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Carrie Lyell

Carrie Lyell, Mermaids’ Digital Engagement Manager, looks back on our first residential weekend in more than two years

Last Saturday, I threw a rucksack on my back and ventured out into the murky morning. Destination: my first residential weekend as a member of the Mermaids team. 

Watching the rain drip, drip, drip down the train window as we pulled out of the train station, I was nervous. Painfully so. Not only would it be the first time at a Mermaids event, but the first time meeting my new(ish) colleagues and the people we support since starting as Digital Engagement Manager at the end of August.

The feeling in my stomach was turbo charged butterflies. Mutant ones. I silently hoped the train would break down, thus giving me an excuse to turn back around and retreat to the safety of my bed. 

Spoiler alert: it didn’t. 

Walking through the doors, though, all my anxiety evaporated. The warmth radiating from the venue immediately put me at ease and though I’d never been to a residential before, it felt like coming home. 

What followed was two jam-packed days of laughter, learning and late-night glitter tattoo sessions and what a joy it was. 

This residential weekend, for me, was an important and timely reminder that we are human beings, not click-bait headlines or topics for debate. And that can be easy to forget, especially when you spend as much time on social media as I have to do. 

So while outside of the venue’s doors a war against trans people raged, it felt incredible to be in a safe, affirming space where we could just be. Without judgement and without apology. 

We played tennis. We carved pumpkins. We hula hooped. Nothing sensational, nothing scandalous, nothing all that special, really. But oh, how special it was. 

The highlight for me was our binder safety session, where trans masc and non-binary young people were able to learn how to properly measure and fit their binders, before going off to try them on. Watching them come back into the room, grinning from ear to ear, was witnessing gender euphoria in action and it made my queer heart soar.

But of course, it couldn’t all be fun and games, and conversation, at times, inevitably turned to the challenges faced by young trans people. From frustration and desperation over waiting times for NHS treatment to concerns about mental health and bullying, the harsh reality of what it is to be a trans kid in the UK today was evident.  

It was intense, emotional and humbling to meet trans children and their families and hear, first-hand, the difference we’re making to their lives. Be in no doubt, Mermaids is life-saving. 

Saying goodbye was hard, but heading back out into the real world again, I felt invigorated and inspired, and so very, very proud of the work that we do. 

Our next residential weekend will take place in Spring 2022. Find out more here