras, with their tendency to be colourful and embellished, are available in wild and wondrous patterns and shapes of every sort; they’re built to cup and lift, and designed to be seen and admired. Binders, on the other hand, are plain and inconspicuous, built to be worn like a second skin and designed not for the eye, but simply to perform a purpose; they flatten and shape a chest, creating a more masculine, square form for those who don’t wish to show their breasts. Bras have been considered beautiful and often liberating—but who says binders can’t be too? Kyle Lasky shows binders as a work of art in “Presence In Absense,” a photo series that captures the pain, liberation, and beauty in binders.
Kyle is a queer photographer based in Toronto who has just launched their first solo show with “Presence in Absence” this month at the female-friendly sex shop Come As You Are. Kyle chose binders because, “for a lot of people who bind, a binder is the final layer in undressing, so these photos actually function as nudes, they’re portraits of bare chests.” By presenting the binder as a chest itself, the wish of the wearer is being granted; the photos show almost no sign of a traditionally feminine form.
Binders are essentially an extremely tight fitting sort of modern version of a corset, and are used exclusively to flatten breasts and create a male contour chest. They’re worn almost equally by masculine identified people and feminine identified people, and most importantly they provide a surgery-free option of comfort for those who can’t afford the expenses and down-time a mastectomy can demand.
A self portrait of photographer, Kyle Lasky
Binders aren’t new to Kyle. “When I first started binding five years ago I tried one on and I looked in the mirror and just started crying, because I’d never been able to see myself in that way, and feel so happy about the way that I looked. It definitely is freeing to bind, but it is also straining… Now there’s a lot of shame for me. My binder and my binding is extremely personal and painful. It’s literally a weight I have to bare. I’ve found that after I started hormones I essentially stopped binding because I was passing so much without binding that it became unnecessary. I wasn’t questioned based on my face so I found people didn’t look to my body to answer their questions, they just took me literally at face value.” But as time passes and their comfort levels shift, Kyle often has to revert back to binding. “It’s a struggle for me, and a constant issue I have to deal with all day every day. I’m uncomfortable with my chest but I’m also uncomfortable with binding because it’s such a painful experience. I’m either more comfortable in my body and in pain physically from binding, or uncomfortable in my body but not in pain.”
Kyle’s discomfort with binding plays a part of the creation of the show. Each piece (there are 12 in total) has a suggested price, although buyers are welcome to pay more, and the proceeds from the show are being split between sending binders to other countries where they’re not available, and funding Kyle’s top surgery.
Want to read more related to this subject? Check out “Unbinding Binaries” in Issue 13.
text by Alyssa Garrison
photos by Kyle Lasky