Mermaids – helping gender diverse young people

Louie Sandys
Senior Editorial Assistant at ACAMH

Posted on

Mermaids, is a charity that supports children and young people up to 20 years old who are gender diverse, alongside their families and professionals involved in their care. They do this by raising awareness of gender nonconformity in children, young people and amongst professionals and the public. A 2012 survey by the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicated that 1% of the 10,000 people who undertook the survey were dealing with gender variance. Therefore, Mermaids campaign for the recognition of gender dysphoria in young people and lobbying for improvements in professional services is sorely needed. Their hard work and incredible impact on the lives of many has been recognised through a number of accolades including the Community Group of the Year Award at the 2016 National Diversity Awards.

Mermaids was formed in 1995 by parents that were united by their children’s longstanding gender incongruence. It has been a work in constant progress as Mermaids has grown to meet huge surges in demand and through offering the most appropriate resources to young people and their families, alongside carers and professionals that work with gender variant young people.  Over the last few years, Mermaids has been able to widen their focus from its primary emphasis on being a support group.

Their website holds a wealth of resources for both children and parents, from dealing with prejudice and hate crime, to useful videos, podcasts and factsheets. It’s also a great resource for young people or parents that want to find out more. Mermaids also run residentials to help connect and offer a space for young people and their parents to meet in person and also meet role models who have been through their own gender variance. This has offered a great source of help, friendship and support to people worried about what they are experiencing and what the future holds.

One especially powerful resource has been achieved through the use of the forums. There is a forum for young people aged 12-19 years old, providing a safe space to talk to peers and make new friends with similar experiences. Likewise, there is a forum for parents; the impact of which can be seen in the Parents Voices section, highlighting how much a difference just finding other parents who are going through the same journeys has had on people.

The Young Voices section, also holds a number of very emotive and powerful poems and experiences written by children from as young as 7 and through to young adults who joined the community at Mermaids in their own childhood/teenage years. These testimonials highlight the importance of Mermaids work and the importance of ensuring more funding is made available to help others and ensure the wider public are aware of gender incongruence.

For more information on Mermaids and to get in contact with the team, please visit their website.

Key points:

  • Mermaids seeks to reduce the isolation and loneliness that parents and young people dealing with gender issues often face.
  • They do this by empowering families and young people with the tools they need to negotiate the education and health services.
  • This will help to reduce suicidality and self-harm in the young people who get in touch with Mermaids and also equip their parents to support their children to the same end.
  • Mermaids helps to improve self-esteem and social functioning in young people suffering with gender issues.
  • Mermaids helps to improve awareness, understanding and practices of GP’s, CAMHS, Social Services and other professionals.

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