A Mermaids training session

Mermaids is the charity caring for trans children and teens in the UK. Recently, their training session was recorded, so you can listen to it and hear how reasonable it is. There are also transcripts.

The man who clandestinely recorded it clearly thought he was being so brave going undercover, challenging the trainer. There was a shock, horror article about it in the Times. When you listen to it, you can see that any gender critical person who was not prejudiced about trans people, would find it unobjectionable. The Times article is a complete distortion of what is said.

The trainer, who is lesbian, proves the Times wrong. “Trans ideologists are spreading cod science,” says the headline- no, her statistics are clear. She starts by talking about “gender reveal parties”. We find out what is between the foetus’ legs, and it becomes he or she, and so we get pink or blue clothes. “Lots of children don’t fit those boy and girl boxes.” Lots of things are on a spectrum. People have different heights and skin colours. On a scale of 1 (Princess Barbie) to 12 (GI Joe) the trainer puts herself as a 5. Yet the Times claims the two extremes are the only alternatives given. It is a deliberate misrepresentation of a subtle argument that gender varies between everyone, not just trans people; and some people are gender fluid, being one style at one time and one style at another. “We’re not all one thing,” she says.

The Times mocks talk of jelly babies, but it would help participants become playful and so permit them to think in less rigid ways. As the audience shows, everyone knows the extreme stereotypes, which are strongly emphasised by the culture. Gender identity is different from sexuality, but neither may be controlled. Some people are intersex.

Jan tells her own experience. She had no problem being a tomboy, but in the early seventies was terrified of people knowing she was lesbian, as a child, but being a boy who likes “girlish” activities is different. GI Joe is a stereotype, cultural not innate, but “when people buy into it it becomes real”. She began to define trans and cis, but the interloper interrupted, and put her off track. Then she defines non-binary and gender fluid. Some people identify as queer, and some people hate the term. People can socially transition without transitioning medically. No-one need know a trans person’s operation status. Trans women can be gay or straight- a straight trans woman is attracted to men. Younger people are far more comfortable with gender fluidity.

She speaks movingly of when she internalised homophobia. “There are places where I would be in danger, and people… who hate me because of who I am.” That is, lesbian. It’s like carrying a heavy weight. She wants being queer, or trans, to be not an issue any more. She explains pronouns and misgendering, how painful it can be.

She gets gender incongruence slightly wrong. It’s not a psychological condition in the draft ICD, but that ICD has not yet been approved. There is evidence of a biological underpinning to trans. There are positive role models visible in society, lesbian and trans. She refers to brain research, and googling I found this. Always there is new research. 1% are trans, she says, though not how many of them transition.

She explains the history of Mermaids, supporting trans children and their parents. 40% of those children cannot be out at home, so schools should support them. She explains the Equality Act and the difficulties LGBT people can face from family and society. Maybe 10% of the population are bigoted against us, so the rest should be mindful of that and speak up for us.

When a child is fully supported to lead their own transition, their mental health is the same as their peers’. When the child is prevented, their mental health suffers. Because parents are resistant, and GPs may be unsympathetic, schools can refer people to the Tavistock and Portman clinic, the Gender and Identity Development Service for under 18s. After a long series of assessments, where medically indicated, a child may be given puberty blockers. Low doses of cross sex hormones are not given to children under 16, and rarely to older children. The youngest child seen is 4.

Attendees should research further, at the Tavistock website and Stonewall. They should challenge stereotyping, and be able to tell children about available support. Children can change their name officially, and choose a name to be known as in school. Staff should be told of transition on a need-to-know basis, and it should be treated matter-of-factly: just as a woman may change her name on marriage, so a child may change gender presentation. Mermaids can help schools with any necessary policies.

Janice Turner in the Times clearly finds all of this unobjectionable, as she attacks things Jan the trainer did not say. The man making the recording tried to challenge the trainer, claiming that her suicide statistics were wrong, and that she had based them on a survey of 27 self-referred people, though she had referred to the Stonewall School Report, which says at page 7 that 45% of more than 592 trans people had tried to take their own lives. He claims that the suicide statistic is used to put pressure on schools, and minimises the evidence of suicide attempts. He is not an honest reporter. The second recording ends abruptly, and it is not clear what happened after that.

Similarly, the transcripts are made by anti-trans campaigners, and are littered with inaccuracies. For example, where the anonymous recorder spoke of “dysmorphia” the transcript records it as “dysphoria”. There are also sarky asides- where the trainer is assertive, it calls her “really really cross”. It says [long, looooooong pause for us all to reflect on whether it’s wise to challenge Mermaids woman further. Clearly no one else is prepared to take her on] Actually, it is at most five seconds.

The transcripts are misleading. They put in headings which are not on the audio, such as Help kids to socially or even legally change their name. You don’t need to tell the parents. In fact, feel free to ignore their authority! You would think a feminist would have heard of Gillick competence: children can decide whether their parents should hear about their medical treatment. Mostly, though, the transcripts do not seriously distort the message of the trainer, if you ignore the headings.

Audio recording part 1 part 2.

Googledocs transcript part 1 part 2.

