Mermaids’ response to false claims in the media this week about the organisation and the services we provide
We’re in the midst of a targeted, cynical attack on Mermaids and the services we provide, which seeks to distract us from the important work that we do, and to discredit the organisation. While aimed at Mermaids, we believe this to be an attack on the trans community as a whole, and an attempt to undermine the rights we have fought – and will continue to fight – so hard for.
This particular smear campaign began with the publication of a Telegraph “investigation” on Monday 26 September. The Telegraph alone has published at least five pieces about Mermaids this week, with further pieces expected criticising vital services including our Binder Service and Name Change Clinic. The Daily Mail has published a similar investigation, and we’ve also been made aware of further articles in The Times this weekend containing spurious accusations about our online forums.
We stand by our statement released on Monday, and felt it important to reassure the families and young people that need us, and the wider community, that we will not be bullied or intimidated by those with an anti-trans agenda. The services that have benefited thousands of people will continue.
With regards to our online forums, we have robust security and moderation processes in place to ensure they are as safe a space as possible for trans, non-binary and gender diverse young people and their families.
These concerns were warranted as in August 2022, an individual posing as a young person in need of support was able to gain initial access to the forum. Contrary to media reports, a binder was not sent. They were held in the moderation process and subsequently blocked.
Security of our platforms and safeguarding of young people is of the utmost importance to us and we continue to regularly review our processes and procedures to make sure our forums remain safe and secure. There are several layers of moderation checks before anyone can gain access to the forum, and anyone found to have fraudulently gained access to our platforms will be reported to the police immediately as a safeguarding concern.
All of our moderators receive comprehensive training, including safeguarding training, and everyone using the forum has to comply with a strict code of conduct, which prohibits the sharing of personal information, including online identities.
We know there is a wealth of misinformation elsewhere on the internet, and so we seek to provide a space for young people to access support from trained professionals in a safe, protected environment.
The safety and well-being of our service users is paramount, and our systems are designed to automatically flag anything that may be a concern. If a young person is identified as being specifically vulnerable, their post will not be shared, and in line with our safeguarding procedures, this will be escalated and actioned accordingly.
As we stated on Monday, we take a harm reduction approach to our Binder Service, and we are thankful that the Met Police have confirmed what we already knew to be true – that supplying or wearing a binder is not a crime.
We take our responsibility to protect young people’s right to autonomy seriously, and services like our Name Change Clinic are fundamentally grounded in their legal rights.
As a result of the anti-trans media this week, and a number of vexatious complaints, we have received a letter from the Charity Commission seeking clarification on some of our policies and procedures. This is a relatively routine procedure known as a regulatory compliance case, and we will be replying in due course.
In the meantime, we continue to provide a wide range of support to the thousands of young people and families who need us.
We are proud of the services we deliver, and are grateful for the outpouring of love and support we’ve seen this week.
Thank you for standing with Mermaids, and standing with the trans community.