A group which provides free “chest binders” to young people who are transitioning claim they can’t keep up with demand for the controversial breast-flattening garments.
Chest binders have recently made headlines after two were given to a 13-year-old Maine girl by a public school staffer without her parents’ permission or knowledge.
Mom Amber Lavigne has since filed a federal lawsuit claiming the school deprived her of her constitutional right to direct her child’s upbringing.
Despite the debate, several LGBTQ groups who mail free chest binders to kids say there’s a backlog, with more people wanting them than garments available.
“It’s become such a need,” Binders for Confident Kids Founder Elizabeth Haley told The Post.
The small organization she started seven years ago in rural Georgia is flooded with over 150 requests a month for the free undergarments, she explained.
“There are organizations across the country that are doing what I’m doing — providing binders to people who need them, because it’s so much of a safer way to bind,” she said.”
At least three dozen organizations across the country provide the breast flatteners to kids as young as 14 upon request. Haley’s group said they will give them to 13-year-olds without seeking parental consent.
“At the age of 13, children are allowed to get on the internet and buy whatever they want,” Haley stated. “They can get on Amazon and buy something. That’s the age that the federal government says that a child has been allowed to make decisions for themselves as far as the internet goes.”
If a mom or dad contacts her letting her know they don’t want their child to receive a chest binder, she said she’s “happy to cancel the order” — but added that’s only happened once or twice in seven years.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times, parents don’t even know their child is trans or seeking assistance, and so they’re not able to give us a lot of information,” Haley explained.
“A lot of times, they’re having it mailed to a friend’s house. We’re not involved in that. We just have an order form.”
As the mother of a child who is transgender, Haley believes chest binders are safer than the alternative.
“Parents don’t necessarily think about it when they say things like, ‘I don’t want my kid to have a binder:’” she revealed. “What we’re doing is trying to help a child to do it more safely, because these kids have an issue with their bodies. They’re going to wrap up in ACE bandages or duct tape.”
But Lavigne warned the contraptions can damage milk ducts for breastfeeding and disfigure still-developing rib cages, and that teens aren’t the best at making decisions about their long-term future.
“When I was 13, I struggled with my weight — I thought I was fat,” Lavigne explained. “I was able to obtain diet pills. I remember having the thought process of, ‘I would rather die at 30 and be skinny for those 30 years, than live to be 100 and be fat,’ because that’s how we think when we’re 13. It’s impossible to think long term.
“For [my daughter,] she doesn’t want kids. [But] She’s 13.”
Haley’s own website lists guidance for moms and dads including an article that states chest binding can be harmful.
“Even a dedicated binder is not without risk, and binding improperly or for too long can lead to chest and back pain, rib bruising and fractures, shortness of breath, overheating, and skin damage,” the Pride in Practice article warns.
An increasing number of lawsuits challenge schools, medical providers and other organizations that secretly give kids the underwear without their parents knowledge.
“I would say that a person mailing these out to young people, that they’re usurping parent’s rights,” said Jeff Johnston of Focus on the Family.
With a patchwork of state laws either upholding the rights of underage trans kids or the rights of parents, Johnston believes it will ultimately fall on the Supreme Court of the United States to decide who can legally make decisions on minors transitioning genders.
“We’re very big on parental rights and the Supreme Court is, too,” Johnston told The Post Wednesday. “They’ve said over and over again it’s the parents’ rights to guide the education and upbringing of their children.”
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