|Type||Nonprofit advocacy organisation|
|18 employees, 7 trustees, 31 volunteers|
|Part of a series on|
|LGBT rights |
in the United Kingdom
Mermaids is a British charity and advocacy organisation that supports gender variant and transgender youth. They also provide inclusion and diversity training. Mermaids was founded in 1995 by a group of parents of gender nonconforming children and became a Charitable incorporated organisation in 2015.
Formation and leadership
Mermaids was founded in 1995 by a group of parents of gender nonconforming children, originally acting as a small helpline. They aim to provide support for transgender youths up to 20 years of age. It became a Charitable incorporated organisation in 2015.
Since January 2016, Susie Green is the chief executive. Previously she worked as an IT manager at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Leeds. Green was a trustee of Mermaids for four years from 2011. Her daughter is one of the youngest in the UK to have transitioned surgically.
Lobbying the Tavistock Gender Identity Development Service
In the years from 2000, Mermaids alongside another campaign group GIRES (Gender Identity Research and Education Society), lobbied clinicians at the NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) for early interventions on children. After taking her child to Boston in 2007 to receive puberty blockers, Susie Green worked to make them available in Britain from GIDS. In response, GIDS began prescribing blockers, making them widely available in response to demand from families. Clinical psychologist Kirsty Entwistle, on the GIDS staff from 2017, said: "Those who'd connected with Mermaids were terrified, because they'd been told that their child was going to kill themselves if they didn't get blockers." GIDS describes suicide as "extremely rare".
In July 2022, NHS England decided to close GIDS and replace it with regional healthcare centres, following the publication of the independent Cass Review. In response to the decision, Mermaids CEO Susie Green was "cautiously optimistic", but expressed concerns that priority would be given to mental health over medical care. She said: "We would not want any further barriers to be put in place in terms of access to medical intervention."
National Lottery funding
In December 2018, the charity was designated £500,000 in funding by the National Lottery. However, the funding was put under review after criticism of the charity, including by anti-trans activist Graham Linehan, who created a post on Mumsnet calling for members of the forum to email their concerns to the National Lottery. In response to this, on 18 January 2019, YouTuber Hbomberguy began a livestream attempting to 101% complete the video game Donkey Kong 64, with a goal of $500. The stream became popular and raised over $350,000 USD for Mermaids. Among other guests, the stream featured an appearance by American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On 19 February 2019, the National Lottery concluded its review into the charity and announced that it would follow through with the promised donation, stating that "did not find any grounds to withhold the grant.".
Harassment of staff
In 2017, Mermaids reported that it and its volunteers had been the victims of online harassment, leading to concerns by parents whose children are supported by the organisation. CEO Green stated that she had been falsely accused of forcibly castrating her transgender daughter, Jackie. Her daughter maintained that "If my mum had not helped me, I would not be here today" and transgender journalist Paris Lees wrote: "Susie Green is saving lives and I wish my parents had known about Mermaids when I was growing up". Green raised concerns "that the social media backlash may put people off coming to the charity for help."
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Kim Thomas said that some pressure groups, including Safe Schools Alliance and Transgender Trend, have argued that some resources used by Mermaids in trainings reinforce rigid gender roles and might cause non-conforming children to identify as transgender. In contrast, Attitude quoted Kate Lister as saying that the resource is "a visual representation of gender identifying markers ... At no point does anyone suggest children who act in ways that do not conform to a gender are trans. At no point does anyone suggest gay children are trans." Likewise, Mermaids released a statement saying that they have never encouraged teachers "to state that 'tomboys' should be transgender", and that they do not provide classroom talks or lesson materials for schools, contrary to what had been reported in some newspapers.
The 2018 ITV drama series Butterfly, about a young transgender girl, was substantially informed by Mermaids and its CEO, Susie Green, a consultant on the series who worked with creator Tony Marchant. Marchant and cast members Emmett J. Scanlan and Anna Friel also met families involved with Mermaids to inform their creative processes.
In July 2020, the charity complained that the BBC had no longer included links to themselves on BBC LGBT advice pages, alongside two other organisations. The BBC said that Mermaids was removed after complaints were made about the information it provided, and for impartiality reasons.
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The charity criticised the UK Government's decision to disband the LGBT advisory board without a planned replacement in April 2021, describing the move as "very concerning".