15 thoughts on “A Mermaids training session

  1. I agree, and would go so far that our gender identity can flex depending on who we are talking to, which argument we are having, and the practical tasks we have to deal with every day. We don’t need to stay at five on the scale, and sometimes …. grrr! … I would put myself up at seven.

    What’s wrong is to call that a problem, instead of just accepting that what we are, who we are, changes all the time. And I cannot – !! – understand why other people are threatened by that. It’s completely bizarre and counter-productive. The only answer I can come up with is that the Times, that august organ of public opinion – not! Have you seen how it changes the meaning of Scottish news in its Scottish edition? – needs to sell copy and thinks this is the best way to do it. Shame on them. ((xxx))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Today the Times transphobia article was a poll. 48% of women thought it was acceptable for trans women to use women’s changing facilities, and 28% were against. It’s normalising transphobia.

      And: my friend Jean’s first names were Frederica Jean. She said Jean, the less feminine bit, looked after Frederica, the more feminine bit; and sometimes Frederica looked after Jean. Of course we vary, over a huge range.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I am undoubtedly someone you would refer to as a transphobic. I am a feminist. I hate the fact that people like my ex husband suffered years of torment until she could become Cathy. Society should accept people who for who they are and no one should suffer discrimination for characteristics which are part of their physical or psychological make up or even chosen/ given to them by their religious heritage. For me it appears that the current trans debate and trans activism is setting minorities against each other in a very aggressive and dare I say it in a style reminiscent of Male privilege.
    We never hear of transmen in this debate. I have two acquaintances who are transmen, they go about their days, not making a fuss, demanding others change to meet their needs, I am assuming that when they use Male bathrooms and changing rooms they don’t make a fuss,just get on with it. They don’t rage that non transmen be called “ cis men” or complain when men talk about their testees, penises, testicular cancer,or the fact that most genetically born males are taller than they are, and that they can’t win trophy’s in sports due to their inferior build and musculature, or any aspect of the Male life that they can’t share. They don’t want to stop men having these “ privileges” they just want to live in peace and be accepted.
    Now contrast this with transactivist trans women…
    Whilst sexual predators can be of any gender and sexual orientation, the vast majority ( over 99%) are Male. This is the flaw in self identification and the acceptance of gender fluidity which would allow a person who self identifies as female as some times and not others. I really do appreciate that examining and understanding one’s gender identity is a complex and possibly painful process but it cannot be at the expense of other people’s freedoms and choices when those people are neither part of the process, or mean the trans person any harm.
    People like Jessica Yaniv are predatory and changes to the legislation are going to remove the rights of women to be free to change and other activities without without being subject to a male gaze ( which I define as a psychological, cultural and power state) eve if it is within a mind which a person defines as trans. This is unfair and against women as sisters working to end oppression together.
    I don’t have an answer, but if transwomen want to truly be like women it isn’t just about a state of how we dress it is about a state of mind too, and that means leaving Male privilege behind. I know many transwomen have, but there is a vocal minority who are committing acts of violence both physical ( e.g. Karen White) and those who are using aggression to silence critical feminism and exclude lesbians (Some are saying lesbians are transphobes because they would not date a transwomen with a penis)and get academics banned for holding a different world view.


    • Welcome, Lynn. Thank you for commenting. For some reason the spam filter stopped your first comment, but not your second. I am unclear why. Did you cut and paste that comment from somewhere? It is generic, not really referring specifically to the post.

      Are you still friendly with Cathy? Did you split because of her transition?

      I experience the hard Right as setting minorities against each other. For example, the Heritage Foundation funding an anti-trans feminist called Posie Parker. If you want us to come together, I am entirely with you. How might we do that?

      I think part of the problem is the internet. Before, you would only notice trans discourtesy if you saw it. For example, if you saw a trans woman hitting on a lesbian and not taking no for an answer you would be rightly revolted. So would I. But now on Twitter you can see lesbians tweeting on the theme “They say they’re lesbians but they’re not” and trans women tweeting on the theme “saying you would never have sex with a trans woman is transphobic” and you might get equally angry, even if none of those trans women had ever come on to a lesbian, or the lesbians had never talked to a trans woman IRL.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cathy died from a heart attack only a few years after living as her true self 😢. I only found out after she had died. She had cut off all contact with her old life. I don’t want anyone to “ suffer” in silence as she had done. I was angry at first that she hadn’t told me because our marriage had been a disaster because I think she had used me as a way of living her desire to be a woman rather than as a wife, but now I see and understand the burden she lived with. She had no choice at that time. I just wish she had had longer.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Nah, I listened to the tapes and the lecturer is way out of line.
    The demands she made were extremely sexist, and the way she made the demands was not leaving anyone any choice. Pretty much : “Oh and if you see a boy in a girl’s toilet, shut the fuck up about it.”
    When her data about suicides was challenged, she detached herself from it while trying to shush the boy. 45% of trans people attempt suicide? No one can believe that, but the bigger the lie, the more gaslit and dumbfounded we are.
    The attempt to pass a known biological binary as a spectrum was beyond disrespectful. I guess people who would be a 6 on the GI-Joe / Barbie spectrum can carry really tiny babies throughout 4.5 months pregnancies…


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