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Sex abuse victim says social workers told her to ‘change gender to be happy’

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A girl who suffered horrific sexual abuse at age five was “encouraged” by social workers to believe she was “born in the wrong body”.

Taken into care, she revealed the struggles over her body once she began puberty saw her being given tight “binders” to prevent her breasts showing, and her name and pronouns were changed.

Social workers even contacted National Insurance to say she was male, an act that would cause Katherine to lose her first full-time job because her birth certificate and NI details didn’t match up.

Katherine said: “I was only hours away from starting the process that would have led to me getting the powerful male hormone testosterone after being referred by the controversial Sandyford gender clinic Glasgow. I’m lucky to have escaped the terrible lifelong consequences after being exposed to trans ideology for four years.

“I was told I’d be happy if I changed gender. The LGBT club at school and my social worker made it sound so easy. I’d simply been born in the wrong body, they said.

“If I hadn’t broken the spell, on the actual day I was supposed to keep that medical appointment, I would have been given drugs that would’ve changed my life forever, causing irreversible harm, leaving me infertile and at risk of cancer.

“I could be sitting here today with a massive scar where my breasts should be.”

Katherine chose to speak out following the publication earlier this month of the landmark Cass Review into gender identity services for young people in NHS England.

Its author, Dr Hilary Cass, found gender medicine to be operating on “shaky foundations” when it came to the evidence for medical treatment like prescribing hormones to pause puberty or to ­transition to the opposite sex.

Subsequently, Scotland’s NHS announced it had paused prescribing puberty blockers to children referred by the Sandyford gender clinic.

After suffering sexual abuse outside her home and the familial issues that followed, at the age of six Katherine was taken from her home town and placed into a series of foster homes.

She said: “I was old enough to understand something very bad had happened to me. I was left with strangers, professional foster carers, in a placement with five other children in care. I’d never felt so alone and scared.”

Sandyford in Glasgow.
Sandyford in Glasgow.

The once outgoing, inquisitive child became withdrawn and sad.

She said: “I used to tell my mum everything but, being with people I didn’t know, I couldn’t trust anyone. I’d hide how I felt inside.

“There were so many other ­foster kids in the house, if you showed feelings or cried, you’d get bullied. I learned to wear a mask, to say nothing, pretend everything was fine.

“I endured several placements, each worse than the other. I didn’t feel like a person. I was a number lost in the care system.

“At school, everybody knew who the kids in care were. I had no friends. None of the teachers ever asked if I was okay.

“That was when I found the LGBTY pamphlets and club in the school. I’d never heard of them before. But it seemed kids who were a bit different ended up ­joining in, so I did too.”

As puberty approached and feeling extremely self-conscious of her growing body after being sexually abused at age five, Katherine was further traumatised when a boy she’d thought of as a friend sexually assaulted her too.

She said: “I was so angry, I started cutting my arms to let my feelings out. I cut my hair, did everything I could to stay invisible to boys and men. I wore chest binders 24 hours a day, only taking them off to wash. I was crying out for help. Nobody saw my scars, nobody listened to my cries.

“I started running away from the foster home. On one occasion the police found me and dragged my arms up my back. I was screaming in pain. A male officer carried out an intimate search of my breasts and realised I was a girl. They’d been told to look for a transgender boy.”

‘I wanted and needed my mum’

At 17, after several years of ­running away, Katherine refused to return to foster care. She said: “I wanted and needed my mum. She was sobbing and angry when she saw my cuts. I could see it upset her when I said I was a boy now, but she just told me she loved me.

“As the weeks and months passed, I got peace and space to just be me. I started my first job, working in a supermarket. I loved it and the people I worked with were great. Then they discovered my birth certificate and National Insurance details didn’t match because the social worker had changed my details to male. I was heartbroken that I had to leave.

“The medical appointment to get testosterone was coming up. Mum asked if I’d ever read about what that stuff could do to me.

“I was horrified when I read about the long-term effects and cancelled the appointment. I’d trusted what I’d been told by my social workers and the LGBT people at school, but they hadn’t told me the truth.

“I told mum I’d had time to just be myself and knew I wasn’t born in the wrong body. My body is the right body. I’m gay, I’m not a boy. One day, I might even want children. Who knows what the future holds?”

Katherine is now at college learning to work with children in care so she can use her own experience to help others. She said : “I realise what harmful ideology was shoved in my face by adults who were supposed to be responsible for safeguarding me. How many others like me didn’t get the chance to escape and are living with the disastrous consequences?”

One of Scotland’s most ­experienced social workers, Maggie Mellon of the organisation Evidence Based Social Work, said: “This case highlights the systemic failure of our care system to protect and safeguard extremely vulnerable children like Katherine.

