We have received a range of correspondence in relation to a proposed grant to Mermaids, expressing both concern and support regarding this organisation. We’re grateful to those who have taken the time to write to us, and in light of the nature and volume of the communication we have received, we have decided to undertake a review of this grant.
A transgender charity that campaigns for children to be given prohibited sex-change treatment has been awarded £500,000 by the national lottery.
The payment to Mermaids has angered MPs, feminists and women’s organisations, who accuse the charity of bullying doctors, promoting falsehoods and using “emotional blackmail” to pressure parents to support life-changing medical interventions for their children.
Mermaids will use the money to create a network of 45 groups nationwide.
David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, called for the grant, which has been approved but not yet paid, to be halted pending an investigation.
“I am absolutely horrified that the Big Lottery Fund are handing out a fortune to this aggressive organisation,” he said. “What they are doing is utterly wrong.”
The chief executive of Mermaids, Susie Green, who took her son for a now illegal sex-change operation in Thailand when he was 16, believes medical intervention is “absolutely vital” for children unhappy with their biological sex. Her view is disputed by NHS gender specialists who say intervention is not always right.
Mermaids also wants to overturn an NHS ban on under-16s being treated with cross-sex hormones, which cause permanent body changes and compromise fertility; those taking them require lifelong medical support. Clinicians say children are too young for such a step.
Green has said the refusal by the NHS to give children the hormones can make them “self-harming and suicidal”, and claimed attendees at the main clinic that treats gender-dysphoric youngsters, the Tavistock Centre, in north London, have a “48% suicide attempt risk”. The clinic says the true rate is less than 1%.
In evidence to MPs, Mermaids singled out a doctor at the Tavistock as “anti-trans” and demanded it conduct “a thorough audit of staff and their views”. The charity criticised the clinic for “media quotes that emphasise [the] uncertainty and complexity” of gender questions.
Green, an IT consultant, has no medical training. Responding on Twitter to an NHS psychiatrist who accused her of “making stuff up”, she wrote that “you need to f*** off. You know nothing.”
In the absence of NHS treatment, Mermaids has referred parents to a private GP, Helen Webberley, who prescribed cross-sex hormones to children as young as 12. Mermaids recommended Webberley even after she was convicted of operating an illegal gender clinic.
The number of children seeking NHS treatment for gender dysphoria has risen by 700% in five years. Michele Moore, of the Patient Safety Academy at Oxford University, blamed Mermaids and other groups for the rise, as they were “not just supporting transition but promoting it”.
Stephanie Davies-Arai, of the parents’ group Transgender Trend, accused Mermaids of blackmailing parents and said: “Funding this agenda will lead to more young people who regret such life-changing harms to their bodies.”
Announcing the lottery grant on a private Mermaids Facebook group, Green said the charity was “very excited [by the] amazing news” but was “not allowed to publicise [it] externally”.
The Big Lottery Fund, a quango chaired by the former Tory MP Peter Ainsworth, said: “We are in the process of awarding [Mermaids] £500,000 over five years to increase localised support. If concerns are raised we will always look into them. However, we do not see any reason not to fund this.”
Green said Mermaids did “vital work” and that her claims on suicide were supported by the advocacy group Stonewall.