Some of our trans staff members share their experiences at Mermaids and being visible in the workplace.
There is no expectation, no agenda, nothing but pure integrity and care at its core. That’s no small thing.
I first came across Mermaids whilst I was at a previous law firm as a practising family solicitor, running a LGBT department in the North East. I was put in touch with Mermaids as the only (at the time) trans and gender diverse children’s charity in the UK. As soon as I connected with Mermaids, I felt incredibly compelled to help the work they did, and trans-focused legal work quickly became my passion.
Looking back, I didn’t really understand this pull towards Mermaids until I fell into a very difficult period of depression. This episode meant I had to leave my job at the time, which I had worked at years and years for. It was a very difficult period of my life not only because I didn’t understand it, but also because I didn’t know how to get out of it.
However, leaving my job and working for a bookstore allowed me to reflect and I realised that my gender identity wasn’t what I had been assigned at birth. The work I had been doing with Mermaids – specifically, hearing about the experiences of others – woke me up to this. It was a period of my life that I wanted to be out of so badly when it was happening but there is no denying that it allowed me to understand myself and made me a better person.
I applied to Mermaids for the Legal Caseworker role in early 2018 whilst I was still recovering. Since then I have been lucky enough to use my legal qualifications with a sole focus of trying to create a better future for gender diverse and transgender children and young people. I feel very proud and humbled every day at Mermaids; it reminds me respect and dignity are two facets of life that everyone should experience whatever one’s gender identity, race, sexual orientation, faith etc. It reminds me that we have a long way to go to get to a world where everyone can be who they are without fear of prejudice or discrimination, but there a lot of people willing to get us there. And that is the main thing I love about Mermaids; it only asks people to be who they are and respect others for doing the same. There is no expectation, no agenda, nothing but pure integrity and care at its core. That’s no small thing.
A colleague recently said to me that I am a lot more confident than when I started, and I truly think this is because I have always and will always be seen by my employer. I can be myself every day and not waste energy trying to be anyone else, which means all of my energy goes on doing a good job. I wish every trans, non-binary and gender diverse person could go to work as their true self and not have to worry about it. I wish every employer knew how easy it was to create this culture.
Want to be a trans-ally employer? Have a ‘transitioning at work’ policy, purchase and roll out gender awareness training, have gender neutral facilities and trans inclusive policies, include pronouns in your email signatures and have trans pride visuals up in public.
Small actions can make the world of difference and you can help make the change that someone like me may really need.
Within a trans organisation you are never asked to explain your identity or speak for all trans people, you just get on with your job.
I was very excited when I first joined Mermaids. It’s an organisation I’d been following on social media for some time and knew was directly in line with my own ethos of a whole family approach.
To be bluntly honest, the best part of being in a trans organisation is not being put in the position of educator. Often when you’re out in the workplace you become the go-to expert on all things LGBT+ and after a while you start to get sick of the (mostly well meaning) questions. Within a trans organisation you are never asked to explain your identity or speak for all trans people, you just get on with your job.
Working for Mermaids is not necessarily what you’d think. As a millennial, I have experienced many people putting my ideas down and being pushed to work beyond what I can do and given a ‘just get on with it’ attitude when facing difficulty. It is not like that at Mermaids. Here you are supported and listened to. Everyone’s opinions are heard and as valid as the CEO’s. Everyone is from such different backgrounds and has so much wisdom to give – that is seen and acknowledged.
When it comes to things like the residential weekends, everyone gets stuck in to make sure we deliver the best possible weekend for our families. For me this is the highlight of the job. The parents regain a sense of community that is often lost when you’re supporting a trans child, and the kids get to be kids! They get to run around, do arts and crafts and attend confidence building workshops to help them be the best they can be. The team connection is really good too. We are based all over the country and much of the work is done remotely. This means we’re on it when it comes to communicating with each other and knowing who needs to do what.
This is how I always hoped my job would be, but never dared to dream I’d get here.
In the past, I always tried to keep my trans identity a secret at work. I lived in constant fear of someone ‘finding out’, having to ignore conversations about transgender people, and not feeling able to step in when someone said something transphobic. I carry a lot of shame for this, and for not feeling safe enough to stand up for myself. But I now know it’s an employer’s responsibility to make sure you feel safe at work.
I’d often change how I dressed, never wearing makeup, and sometimes kept my sexuality a secret too. It caused me so much extra stress and I know that many other trans people still deal with this every day. Because of this I know how important it is for employers in all industries to not only be trans inclusive but to be as vocal as possible about supporting their trans colleagues.
When I got the call saying I’d got the job at Mermaids, I immediately thought it was a prank! Could I have just landed my dream job? I called my mum, told a few friends, then had a little cry. I was finally working in my dream industry, when before I had feared I would never get this chance and would have to climb so many more difficult hurdles.
Working for Mermaids means that I never have to explain my gender, I never have to worry when I show up for work in a dress and makeup, and I’m never afraid that someone will disrespect my identity. I’m valued for the skills I bring, not for how I express my gender. This is how I always hoped my job would be, but never dared to dream I’d get here.
All of this freedom, coupled with the fact that I get the chance to help young people like me and their families – well, let’s just say I never stop telling people how much I adore my job!
I’m surrounded by people who support me; they always make sure I get the help I need, that I’m looking after my health, and that I’m getting what I want out of my job. This is extremely important for me as a trans person because it means there’s always someone to talk to who understand why something transphobic in a newspaper might’ve upset me, or why I need to go to the doctors for certain things.
I’ll never take this for granted, and I’m sending my solidarity to all the trans and gender diverse people who aren’t currently as fortunate.
A word from our CEO, Susie Green
I am incredibly proud of the team at Mermaids, and the work they do. The positive impact we have on so many young people’s and their families’ lives is something that gives me a purpose that many people don’t experience. When I first contacted Mermaids they were a bunch of parents sitting around a table trying to support those who reached out for help. I was one of those people who needed that help. Completely lost, and frankly terrified about what the future would hold for my child.
The process that we went through to move the charity into a more professional organisation was necessary due to the increased demand that became evident in 2013, and our lack of resource and capacity to deal with it.
We have come a very long way since I called over 20 years ago, with a diverse workforce, all committed to a common purpose. We don’t want to be needed. And we will keep fighting for this to be the case. Until being trans is no longer stigmatized, we are here, and each and every member of the team, trans, non-binary, cis, stand proud together for a brighter future for all.