“I sincerely hope our politicians are shocked enough to actively do something about reviewing and removing the harmful ideologies that have been allowed to infiltrate the care system to such an extent. Red flags were repeatedly ignored, despite the sexual abuse of this vulnerable child.

“The obvious signs that she was struggling after suffering sexual abuse, the body loathing, self-harming, the running away and changes in her behaviour were ignored and, instead, Katherine was told if she changed gender, she would be happy. It was an unforgivable lie.

“I am so appalled Katherine was treated the way she was, I intend lodging a complaint on behalf of her and her mother. What was done to both of them should never have happened.”

Helen, Katherine’s mum, tells her story

I struggle to find the words to describe how very proud I am of my daughter’s strength and determination despite the awful things that happened in her life.

She was an ordinary little girl, full of fun and mischief. She loved playing with her dolls and she loved playing football. Katherine was a ball of energy. She changed when she was five years old, and I sensed that something bad had happened to her. I did everything I could to protect my daughter. I never stopped challenging the decision taken by social workers to put her into care. I believed it was a terrible mistake then, and I still do today. It was heartbreaking and there were times I feared I would never get my daughter back.

When I finally did, I could hardly recognise the happy child she had once been. Instead of being protected in care, Katherine had been further traumatised and abused.

Nobody had arranged counselling for the sexual abuse she had been subjected to and, to compound that, social workers, teachers and those who were responsible for ensuring her safety had encouraged her to believe she was the wrong gender and she could change that.

To do this to a vulnerable, abused child is unforgivable. I am relieved I got her back before she was given hormones or surgery that would have changed her life forever. I’m angry and horrified that so-called responsible people could think it was acceptable to tell a sexually abused, vulnerable child that she had been born in the wrong body, particularly when she was already showing signs of distress over entering puberty.

None of the so-called experts questioned anything. They pursued a harmful agenda which I have no doubt has destroyed far too many lives already, an agenda that has no place in education or childcare. I will always love my daughter and I am so very proud to say that she is determined to make a career in childcare so other vulnerable children aren’t exposed to the awful practices that she was.

Children-in-care watchdog backs gender row group

The organisation that regulates and inspects children’s homes across Scotland is signed up to a controversial scheme run by a group which has campaigned at the forefront of transgender recognition.

The Care Inspectorate is one of a number of organisations working with vulnerable children which has joined the LGBT Youth Scotland charter scheme.

LGBT Youth Scotland has described puberty blockers as “wonderful” and says it believes children should have “autonomy” to decide whether or not to take them. The organisation is also under fresh scrutiny after it criticised the findings of the Cass Review.

In one disturbing example on the Care Inspectorate website, it describes how a care worker supported a young person in care in having their breasts removed.

LGBT Youth Scotland receives around £1 million a year from the Scottish Government, NHS and local authorities – with their accounts showing grants and taxpayer money making up the majority of their income.

Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Children and NHS Lothian’s children’s services have signed up to the charter, as have NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde which runs the Sandyford gender clinic.

With more than 250 schools signed up to “charter award schemes” they pay up to £2,000 a time, with the charity claiming to have trained thousands of teachers.

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Meghan Gallacher said: “It is deeply alarming that this ideology is influencing crucial decisions in our care system and in relation to vulnerable individuals.”

The Care Inspectorate said: “This guidance was developed following requests from services for children and young people for guidance to help them support transgender including non-binary young people experiencing care. As is the case with all guidance, we review how it is being followed during our inspections.”

Parents call for gender guidance to be axed by schools

Parents, education experts, social workers and psychologists have written to local authorities across Scotland demanding controversial transgender guidance be withdrawn from schools.

A letter sent to education chiefs from the Women’s Rights Network and Parents Watch Education stated: “The Cass Report highlights the fact that schools have played and continue to play an important role in influencing children regarding what is clearly an ideological movement which has no basis in scientific reality.

“Clearly schools should have a preventative role in safeguarding children. They should have a preventative role in ensuring children’s emotional wellbeing and mental health, and parents should not have to worry about their children being indoctrinated by a pseudoscientific ideology.”

Last week, MSP Stephen Kerr warned that groups such as LGBT Youth Scotland were using schools to push gender ideology on young children and called on Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth to look at whether this should be stopped.

Gilruth said the Scottish Government was looking at whether guidance needed to be updated.

LGBT Youth Scotland said: “It’s vital that all young people feel safe, supported and included. Our LGBT Charter for Education is a key part of this and the schools that engage us enrol in an extensively reviewed and tested programme ultimately designed to improve lives.”