We are honoured to work closely with Captain Hannah Winterbourne, of the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers. The first transgender officer, Hannah is a staunch supporter of the work we do, and we are honoured to have her as our patron.
Hannah is 28 years old and a Captain in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. She currently commands a unit of 85 soldiers and is responsible for the recovery, maintenance and repair of a variety of equipment including the Army’s main battle tank.
Hannah went to a military sixth form college at the age of 16 and subsequently studied for her Masters of Engineering at Newcastle University before commissioning from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2010. Since joining the Army Hannah has commanded troops around the world, including Germany, Canada, Kenya and Afghanistan.
Hannah is also a transgender woman and like most people growing up with Gender Dysphoria, she spent her early years uncomfortable with the gender that she was assigned at birth. Unable to understand at a young age what those feelings meant, she continued to live a male life until she came to terms with her identity at the age of 23. Since then she has transitioned both in and out of the Army and lives a happy and fulfilling life.
People come to Mermaids for a variety of reasons. Some are parents who need help in coming to terms with their child’s identity and advice on how to support them, some come because they themselves are transgender and their family are not able to accept them and some come because they need help to educate services such as their children’s school. Whatever the reason, they are welcomed into the family and given a safe space to feel valued and understood.
I am deeply honoured to be patron of Mermaids and be part of their amazing organisation. Every time that I interact with the families I am truly inspired and I hope that as patron I am able to raise awareness of this wonderful charity and continue to play a small part in their work.”
Jake Graf is a director, writer and actor based in London known for Dawn (2016), Chance (2015), The Danish Girl (2015), and Brace (2014).
Jake is an active and visible member of the transgender community, speaking internationally on trans issues, particularly in relation to film and media. He is an ambassador for the British LGBT Awards, and was also involved in Stonewall's successful campaign to include the transgender community in their political lobbying and campaigning.
Jake also aims to make change through the medium of film, and his first film, XWHY, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, was nominated for The Iris Prize. He used his own transition to depict the physical changes of the fictional transman in the film, which was a first, and garnered much critical praise.
Brace, his second screenplay, deals with issues of homophobia, gang violence, gender identity and self-acceptance. Both Brace and XWHY have been used as educational tools in universities, media events, and hospitals UK wide.
His third film, Chance, was one of 5 films selected to take part in the British Film Council's pioneering project #FiveFilms4Freedom, in association with the BFI, to promote tolerance and understanding worldwide.
His fourth short Dawn touched on themes of disability and transphobia, won multiple Best Short Film awards and was released on Peccadillo Pictures' latest Boys On Film DVD, the only film in the collection with a female lead.
Jake's latest film Dusk, starring Duncan James and Elliott Sailors,is just launching on the international festival circuit. He has just written and starred in 8 part LGBT web series 'Spectrum', launching March 2017, is starring in upcoming LGBT drama series 'Different For Girls', and is currently writing his second feature film screenplay.
When I first heard about the Mermaids Charity, I remember thinking that it was incredible that an organisation like that existed for people like me, and how lucky those children were to have support, love, and acceptance from such an early age. Eager to get involved, I attended my first residential last year, and found myself moved to tears when I saw the happy, well adjusted and carefree children running around the place. There was such a sense of belonging and normality, and seeing the kids' smiles made my heart sing.
The absolute magic of a charity like Mermaids is immeasurable: that it allows trans and gender non conforming children to feel at ease, understood and far from alone at such a young age is surely life changing. Whatever isolation they and their families may have been feeling soon melts away, as strangers become allies and friends, and suddenly being trans doesn't seem quite so challenging.
I am truly honoured to be a Mermaids Patron, and hope that they continue to grow, so that they are able to offer comfort, support, and a lifeline to all the families out there lucky enough to have a trans child among them!