If you’ve read the news or been on Twitter in the past week, you’ll probably know about the controversy surrounding the charity, Mermaids.
Designed to assist Trans People, specifically Trans Youth, the charity has come under fire for several practises that Gender Critical Activists believe to be child abuse and safeguarding issues.
Several allegations have been made against Mermaids, with the following being the most notable:
- Allowing a child to leave the Mermaids website via a Rapid Exit Button is a safeguarding issue as it prevents parents from seeing what their children are looking at.
- They’re supporting children in legally changing their name without the permission of a parent.
- Child Abuse in the form of providing Chest Binders
- Child Abuse in the form of a server/forum allowing sexual images to be shared
Let’s start with the least concerning: the rapid exit button.
Effectively, this allows someone looking at Mermaids’ website to quickly leave the site to prevent an abusive parent, partner, or person from seeing the site they’re looking at. This is a feature on most LGBT+ websites, including the Trevor Project and LGBT Foundation, to name a couple.
This feature is a safeguarding feature to keep LGBT+ people safe from abuse and discrimination from their peers and family. However, it’s become such a standard tool, and it needs to be clarified if the same allegations will be made towards fellow charities.
The next allegation is that children are being helped to change their names without parental consent. This is false, to a degree. Let me explain:
For someone to change their name, they need a Deed poll. Mermaids occasionally host a Name Change Legal session, funded by Mermaids and dealt with by legal firm, Latham & Watkins.
A quick look at the rules on who and how someone can change their name tells you that a person 16 years old or older can change their name without parental consent being required – this is UK law.
In terms of children changing their names, a parental figure or guardian is required – which is stated on Mermaids’ website.
So, why is this an issue? Gender Critical activists have stated this is against parents’ consent, which is incorrect as the deed poll would be rejected and therefore void.
The question many on social media have asked Gender Critical activists and not received a coherent answer to is: would they be upset if any other charity did this? Would they call it child abuse if any other law firm was to do this work? And if so, what action will they take to stop law firms from acting within the law?
Chest Binders – designed to press breast tissue against the wearer’s body to look flat; they assist with body and gender dysphoria and dysmorphia. Sadly, if done incorrectly, a person can end up with severe bruising, scarring to breast tissue, and even broken ribs.
Mermaids have apparently been providing children with Chest Binders. Gender Critical activists have then accused Mermaids of child abuse for giving a medical device without parental consent.
MET Police, in regards to this allegation, responded with:
“The supply of a breast binder is not a criminal offence… We would like to reassure individuals who chooses to wear a binder are not committing a criminal offence.”
A binder is NOT a medical device and is often used by people who aren’t trans. Common uses for binders are cosplaying and extra chest support. It’s becoming common for large-chested women who suffer severe back pain to wear binders to provide additional chest support.
Can they alleviate medical issues? Yes. But that doesn’t make them medical devices. In the same way, food isn’t a medical device for being underweight.
And finally, the accusation that Mermaids run a server where explicit images are allowed to be shared – this is false.
To get into Mermaids’ forum, you need to fill in a contact form and provide a contact number or Skype ID to prove your identity, as the platform is only for 12 – 19-year-olds.
Moderators supervise them, but this does not stop them from adding fellow forum users via social media as it’s a networking forum designed to allow Trans youth to connect with other Trans youth.
The Discord server in question was set up by someone not affiliated with Mermaids and not affiliated with the charity.
It’s suggested the Discord server was set up by a user on the forum. Izzie J, in the forum, was quoted as saying:
Great idea for you to have a Discord server together! I have to be a bit of a buzzkill here, you can’t call it Mermaids because it isn’t our server, run by us or affiliated with us. Give it a different name and you’re golden. Have fun :,)
The minimum age requirement for Discord is 13 years old, and Mermaids have no legal obligation to stop people from becoming friends outside of a secure forum.
The article by Lucy Bannerman at The Times states that a 14-year-old was found on a server sharing indecent images. However, evidence needs to be provided whether this is the same server mentioned in the forum. , Discord is one of the most used game networking platforms in the world, and anyone can set up a Discord server. You can find links on almost any website (examples: Reddit, Disboard, Twitter) to servers linked to a specific topic.
The entire situation is very poorly put together. While the Charity Commission is investigating the allegations of safeguarding issues against Mermaids, I am confident that the investigation will conclude with these complaints being dismissed.
- It is not child abuse to allow a child to have privacy while looking on LGBT+ websites.
- It is legal for a person of 16 to change their name without a parent’s permission legally. A child under 16 who attempts to change their name via deed poll without a legal guardian or parent present and consenting will be unable to acquire a name change, and therefore, a deed poll would be void.
- Chest Binders are not medical devices, nor are they child abuse. While they can cause chest trauma – such as bruising, tissue damage, and broken ribs – safe binding can prevent all of these issues. Mermaids have information on their website providing tips on safe binding and where to get a safe binder.
- A child on the Mermaids forum was also on a Discord server, which is not run by Mermaids, and was found sending and receiving explicit images. This is a safeguarding issue on Discord’s part, not Mermaids. Links for millions of Discord servers can be found on public forums such as Reddit, Twitter, and Disboard.
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