Trans ac­tivists send out free breast binders to 13-year- olds in un­marked pack­ages... so their par­ents don’t find out

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By SANCHEZ MAN­NING SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

A TRANS­GEN­DER char­ity is giv­ing girls as young as 13 po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous breast- flat­ten­ing de­vices with­out telling their par­ents.

The ul­tra–tight gar­ments can cause ‘hor­ren­dous’ health prob­lems in­clud­ing breath­ing and breast­feed­ing dif­fi­cul­ties, chronic back pain and bro­ken ribs, in­creas­ing the chance of a punc­tured lung.

They are used by a grow­ing num­ber of girls who be­lieve they are the wrong sex to dis­guise their breasts and make them look like boys.

Now a Mail on Sun­day in­ves­ti­ga­tion has ex­posed how a pub­licly funded or­gan­i­sa­tion is se­cretly send­ing the con­tro­ver­sial chest binders to school­girls in un­marked pack­ages so that par­ents are kept in the dark.

An un­der­cover re­porter pos­ing as a 13-year-old school­girl con­tacted Manch­ester based MORF, part of the LBGT Foun­da­tion, af­ter an an­gry mother told us that the group had sent her 14-year-old daugh­ter a chest bin­der with­out con­sult­ing her.

Af­ter two short phone calls to the helpline num­ber on its web­site, our in­ves­ti­ga­tor was told a chest bin­der would be sent in the post free of charge and with no in­di­ca­tion of what the pack­age con­tained.

Last night Con­ser­va­tive MP David Davies com­pared the char­ity’s ac­tiv­i­ties to child abuse, de­manded an ur­gent in­quiry and in­sisted the body’s fund­ing is sus­pended im­me­di­ately.

He said: ‘It’s a scan­dal that we’re al­low­ing a pub­licly funded or­gan­i­sa­tion to send out breast-bind­ing kits with­out parental con­sent or knowl­edge. I’ll be writ­ing to the Women’s Min­is­ter Vic­to­ria Atkins to get this or­gan­i­sa­tion in­ves­ti­gated im­me­di­ately, sus­pend pub­lic fund­ing to them and hold an in­quiry into how many chil­dren have been en­cour­aged with­out their par­ent’s per­mis­sion to wear these chest binders.’

MORF’s web­site de­scribes it as a sup­port group for ‘trans-mas­cu­line’ peo­ple – those who were born fe­male but be­lieve they are men. It clearly states that it is a ser­vice only for those aged over 18 and ad­vises younger peo­ple to con­tact other groups that deal with chil­dren and teenagers.

But when our re­porter told a helpline ad­viser she was just 13 he had no qualms about dis­cussing her chest size and even sug­gested that while wear­ing the bin­der she should avoid too much ex­er­tion dur­ing PE lessons.

MORF is based at the Manch­ester head­quar­ters of the e LGBT Foun­da­tion which has re­ceived close to £1.2 mil­lion f r om t he De­part­ment of f Health and a £500,000 grant t from The Big Lot­tery Fund.

The mother whose 14-year--old daugh­ter re­ceived the e chest bin­der from MORF, told The Mail on Sun­day: ‘I only found out they had sent her the bin­der be­cause I opened a pack­age that was ad­dressed to her.

‘I hid it so she wouldn’t find it. But she had pre­vi­ously been sent one with­out me know­ing and had al­ready started wear­ing it. Then I re­alised that it was be­cause of the bin­der that she had stopped ex­er­cis­ing and was hav­ing trou­ble breath­ing.’

Cam­paign­ers con­cerned about the in­crease in girls claim­ing they are t rans­gen­der say an al arming num­ber are wear­ing chest binders.

Vul­ner­a­ble young­sters can get in­struc­tions on how to use binders from trans­gen­der YouTube stars who make demon­stra­tion videos, which are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by ad­verts for breast- flat­ten­ing de­vices cost­ing as lit­tle as £4.

The binders, which of­ten look sim­i­lar to a vest or crop top, are typ­i­cally made of ny­lon and span­dex. When worn, the ex­tremely tight-fit­ting un­der­gar­ment com- presses the breasts to cre­ate the il­lu­sion of a flat chest.

But med­i­cal ex­perts have high­lighted their dan­gers. One se­nior doc­tor warned that they can cause frac­tured ribs and chronic chest and back pain and may even stop girls from breast feed­ing in later life due to the dam­age to breast tis­sue.

Stephanie Davies- Arai of the cam­paign group Trans­gen­der Trend, which is re­ceiv­ing a ris­ing num­ber of calls from par­ents wor­ried about their chil­dren wear­ing chest binders, said: ‘ The health ef­fects of wear­ing binders are hor­ren­dous and well-doc­u­mented.

‘To pro­mote binders and sup­ply them free to chil­dren be­hind their par­ents’ backs is a gross dere­lic­tion of duty to­wards girls and a cyn­i­cal ex­ploita­tion of teenage girls’ vul­ner­a­bil­ity to lat­est fads.’

When our re­porter posed as a school­girl to ask if MORF could send her a chest bin­der with­out her mother find­ing out she was promised com­plete con­fi­den­tial­ity. The helpline op­er­a­tor, who iden­ti­fied him­self as Barry, as­sured her there would be noth­ing on the pack­age to let her mother know it con­tained a bin­der. He said: ‘It won’t have LGBT Foun­da­tion on it and it will be quite a small pack­age.’

Barry also ques­tioned our re­porter, be­liev­ing he was speak­ing to a 13-year-old, on her bra size. ‘Ob­vi­ously I’m not mas­sively fa­mil­iar with bra sizes so you might have to help me out here,’ he said.

‘Have you looked at the siz­ing

around binders on the in­ter­net… do you know what size you might be?’

Dur­ing the re­porter’s sec­ond call to the helpline, Barry ad­vised her on some of the health risks which chest binders carry, then asked if she was do­ing PE at school. When she said yes, his ad­vised her to re­frain from over-ex­ert­ing her­self. ‘ You’ve got to be care­ful do­ing ex­treme phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity wear­ing a bin­der,’ he said.

As­ton­ish­ingly, when we con­fronted MORF about their de­ci­sion to send a chest bin­der to a 13-yearold girl be­hind her par­ent’s back, they de­fended their ac­tions. Speak­ing on MORF’s be­half, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the LGBT Foun­da­tion, Paul Martin OBE, said: ‘ We’re proud of how we re­sponded to your re­porter be­cause we pro­vided sen­si­ble, com­pas­sion­ate ad­vice to some­one pre­tend­ing to be in need.’

Con­tro­ver­sial trans­gen­der char­i­ties – in­clud­ing All­sorts Youth Project, Mer­maids and Gen­dered In­tel­li­gence – have re­ceived more than £1 mil­lion in pub­lic money in the last five years, The Mail on Sun­day can re­veal.

Other ac­tivists have been crit­i­cised for pro­mot­ing ‘gen­der flu­id­ity’ to chil­dren as young as two.

START YOUNG: How we re­ported tod­dlers be­ing told about trans is­sues

WIDELYAVAIL­ABLE: One of the chest binders be­ing sold on­line for as lit­tle as £4, pic­tured to show the fas­ten­ing that keeps it tight, and, above, a young­ster mod­el­ling it

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