fbpx

Speak to a trained member of the Mermaids team. 08088010400

On Thursday 11 April, we were made aware that the Charity Commission has allegedly liked and reposted gender-critical content on its official X account, including potentially defamatory content about Mermaids. 

In response to an email from us, the Commission confirmed that this appears to have been accidental activity during monitoring. We recognise that accidents do happen, however vigilance is required to ensure that these are addressed as soon as possible.

As a public body, the Commission must appear to be scrupulously independent and unbiased across its work, including its activity on social media, and it is disappointing that it has taken approaches by outside parties for these accidents to be resolved. 

We welcome the reassurance that the Commission is exploring additional safeguards to prevent a recurrence, however, during a particularly difficult time for the trans community following the release of The Cass Review, we remain concerned at the potential impact of such mistakes on trans children and young people who, instead of being treated with compassion and respect, are seeing their experiences invalidated and questioned across the media and platforms such as X. 

We look forward to an apology from the Commission for the potential impacts of these mistakes, and additional assurance for those charities working in areas at the centre of highly politicised discussion that there will be no recurrence.

NHS England has today (12 March 2024) announced that from 1 April they will no longer routinely prescribe puberty blockers. They will be available in the future, but only through a mandatory research trial.

This announcement is deeply disappointing, and a further restriction of support offered to trans children and young people through the NHS, which is failing trans youth. There were virtually no first appointments offered in 2023, with ever-growing waiting lists of over five years.

Those currently prescribed puberty blockers won’t see any changes to their treatment, and this is a pause on prescribing – not a ban. It’s also important to note that puberty blockers can be just one possible part of a young person’s gender journey. However, this news still comes as a blow and will deeply affect our communities.

As well as providing support to children, young people and families, as we have for 29 years, Mermaids will continue to advocate strongly for access to timely, holistic and supportive healthcare for trans youth, including access to puberty blockers for those who need them. Everyone deserves access to healthcare, and to live happy and healthy lives. Trans youth are no exception.

If you need support, please contact our helpline on 0808 801 0400. We are here for you.

Lauren Stoner has been appointed permanent CEO of Mermaids on a two-year fixed term basis. 

An experienced charity professional with a background in health and social care, Lauren (she/her) joined the charity as Interim CEO in December 2022 and has successfully steered the organisation through challenging times. Her leadership will see us into our 30th anniversary year in 2025. 

On Lauren’s appointment, incoming Chair of Trustees Kathryn Downs (she/her) said: “Lauren has demonstrated impressive leadership, implemented new working practices and, in particular, begun the crucial process of improving the culture at Mermaids.

“Her leadership on EDI matters has been strong and the new strategy for 2024-2027, co-created with our community and all of our people, lays out a path for the future.”

“It’s a pivotal moment for Mermaids,” Kathryn adds. “As the organisation looks to transform itself, I’m honoured to be able to support Lauren and the wider team to deliver some exciting changes.”

Here, Lauren answers questions from Mermaids’ Youth Advisory Panel about Mermaids’ mission, vision and values, our priorities for the year ahead, and our journey towards becoming a trans-led organisation. 

What’s the best thing about being CEO of Mermaids? 

Honestly, I think I have the best job in the world, so it’s hard to pick the single “best” thing. Over the last year the opportunities to meet young people and families and understand the impact of our work has been a real highlight. I also really value the opportunities we have to work in partnership with other organisations who share our values to respond to transphobic policy and practice and build a more inclusive society for trans children and young people to grow up in.

What’s been the most challenging? 

I’ve never worked in an organisation experiencing this level of hostility and external scrutiny, and that is phenomenally taxing for everyone who works and volunteers at Mermaids. I’ve been blown away by the strength and resilience of our people, and the support from our community and allies, which enables us to support children, young people and their families and campaign for better education and healthcare, in the face of this hostility.

What are you most proud of in 2023?

Firstly, the work that we’ve done to support staff wellbeing, including piloting the four-day week, recognising a union and improving the leave we offer to all staff. We will always have more to do in this area, and I’m excited about what we’ve got in the pipeline for 2024.

Secondly, that we went to our community first in developing our strategy, and have developed a strategy for the next three years which will enable us to respond to the changing external environment while setting ourselves up for long term success.

And I’m also really proud that we took the brave step to be one of the first charities in our sector to leave X/Twitter, and that we continue to grow our reach on social media despite this. 

What are you most looking forward to in 2024? 

