- Investigation found that staff from trans charity Mermaids sent out chest binders
- The binders sent to children who presented as 13 and said parents were opposed
- Studies have found the use of binders can have harmful medical consequences
A transgender children’s charity has been accused of giving chest-flattening devices to young girls against their parents’ wishes.
Mermaids staff offered to send a breast binder to a girl they believed was only 14 after being told she was banned from using one by her mother.
According to an investigation, the charity has been offering binders to children as young as 13 despite their parents saying they oppose the practice.
The investigation also revealed the charity’s online help centre tells children who present themselves as young as 13 and 14 that hormone-blocking drugs are safe and ‘totally reversible’.
Mermaids, a taxpayer funded group which supports transgender children and their families, runs training for schools and the NHS.
Breast binding, also known as chest binding, is the act of flattening breasts by the use of constrictive materials. The term also refers to the material used in this act.
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.
Campaigners have called for regulators to step in and launch an investigation into what they call ‘safeguarding red flags’.
Chest binders 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.
The practice was condemned as ‘painful, and potentially harmful’ by Dr Hilary Cass, the former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics in an interim review of trans children’s services for the NHS.
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 compresses 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.
A 2008 NHS England publication noted breast binders should only be used for short periods of time because they ‘may cause back problems’ and can distort breast tissue, which could affect any future surgery to remove the breasts.
The advice also noted binders are ‘not appropriate’ for ‘heavy-breasted’ women.
A 2017 study led by Sarah Peitzmeier of the University of Michigan and published in the journal Culture, Health and Sexuality, observed almost 9 in 10 people experienced at least one negative effect from binding, and 8 out of 10 felt that it was important to discuss binding with a healthcare provider.
Stephanie Davies-Arai, the founder and director of Transgender Trend, a campaign group, stated: ‘This is a great safeguarding concern, because breast binding is basically a form of self-harm.’
She went on to say that Mermaids was issuing ‘inaccurate and impartial information’ and that parents deserved to know ‘all of the information, whatever decision they make in the end’.