Our Patrons

We are honoured to work closely with Captain Hannah Graf, 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 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.

 

“I was first lucky enough to be introduced to the Mermaids family in 2014 and I was immediately inspired by everyone involved! My experience of transition has been very positive and I realise that this is mainly because of the support around me, whether that is my family, friends or my employer. I hope that by working with Mermaids I am able to provide others, especially vulnerable children, with the confidence in themselves and the acceptance around them, that is so important to enjoying a functioning place in society.

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.”

-Hannah Graf

 

 

We are delighted to introduce Jake Graf, director, writer and actor. Jake is a very visible trans man, who is invested in the work that Mermaids does and wants to make a difference to how trans children and young people are perceived, to tackle prejudice and stigma and help young people achieve positive outcomes in difficult circumstances.  

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. 

 

 

Growing up trans in the eighties was beyond difficult: there were no transgender people in the media, certainly no resources or information at school, and it was so far removed from my parents' experience that there wasn't a hope of them understanding. As such, my formative years were lonely, lost, and filled with anger, shame and a feeling that there was something seriously wrong with me.

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!

-Jake Graf

 

 

Annie Wallace is an actress from Aberdeen, Scotland. A former National Youth Theatre member, she graduated from the Manchester Metropolitan School of Theatre in 2004, and has also appeared in many theatre productions. As well as being an actress, Annie writes and records music, and has two albums already released. She is also a skilled sound recordist and designer.

On the 29th of October 2015, she made history by becoming the first transgender person to play a regular transgender character in a British soap opera when she debuted as school head teacher Sally St. Claire in Channel 4's Hollyoaks. We are proud to have Annie as a patron of Mermaids, as she is a staunch supporter of transgender children,young people and their families. Her advocacy has seen her appear on Celebrity Mastermind, with Mermaids as her charity of choice.

 

 

Ayla served in the RAF for 13 years, spent seven years as an operational Search and Rescue pilot and now flies for the National Police Air Service. She has worked with All About Trans, Stonewall and independently advocating for positive trans representation and role models.  In 2018, Ayla was portrayed in the critically acclaimed stage production 'Still Point Turning' by the Sydney Theatre Company and features as one of many 'RAF Stories' at the RAF Museum London.  She lives up a hill in Dorset with her wife, Wren (an ITU doctor), their cats and numerous chickens. 

 

Charlie Martin is a racing driver and is on a mission to become the first transgender competitor in iconic the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the most famous race in the world. Growing up, she dreamed of being a fighter pilot, and this love of speed and adventure grew into a love of fast cars. Since she began racing at the age of 23, she has raced throughout Europe in a variety of cars from hot hatches, to single seaters, GT cars and Le Mans prototypes.

When Charlie began her transition at the age of 30, she abandoned racing altogether, unable to see how she could be accepted in such a conservative and male dominated sport. Since returning to the track, she found new confidence and now works as a Sports Champion with Stonewall and Athlete Ally (US) using her visibility within her sport to improve awareness of gender diversity & create positive change in society.

She struggled to understand her identity as a child, feeling drawn to typically male-gendered activities, but knowing she truly identified as female (at 13 she wrote a letter to Mermaids). She is now passionate about breaking down gender stereotypes, and loves adventure sports like surfing, trail running & snowboarding, and was even a semi-finalist on Ninja Warrior UK in 2017.

"Growing up was such a confusing time for me. Even from the age of 7, I realised I felt that I was different to my friends. I was happy playing soldiers & climbing trees like other boys my own age, but I knew deep down that I was female. I couldn't see any role models that I identified with, there was no YouTube or access to the internet, and no trans people on TV. As far as I was concerned, the type of woman I wanted to be just didn't exist. It’s sad to look back and remember how much I limited my ambitions, but I just couldn't see how I fitted into the world around me.

I want to change that. I want to help carve a path for others. I don't want children to go through this process of constantly questioning what they can achieve in life, just because of how they were born. I care deeply about sharing my own story, because I know that so much of the prejudice out there is down to a lack of understanding and fear of change. 

I wrote to Mermaids when I was 13 years old and I can’t explain how much of a comfort it was to receive a reply and know I wasn’t alone. I'm proud to be working as a Patron for Mermaids and supporting the incredible work they do for trans children & their parents."

-Charlie Martin