Working with young people, our staff, volunteers and other stakeholders, supported by external facilitators, to develop our approach to trans leadership at Mermaids. I’m delighted that we’ve appointed a new chair designate who is herself trans, and that we’ve continued to improve trans representation over the last year, but we have more to do to establish how best we can identify, retain and nurture trans leaders for today and the future at Mermaids.

Can you tell us more about Mermaids’ new mission, vision and values?

I’m really excited that these were co-created across the team, and that they put youth voice at the centre of everything that we do. Our mission sets out the change we want to achieve, and feels relatable and relevant to the work we do. Our vision is how we’re going to get there, and our values are the principles that we will apply to all of our work internally and externally. 

What are your priorities going forward?

Fundamentally, to put our strategy into action, establishing us as a resilient, collaborative organisation and getting us ready to celebrate our 30th birthday in 2025. This includes the work I’m most looking forward to around developing our principles for trans leadership, continuing to improve our systems and processes, and to developing new services which best meet the needs of trans children and young people, their families and the professionals who support them today and for the future.

Elijah, a member of Mermaids’ Youth Advisory Panel, had the opportunity to give evidence to Mr Victor Madrigal Borloz, the United Nations’ Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), during his visit to the UK. 

Victor Madrigal-Borloz visited the UK to listen to a range of stakeholders, including Mermaids, as part of his report into the human rights of LGBT+ people in the UK. 

Now that the Independent Expert’s end of mission statement (TW: references to suicide) is released, Elijah recounts his experience and what the day signified for him personally.

As I sat on the train to London, I had to chance to think about the shy anxious person that I used to be. I don’t think I would’ve believed it if you had told me three years ago that I would get the chance to talk about my experience at a meeting which could improve the lives of transgender young people in the UK. 

I arrived at Euston on the 9am train, jumped on the tube, then took a short walk down the River Thames. I didn’t know where to begin, there was so much that I could say about what it’s like to be a trans young person in the UK. 

Once I was welcomed in the meeting, I felt relaxed and knew my experience was valued. I could speak openly about how I felt and what I had gone through, despite being nervous knowing I may be one of the only trans young people able to speak to the UN Independent Expert.

I was able to talk about how the UK’s education system has made me feel ostracised and the way my trans identity felt incompatible with school. I got to talk about how the politicisation of trans identities is scary. I left the meeting confident that I’d done justice to my experience, while also feeling as though I was carrying the weight of other trans young people with me, including those who are no longer here to tell their story.

Afterwards I took a short walk over Lambeth Bridge heading towards the Tate Britain to grab lunch, looking at the Houses of Parliament perched comfortably on the north bank of the river. Looking at a place where such important decisions about our livelihood are made is always a surreal feeling. In the cafe as I sat down I felt some of the pressure I was carrying lift from my shoulders. I felt that this opportunity to share my experiences as a trans person that day would amount to change for those after me.

Around two weeks later, the report has been published, and includes my concerns about the potentially damaging impact of the Government’s plans to forcibly disclose a student’s gender identity to their parents:

“The organization highlighted specific concerns that such advice may not be guided by the human rights legal requirement of the best interests of the child, if suggesting to forcibly reveal their gender identities to their parents, in light of high rates of transphobic abuse in family environments.”

It is so important for Westminster politicians to acknowledge that what is currently happening to trans people in the UK is causing immense harm, and recognise that many more trans young people, like me, are being forced out of mainstream education.  

Transgender young people have the right to not only attend school without fear of bullying or harassment from students or staff, but to be actively embraced by their local community. The Independent Expert’s report reiterated the fact that in the UK this is not currently always the case, but the resilience and vocalness of the UK’s trans community can propel us further despite any barriers we may face.

Want to help shape a world where trans young people can thrive? Sign up to our mailing list to stay in the know about how you can support trans youth and their families.

Mermaids has appointed an interim CEO, who will be joining the charity this week. 

Lauren Stoner (she/her) has spent most of her career working in health and social care with a focus on person-centred support, rights, and voice.

Her career to date has focused on fundraising and policy change, ensuring that disabled people and abuse survivors have the right support.

Lauren has also been involved in developing and supporting partnerships with providers, commissioners and others across the statutory, voluntary, and community sector. She lives in Nottingham with her partner and their pet rats.

In a letter to staff, supporters and beneficiaries, Lauren acknowledges the challenges facing the organisation and says she wants to spend her first 100 days getting a clear plan in place to meet these head on. 

Dear Mermaids family, 

My name is Lauren Stoner, and I’m the new interim CEO of Mermaids. 

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself in my own words and tell you a little about my background, why I want to join Mermaids, and how I’ll approach the challenges that lie ahead.

