2017 was an interesting year for Mermaids – full of highs and transphobic lows for our charity who help young children and trans teens.
In the last six months of the year alone, we’ve seen four families donate their children’s funeral collections to us.
That loss alone has had a devastating impact on us as a team. And yet the goodwill provides a glimmer of hope.
As a charity, much like the rest of the trans community, we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride.
Ignorance and misunderstanding have been exacerbated by the press coverage of the past year. At times it has felt like a coordinated attack on trans women, trans children, and young people.
Last year has seen how despite a ruling making the NHS 18-week referral mandatory for GIC’s too, those targets are being missed by almost all of the clinics in the UK. Certainly by all of those who help trans kids.
And yet, as a charity, early 2017 saw us in a position that had seemed impossible before.
We had secured funding for our helpline and training provision, very timely indeed, as numbers of calls and emails were continuing to rise.
Our parents and teens groups numbers were growing, and demand for our services was unprecedented.
Growing our team to meet an overwhelming demand
Mermaids have had to change from a kitchen table charity, with no paid workers, to a professional organization with paid staff. But our very own transition has not been without its struggles.
As CEO, I have had to learn a huge amount within a very short space of time. Reflecting back on 2017 I can see how both Mermaids and I have had to grow into the role we now play.
We support over a thousand parents on our groups, and just under 400 young people.
The daily messages sent through these forums is now in excess of 2,000 per month.
People connecting, sharing their grief and anger, their pain, but also their triumphs, their experiences for the benefit of others, and the sparkle moments that help those who are struggling to see hope for the future. It is a community.
Mermaids have a strong relationship with a number of agencies now. This year has seen our work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission strengthen considerably.
This is particularly relevant as we see a lot of our families and young people struggle with discrimination and prejudice.
Indeed, so much so we are hoping to develop an in-house legal provision in 2018.
Mermaids have been in the eye of a transphobic media storm
From hateful press coverage to an onslaught of Twitter and Facebook posts attacking the organization and me as CEO – it’s been tiring.
The headlines that have grabbed attention have given the wrong impression that children are being coerced into a medical pathway and that being trans is ‘trendy.’
The daily suffering I see on our parents and young people’s groups cannot be shared externally. But it makes all these fake claims and crass news stories seem laughable.
Unfortunately, we know that the impact of these reports on the lives of our members is negative. It only increases hate crimes and abuse.
In the last six months, Mermaids has received notification of the deaths of four young people in our networks. Their funeral collections were then gifted to help us continue to grow.
We need your support to keep growing
The funerals are a devastating part of our job. And each one has a profound impact on our volunteers, staff, and trustees, who are working so hard, and with such passion and dedication to make the world a better place for transgender young people.
But there is hope too.
In the 18 years since I made my first call as a desperate parent to Mermaids, I have seen my daughter gain in confidence and strength. However, she has faced many things that no child should not have to endure, with often daily abuse.
The Stonewall school report remains sobering reading once again in 2017 showing high rates of self-harm and suicide attempts from young trans people.
So let’s look to 2018 as the year that moves transgender rights forward.
The year that breaks the myths down and highlights the truth.
Our children deserve to be celebrated as human beings with their own unique circumstances, supported to be themselves and achieve the best possible outcome.
That is why Mermaids is here – Follow @mermaids_gender
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