County Hall is facing a rebellion by staff at Norfolk’s main library after the council leader intervened personally to order a controversial trans art exhibition to be removed.

Kay Mason Billig’s decision to apologise for the show at Norwich's Millennium Library - which critics said glorified 'body mutilation' and self harm - and to launch an investigation into why it was held has angered staff there.

They are understood to be organising a petition to show their opposition to the Norfolk County Council leader’s intervention and a separate decision by managers to remove a poster describing the library, in the Forum, as a ‘trans-friendly space’.

Women's groups say the recent exhibition promoted the use of surgery and medication among vulnerable young people with gender issues and should not have been held in a public library.

Eastern Daily Press: Norwich LibraryNorwich Library (Image: Newsquest)It comes amid a fierce ongoing debate sparked by this month's publication of the landmark Cass Review, a long-awaited report which found children who questioned their gender had been set on the path to irreversible change despite "remarkably weak evidence" to support medical treatment. 

Following an outcry over the library exhibition, Mrs Mason Billig ordered it to be halted, although it had actually already ended by that point.

Eastern Daily Press: The display contained pieces by local artists The display contained pieces by local artists (Image: Norfolk County Council)


Norwich Trans Pride, which organised the display, has now hit back at criticism of the show, characterising those who have raised concerns as "hate groups" and "bigots".

It says it organised the show with the cooperation of library staff and claimed that front-line workers there fully supported it.

A spokesman added: "We offer our support to the library staff who stand with us against the influx of opposition."

The group said staff at the library were also rebelling over a decision by management to remove a poster labelling it as a "trans-friendly space", which had been displayed since 2022.

Eastern Daily Press: Norwich Trans Pride said the poster has been removedNorwich Trans Pride said the poster has been removed (Image: Facebook)The spokesman added: "We are very disappointed in this, as the library has historically been supportive of Norwich’s transgender community.

"It is very sad to see management bowing under pressure from anti-trans hate groups, especially since most of the library’s frontline staff do not agree with this, and are in fact organising an internal petition against this change."



The exhibition featured artwork with slogans like 'trans joy' and 'my garden, my choice'.

The display also depicted a person with mastectomy scars, as a result of gender reassignment surgery, a ceramic nude figure and a hypodermic needle for injecting testosterone.

It was intended to mark Transgender Day of Visibility and ran for a fortnight.

Eastern Daily Press: One of the pieces of artworkOne of the pieces of artwork (Image: Norwich Women's Rights Group)Organisers said it was to show support for "trans youth".

"We want trans people, especially youth, to be seen and supported amongst the current climate of anti-trans fear mongering, and from the positive comments we've received, we believe our display did exactly that," the spokesman added.



Eastern Daily Press: Council leader Kay Mason BilligCouncil leader Kay Mason Billig (Image: Norfolk County Council)Kay Mason Billig, leader of Norfolk County Council, was alerted to the exhibition after critics took to Mumsnet on April 12 - the day after the display was removed - to express their outrage.

Many cited the recently published Cass Review to highlight how inappropriate they found the display.

One user said: "This display is apparently aimed at children and young people, which in my honest opinion promotes body mutilation and self harm and glorifies drug use. In the wake of the Cass report it's incredibly irresponsible.

"The display is accessible to children as the cabinets stand only a couple of feet high. The cases are by the entrance - not noticeable when you go in but inescapable when you leave.

"I can’t believe someone authorised this."

Eastern Daily Press: One of the pieces of artwork on displayOne of the pieces of artwork on display (Image: Norwich Women's Rights Group)Mrs Mason Billig posted on Mumsnet in response.

She wrote: "I was very unhappy when I heard about this display. Staff have guidelines, and this exhibition seems to have been approved without realising the actual content.

"We are open to different points of view on all subjects but there are times and places for these and we have to handle them with sensitivity and consider the impact on others, especially children.

"There will be an investigation into how and why this happened and staff will be issued with strengthened guidance for the future."

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The report by retired paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass made 32 recommendations for the future of gender identity services for children in England.

It prompted NHS England, which had already stopped puberty blockers being given to under-16s, to announce a review into the use of hormones.

The report found that many young people were given the drugs despite long-term risks to health and many later regretting the treatment.

It highlighted how children had been let down by a lack of research and evidence on the use of puberty blockers and hormones and said medics had "abandoned normal clinical approaches to holistic assessment" when it came to gender cases.

It added that while doctors tended to be cautious in implementing new findings in emerging areas of medicine, “quite the reverse happened in the field of gender care for children”, leading to the prescribing of puberty blockers on weak evidence and despite significant risks.



While Mrs Mason Billig won praise on Mumsnet for her direct intervention on the exhibition, some fellow councillors have criticised her.

Jamie Osborne, a Green city and county councillor, said: "There is no way the leader of a council should be acting unilaterally to attempt to remove art exhibitions from libraries without the consent of those involved or any due process. This sets a dangerous precedent and damages understanding and tolerance."

Eastern Daily Press: Councillor Emma CorlettCouncillor Emma Corlett (Image: Submitted)Emma Corlett, an Independent councillor, added: "It is quite outrageous that the leader of the council would seek to undermine the work of library staff.

"I urge councillors of all parties not to play politics with the safety and wellbeing of Norfolk’s young and LGBTQ+ communities. Norwich continues to be a proudly diverse community.

"I understand from library staff that the exhibition ran its full course as planned and no complaints were received from anyone who visited the library during that period. I’m not sure what the leader has done other than to whip up hate on social media and Mumsnet."

But Mrs Mason Billig stands by her actions.

"All staff have guidelines within which they must work, these apply to everyone regardless of their personal opinions," she said.

"If any member of staff has an issue, they should take this up with their line manager. I cannot discuss internal employment matters, as it would be inappropriate.

"I stand by my previous statements, in which I made it quite clear that we are open to different points of view on all subjects but there are times and places for these and we have to handle them with sensitivity and consider the impact on others, especially children."

Norfolk County Council has declined to comment.