I’m an experienced charity professional, with a background in health and social care, particularly focused on income generation, policy and communications. I’m passionate about co-production, equity and culture and want to build organisations shaped by the people we support, where people can bring their whole selves to work.

Outside of work, I live in Nottingham with my partner and our pet rats. I officiate roller derby, an explicitly trans-inclusive contact sport played on roller skates, and am an enthusiastic quilter and dressmaker.

“Why Mermaids?”, you might be asking. Because young trans people and their families need great support now more than ever, and I want to support the charity to deliver that, now and in the future. 

It’s a difficult time for the organisation and for the people we support and there are challenges ahead. In addition to supporting the statutory inquiry, I’ll start by listening to everyone with a stake in what we do and understanding their views, and review that alongside the work that’s already been done. 

Key areas for me to focus on are ensuring that we understand our future direction and have the right people, right culture, right systems and processes to enable us to achieve that. 

These are all big challenges and change can’t happen overnight, but I’m positive that as a team, and with support of our board, we can achieve our goals. We’ll share our progress and the lessons that we’ve learned openly.

I’m not going to promise to resolve all of those challenges between now and the end of March. Instead, in 100 days’ time, I want to know that we’ve identified the root causes of our challenges, have a clear plan in place and are starting to address them in a prioritised way.  

Longer term, I see Mermaids as a trusted source of support and advice for young trans people and those who are questioning their gender identity, and for the people around them including parents and carers, professionals, and anyone else who wants to create a better world for them. 

Thank you for putting your trust in me. Now, let’s get to work. 

Lauren

Mermaids CEO Susie Green has left the charity after six years in charge.

Chair of Trustees Belinda Bell said: “The Trustees are very grateful to Susie for everything she has done over the last six years to support trans, non-binary and gender-diverse young people and their families, and to build Mermaids into the organisation it is today.

“We wish her all the best for the future.”

An interim CEO will be appointed shortly. 

A group of senior human rights experts have joined with parliamentarians and civil society leaders to launch The Cooper Report, which recommends to government how to ban the harmful and degrading practices of “conversion therapy” while urging swift and immediate action to avoid further lives being damaged and lost. 

The Forum, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, was launched in June 2021 and brings together some of the most experienced legal minds in the country including highly respected legal academics, influential barristers, international human rights lawyers together with senior parliamentarians and civil society leaders. 

The Cooper Report, named after the renowned human rights barrister Jonathan Cooper OBE who died while helping to produce the report, recommends a twin-pronged approach that utilises both the criminal and civil law. It deals with the challenging issues of religious conversion practices and explains why the ban cannot create an exemption for “consenting” adults. 

Speaking about the rationale for this approach Baroness Helena Kennedy QC explained: “We see criminalisation as essential when dealing with human rights abuses, as this draws a clear line as to what acts will and will not be tolerated in a civilised society.

This should sit alongside new civil law measures, such as protection orders, which will help provide immediate support to those most at risk – such as LGBT+ children and vulnerable adults. This will ensure that perpetrators are left in no doubt that if they continue their harmful practices, they will face the full force of the law.” 

How should the government define “conversion therapy”?

The report deals with the vexed question of how the government should define “conversion therapy” and recommends that the term “conversion practices” be used, as the practices involved are far from therapeutic and often occur in a religious or cultural setting, not just a medical one. 

Jayne Ozanne, the convenor of the Forum and whose Foundation had commissioned the report, said: “Whilst there have been many who have sought to muddy the water and question whether it is possible to define ‘conversion therapy’, the Forum is clear that it should relate to ‘any practice that attempts to suppress, ‘cure’ or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity’.” 

Robin Allen QC, Head of Cloisters Chambers (2002-2018) and one of the foremost human rights lawyers in Britain today, explained the significance of the report: “All conversion practices, by denying the right freely to explore and determine one’s personal identity, undermine human dignity and can cause terrible lasting damage.

The Cooper Report makes the case for sensible and proportionate legislation by the state to outlaw them through civil and criminal remedies. It has been a privilege to work with the Foundation on this issue.” 

The report recommends that acts of prayer that are directed at a specific individual or group of individuals with a predetermined purpose of seeking to suppress, “cure” or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity must be banned. It also sets out why there can be no loopholes to allow those who insist they have consented to the harmful and degrading practices. 

Professor Nick Grief, Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Kent, says: “The freedom to manifest one’s religious or spiritual belief is not an absolute right. States are obliged to restrict these practices in ways that are necessary, justified and proportionate in order to protect individuals from degrading or other ill-treatment.

