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.

3 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

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