The Internet has been a huge boon to the trans community over the past twenty years. Among so many other things like allowing us to build online communities and raise awareness, it’s also allowed members of our community to buy the things they need to feel more comfortable in their own bodies.
Most FTM men fondly remember ordering their first binders online, only to await the arrival of the fateful package with bated breath. For our sisters, they bought their breast slips and perhaps their wardrobe online. I’ll never know a time when ordering a packet or a binder wasn’t as easy as hopping online. Decades ago, you usually had to travel out to a large city with an open-minded adult store or learn how to craft your own goods.
But still, even the Internet has its limits, especially for the younger set. When you’re in the closet and living with your parents how do you explain the array of packages landing on your doorstep? The young and closeted trans kid learns to navigate PO boxes and take advantage of sympathetic friends quick. If not, it’s mastering Ace bandages, socks, and other homemade (and oft-dubious quality) equipment in order to MacGyver your way into making life a little easier.
One has to wonder, could things be even easier?
I’m sure most people have, at some point, wished that buying binders, gaffs, and so on was as easy as hopping in the car and hitting up Target (or any other big-box store). Granted, maybe you are lucky to live in an area where you’ve got a retailer who sells binders and so on (although, for the most part, these seem to be specialty stores or adult stores in liberal areas). But this isn’t the case for most trans people, especially when it comes to the younger set.
What if stores like Target or Wal-Mart decided to carry items like binders? You can imagine that most trans people would be running out in droves to take advantage of the offer. Younger trans people wouldn’t be confined to the Internet. And those of us without Internet access or the means to order items online would have a lot to take advantage of. In fact, a petition has been recently circling around Change.org, calling on retailers to start stocking chest binders. I was unable to get in touch with the young man who started the petition but considering the petition is rapidly heading towards meeting its goal, the petition itself has definitely hit upon a need in the trans community.
Is it a viable option for the big box store, however? While trans people do make up a significant portion of the population (a report by the Transgender Law Center estimates that 2-5% of the general population is transgender), one may have to consider whether or not stocking the items in-store is a profitable option. After all, 15% of Americans allegedly experience some degree of hearing loss and yet not all big box stores stock hearing aids, FM systems, and so on. Granted, it is a bad example- one can easily find a hearing aid retailer down the street from a Wal-Mart, yet your chances of stumbling upon a binder wholesale retailer are very, very slim. The need to buy binders and so on may not necessarily be a long-term need either. A trans woman on estrogen may decide she no longer needs to buy breast slips. A trans man will have no need for binders if he opts for top surgery.
Still, there is a definite need in the community for items like packers and binders in the first place. And as trans people come out at various ages and in various situations, having the option to purchase the items they need at accessible stores will be a welcome option. It’s no secret that many of these items help alleviate physical dysphoria and help trans people feel more comfortable presenting as themselves in public. And offering items like binders would definitely be seen as a good gesture on part of large big box stores, many of which already serve an incredible diverse community.
Regardless of age or situation, you can imagine how many people would be able to benefit from such a gesture.