We are recommending that any religious practice that is directed at an individual or group of individuals with a predetermined purpose of attempting to suppress, ‘cure’ or change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity be banned.” 

Crispin Blunt MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights expressed his concern about the latest delay in delivering a ban.

“The Forum has shown that it is necessary to bring forward legislation to ban conversion practices in the UK. The continued delay casts doubt over the Government’s good intentions and Global Britain’s leadership on LGBT rights. These recommendations can and should be implemented without delay, for whilst we wait countless lives are being impacted as it implies the UK thinks it is alright to try and ‘fix’ anyone’s sexuality and gender identity. 

“This distinguished Legal Forum, reinforced by cross party consensus from politicians closely engaged on this issue, have delivered a recommended solution that can bring immediate protection to those threatened by conversion practices and prosecution of perpetrators if necessary. Further government prevarication is no longer defensible.”

Nancy Kelley, CEO of Stonewall added: “As long as this barbaric practice is legal in the UK, LGBTQIA+ people remain at risk of abuse and lifelong harm. It has been more than three years since the Government committed to ban conversion therapy, and now the Cooper report has laid out how this can be done. There the Government must take these recommendations on board and publish their consultation without further delay.” 

The report is available online and will be submitted to the government for their consideration. 

Notes for editors

1. The full report can be read at ozanne.foundation/cooper_report  

2. The Ozanne Foundation commissioned the report over the summer, after convening the Ban Conversion Therapy Legal Forum in July 2021. 

3. The 18 signatories to the report are: Lawyers Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Chair) Robin Allen QC (former Head of Cloisters) Robin Dormer (Retired Parliamentary Counsel) Revd Dr Helen Hall (Associate Professor in Law, Nottingham Trent University) Professor Javier Garcia Oliva (Professor in Law, University of Manchester) Professor Nick Grief (Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Kent) Dr Craig Purshouse (Senior Lecturer in Law, University of Liverpool) Dr Ilias Trispiotis (Associate Professor in Human Rights Law, University of Leeds) MPs/Peers Baroness Liz Barker (Liberal Democrats) Crispin Blunt MP (Chair of APPG on Global LGBT+ Rights) Angela Eagle MP (Labour) Wera Hobhouse MP (Liberal Democrats Spokesperson for Women and Equalities) Civil Society Susie Green (CEO, Mermaids) Nancy Kelley (CEO, Stonewall) Paul Martin (CEO, LGBT Foundation) Leni Morris (CEO, Gallop) Jayne Ozanne (Director, Ozanne Foundation) Peter Tatchell (Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation) 

4. The report is dedicated to Jonathan Cooper OBE who died suddenly while helping produce it. 

5. The report is launched just as the Government has announced a delay to the publication of its public consultation on conversion practices, which it committed to ban in the Queen’s Speech earlier this year.

6. For more details please contact Jayne Ozanne or [email protected].

An appeal by Mermaids, supported by Good Law Project and LGBT+ Consortium, along with other leading UK LGBTQIA+ charities, against the decision to award charity status to the LGB Alliance, has had its timetable to trial set out.

The directions order from the Tribunal sets out the next steps for the case to trial. The key points in the order are that:

  • LGB Alliance is now a respondent to the appeal, along with the Charity Commission.
  • The hearing is to take place between March and May 2022 (date to be confirmed).

The decision earlier this year by the Charity Commission to award the controversial group charitable status was met with anger from the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond.

To be registered as a charity, an organisation must be established exclusively for charitable purposes, as recognised in law, and pursue them in a manner which gives rise to tangible benefits and which outweigh any associated harms. 

LGB Alliance’s behaviour does not fit these criteria and they are not who they say they are. It is our belief that they do not stand for LGB rights, but exist to divide our community and denigrate those who support trans people. 

That is why, with the support of leading charities LGBT+ Consortium, Gendered Intelligence, LGBT Foundation and TransActual, Mermaids lodged an appeal, crowdfunded by Good Law Project, on the grounds that LGB Alliance is not a charity. 

Charity exists for public good and LGBA doesn’t offer this

Lui Asquith, Director of Legal and Policy

Lui Asquith, Director of Legal and Policy at Mermaids, said: “Young trans people and children are facing unprecedented scrutiny and scepticism. Much of it is and has been fuelled by an anti-gender movement that is sweeping around the globe, which has money and a platform and insists on pushing an erroneous hierarchy of rights. By its nature it rejects the rights – and in some cases, existence – of trans people.

“LGB Alliance purports to be an organisation that supports lesbian, gay and bisexual people, but it doesn’t. Many trans people are LGB and LGBA actively work to oppose the advancement of rights of trans individuals. 