Challenge to LGB Alliance charitable status
In June 2021, Mermaids along with other charities including Stonewall began raising funds to appeal the awarding of charitable status to LGB Alliance, describing the latter group's activities as "denigrating trans people". In September 2022, the case began, which is the first time in the UK one charity has attempted to strip the status of another.
In June 2019, The Times revealed that they had discovered a data breach by Mermaids in which confidential emails had been made readily available through their website. The Times stated that these included names of transgender children and their parents, together with contact details and intimate medical information. The newspaper reported that there were internal emails from the trustees that criticised the leadership by Susie Green, as well as criticism from parents. Mermaids issued a press release on the same day, which acknowledged that a data breach had occurred, and that they had informed the Information Commissioner's Office and had corrected the breach. The press release stated that the breach was limited to internal emails and that no emails to and from families were part of the information leaked; The Times disputed this. After an investigation, Mermaids were required to pay a £25,000 fine.
Conference at Great Ormond Street Hospital
In March 2022, Susie Green was due to speak on a panel regarding support for transgender youth, alongside Stephanie Davies-Arai, of Transgender Trend, a "gender-critical" website. The panel would have been part of an event, eventually postponed, for an expected 100 to 150 trainee child psychiatrists organised by Great Ormond Street Hospital and Health Education England. Paediatrician Hilary Cass, journalist Helen Joyce, psychotherapist Stella O'Malley, and academic Lisa Littman would also have participated.
Following complaints to the organisers by Mermaids and a trainee doctor, Davies-Arai's appearance was cancelled. Susie Green said that Mermaids "cannot be a part of a conference that gives a platform to Transgender Trend" and advised the organisers to "stay clear of anyone involved with anti-trans pseudo-medical platforms that have been set up with the sole intention of attacking trans people (especially trans youth) and their healthcare." Davies-Arai said that it "should concern everyone that the NHS has allowed unsubstantiated claims of 'transphobia' to influence their decisions."
Standards of Care for Transgender and Gender Diverse People
In September 2022, Susie Green co-authored the 8th edition of the standards of care issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
The Daily Telegraph investigation
In September 2022, Mermaids was the subject of an investigation by The Daily Telegraph. The investigation relied largely on an anonymous adult pretending to be a 14-year-old named "Kai" in order to access services from Mermaids. Kai exchanged emails with the charity, during which the charity staff agreed to offer them a chest binder. The Telegraph criticized the charity for not investigating Kai's mental health and for not requiring that Kai inform an adult, despite Kai describing their parents as unaccepting in the email exchanges. Mermaids responded by saying that they take "a harm reduction position with the understanding that providing a young person with a binder and comprehensive safety guidelines from an experienced member of staff is preferable to the likely alternative of unsafe practices and/or continued or increasing dysphoria". On 29 September 2022 the Charity Commission opened a regulatory compliance case into Mermaids, based on complaints made about the charity as a result of The Daily Telegraph's investigation.
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Appearing alongside British television writer and anti-trans activist Graham Linehan last year...
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As the number of children identifying as transgender has increased, schools have consulted trans charities such as Stonewall and Mermaids about how best to approach the topic. These charities have, however, come under criticism by campaigners, including Transgender Trend and Safe Schools Alliance, for reinforcing a rigid belief in gender roles, and for encouraging children who don’t conform to gender stereotypes to believe they might be trans....A large number of the organisations providing training and resources to schools on trans issues use non-conformity to gender stereotypes as evidence that a child is transgender. Mermaids, for example, regularly uses a chart showing gender identity on a 12-point spectrum from a Barbie wearing a pink dress to GI Joe in military fatigues.
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The discussion is on how we socially see gender expressions. In psychology, these archetypes are called 'hyper masculinity' and 'hyper femininity' - mermaids have just renamed them to be more accessible. This isn't new or unique to Mermaids. The 'jelly baby' spectrum being used in the lecture is basically a visual representation of gender identifying markers. In academic terms these are 'gender identity', 'gender expression', 'biological sex' and 'sexual orientation'. At no point does anyone suggest children who act in ways that do not conform to a gender are trans. At no point does anyone suggest gay children are trans. In fact, the woman taking the session self identifies as lesbian - and FULLY understands she is not trans.
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