Artist reported to police for “hate crime” after criticising puberty blockers for children

An artist was reported to the police, told she needed to give 24 hours’ notice to attend her own exhibition over “safeguarding” concerns, and excluded from a separate community art project, after saying she believed it was harmful for children to try to change sex.

An artist was reported to the police, told she needed to give 24 hours’ notice to attend her own exhibition over “safeguarding” concerns, and excluded from a separate community art project, after saying she believed it was harmful for children to try to change sex and “children are too young to properly assess risk”.

Back in March 2023, Woven artist and sculptor Victoria Culf was setting up her independently funded exhibition at Watford Museum when she was approached by a borough council employee who was already known to her. The employee instigated a conversation, proffering the information that her child was socially transitioning, and was hoping to be prescribed puberty blockers from NHS England’s controversial Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at the Tavistock Clinic.

Culf says she politely and sensitively revealed that, due to her religious beliefs and her experience with children and young people, she felt that ‘transitioning’ them was harmful.

She also expressed her view that the Tavistock Clinic should be shut down, not least because the human brain continues to develop until around age 24, and “children are too young to properly assess risk”.

The artist went on to explain that: “I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I agreed with you,” but did also reassure the council worker that she would know “what was best for her family”.

Following this conversation, which Culf says ended calmly and amicably, the council employee took to X to tell her followers she had been “subjected” to a “transphobic rant”.

Culf then received a call from the council telling her that there had been “harassment” allegations, and she could not enter the exhibition without 24 hours’ notice because the council had to “safeguard” the complainant.

She was also told the police were investigating her for a “hate crime” and that she needed to prepare a statement. (Interestingly, when the Times approached the police to ask about the status of this ‘hate crime’ report, Hertfordshire Police initially confirmed that a ‘non-crime hate incident’ (NCHI) had been recorded against Culf’s name without her knowledge, only to then backtrack and say – correctly – that her comments didn’t met the threshold for recording as a NCHI).

The pile-on continued when Culf was excluded from a community art project organised by a private company, BEEE Creative, allegedly under pressure from the council. BEEE Creative told her that her contract would have to be terminated because the council had banned her from the Museum, and her participation in the project was no longer practically possible.

However, thanks to top-drawer legal representation from the Christian Legal Centre, Culf is now bringing a legal case against Watford Borough Council and the employee for breach of contract, discrimination, harassment, misfeasance in public office, negligence, intimidation, defamation, conspiracy and malicious falsehood.

Speaking to the Times about her attempted cancellation, Culf said: “When I received the call to tell me that the police were investigating me, I was so shocked. I was afraid that the police were going to turn up on my doorstep at any moment and arrest me in front of my children.”

She added: “We are now living in a culture where, just expressing opposition to transgender ideology, even politely, can lead to you being reported to the police. I am aware that me speaking out could be ‘commercial suicide’, but I am not prepared to be silent on these issues and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”

The case is being brought as NHS England prepares to close its controversial Tavistock GIDS clinic, following repeated criticisms that it has been “rushing” children into irreversible, “life-altering” medical procedures without proper consultation, and handing out puberty blockers and hormone treatments to gender-confused youth “as if they were sweets”.

Earlier this month, NHS England announced a ban on prescribing puberty blockers to children as part of new practitioner guidance, which states: “There is not enough evidence to support the safety or clinical effectiveness of puberty suppressing hormones to make the treatment routinely available at this time.”

This major overhaul of GIDS was prompted by the Cass Review of 2022, which found that evidence to support routine use of puberty blockers was lacking. Clinicians at the Tavistock also said they felt under pressure to adopt an unquestioning ‘affirmative’ approach to gender dysphoria in young children, in a manner that was at odds with the standard process of clinical assessment and diagnosis that they had been trained to undertake in all other clinical encounters.

Attempts to smear as ‘hateful’ and ‘bigoted’ any practitioners who dared raise evidence-based concerns about this ‘affirmative’ approach were pervasive.

One clinical psychologist at Leeds GIDS expressed concerns to a colleague and was promptly branded “transphobic”. When the clinic’s child-safeguarding lead, Sonia Appleby, tried to report staff concerns to management, she was described as “hostile” and accused of having an “agenda”.

In 2018, Dr David Bell, staff governor at the Tavistock and a distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a report that captured the concerns of ten GIDS clinicians who were frustrated and horrified about what was happening at the clinic, only to see it suppressed by GIDS.

In 2019, a governor of the NHS trust in charge of the clinic resigned, claiming the “debate and discussion required is continually being closed down or effectively described as ‘transphobic’.”

And so on and so forth.

NHS England says that following the Tavistock’s closure, it will move young people who say they have been born into the wrong bodies into two new NHS services, situated in Great Ormond Street Hospital, London, and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. Both services will take a more “holistic approach to care”, exploring issues like autism, ADHD, homophobic bullying, sexual abuse, depression and other traumas instead of rushing to affirm a child’s professed gender identity before and placing them on a medical pathway.

Let’s hope the “holism” on offer at NHS England’s new services contributes to the creation of an environment in which parents, detransitioners, academics, medical professionals, teachers, gender-critical feminists, and artists like Victoria Culf, who dissent from the basic tenets of gender identity theory are able to have their say without fear of censure.