“It pushes transphobic messages – through the frame of being a ‘LGB support organisation’ – to people in power; they are contributing to the horrendous cultivation of fear-mongering in respect of trans people in this country as well as creating a harmful and incorrect idea that cis-women’s rights are at odds with trans people.

“Mermaids, together with LGBT+ organisations, believe it is not fair on the public to have their donations used to carry out such cruel work – many people who donate to them may not even know their anti-trans rights activity. They are saying one thing and doing another. That isn’t fair.

“It is our view that their work is not only actively hurting LGBT+ people, but people as a whole. Biological essentialism limits everyone – it demands social expectations and denies the freedom to be who you are. 

“We are taking this action to ensure we do not regress as a country – make no mistake, the LGBA registration was a regression – and we are taking this action to show that the LGBT+ community will not be divided. 

“We as a collective will do what we can to ensure organisations that have other motives do not attain the credibility of being a charity. 

“Charity exists for public good and LGBA doesn’t offer this.”

A spokesperson for LGBT+ Consortium said: “Registered charities are an important institution for creating positive social and cultural change. It is vital that inclusive LGBT+ organisations can highlight the damaging effect registering those with non-charitable aims can have on real people’s lives.

“We are grateful to Mermaids for being at the forefront of this case. Consortium will continue to support and stand alongside them at every stage of this crucial case when it is heard by the Tribunal.”

A spokesperson for LGBT Foundation said: “LGBT Foundation is one of many LGBTQ+ charities that celebrate our diverse community with integrity and respect. We exist to promote unity and help people live safer and happier lives.

“We cannot emphasise enough the impact that trans and non-binary people have made on LGBT equality. LGBT Foundation oppose rhetoric and ideologies that encourage separation, discrimination and elicit long-term injustice to people in our community.

“We are indebted to Mermaids for their leadership in this case and look forward to it going to the Tribunal.”

The next significant milestone in the case will be 8 October 2021, the date by which LGB Alliance, as a respondent, is required to set out its legal case in full. Mermaids and the Commission will then have the opportunity to make further submissions in response. 

We will keep you updated as the case progresses. Your support in the meantime is much appreciated.

Notes to editors

2. Mermaids is a UK-wide charity (registered charity number 1160575) working to support transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people, their families and the professionals who support them. Our goal is to create a world where gender-diverse children and young people can be themselves and thrive. Services include a helpline, web chat and online forums for parents and young people, as well as face-to-face meet-ups for peer support. We also provide training into organisations and advocate for a fairer society for trans young people.

3. LGBT+ Consortium is the national umbrella body for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans+ voluntary and community organisations in the UK. It has a membership of over 500 diverse LGBT+ organisations and they work to support a proactively collaborative LGBT+ sector that benefits the diverse communities it serves. 

4. Good Law Project is a not for profit that uses the law for a better world. We fight cases that protect the interests of the public. We had a primary role in overturning the prorogation of Parliament two years ago and more recently have been shining a bright light on Government’s award of PPE contracts and jobs to their friends and associates. 

5. LGBT Foundation is a national charity delivering advice, support and information services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans communities. With a history dating back to 1975, they campaign for a fair and equal society where all LGBT people can achieve their full potential. Through their services, they reduce isolation amongst LGBT communities, help people feel more confident and in control of their lives and enable people to flourish. Together with LGBT communities and their supporters, LGBT Foundation is working to secure a safe, healthy and equal future for all LGBT people.

6. This appeal is being crowdfunded.

Today (Thursday 30 September 2021) the Sports Council Equality Group have published their “Review into Transgender Inclusion in Domestic Sport in the UK.”

We are disappointed to read this review, which rather than focussing on bettering its existing guidance for trans people in sport, yet again ignores the lived experiences of trans people, and misinterprets the Equality Act and academic literature.

This report will have ramifications for trans people in the sporting community, and only seeks to cause unnecessary hostility, exclusion and confusion for those wishing to participate in sport.

It is important to remember that the SCEG report only exists as guidance: it is not mandatory. Sports groups and organisations are entitled and encouraged to write and implement their own policies on including trans and non-binary people in sport.

Mermaids will be preparing a longer statement on this report which explains what this guidance means in real-world terms, as well as why this report is flawed. Alongside our colleagues LEAP Sports (Scotland), Pride Sports, LGBT+ Sport Cymru and Scottish Trans, Mermaids offer our full solidarity and support to all trans and non-binary people participating in sport.

If you have any questions or concerns, or you are a National Governing Body needing advice, please get in touch with [email protected].