Big Lottery Fund reviews grant to trans kids charity Mermaids

An event hosted by the Big Lottery Fund, which has declared a review of its support for Mermaids, a charity supporting transgender children.

The Big Lottery Fund has said it will review a planned grant to transgender children charity Mermaids, after a thread started on Mumsnet by TV writer Graham Linehan urged opposition to the funding.

The public body, which is responsible for distributing funds raised by the National Lottery for charitable causes, received a number of messages regarding a planned £500,000 grant to the charity, which works to support transgender children and their family.

“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 spokesperson for the Big Lottery Fund said in a statement on Monday (December 17).

The Sunday Times newspaper, which quoted a private Mermaids Facebook group celebrating news of the funding, reported on Sunday that the grant would enable Mermaids to create a network of 45 groups nationwide.

The news prompted Father Ted creator Linehan, who announced a Christmas break from Twitter in a 11-minute video posted on Friday (December 14) following the latest controversy about his position on transgender rights, to start a thread on the “Feminism chat” forum of parenting website Mumsnet to discuss his opposition to the donation.

A screenshot of the Mumsnet thread started by Graham Linehan urging users to lobby the Big Lottery Fund to review its planned grant to Mermaids.

Graham Linehan started a thread urging Mumsnet users to persuade the Big Lottery Fund CEO to review a planned grant to Mermaids. (Mumsnet)

In the thread—posted on Sunday (December 16) and titled “Mumsnetters assemble!”—Linehan quoted a message from an unnamed “friend” urging users to contact Big Lottery Fund CEO Dawn Austwick to “force a review” of the plan.

“The idea of 45 Mermaids clinic opening around the country is terrifying,” he wrote.

The Big Lottery Fund spokesperson did not disclose the number of messages received as a consequences of the appeal. “We have received a range of correspondence in relation to a proposed grant to Mermaids, expressing both concern and support regarding this organisation,” the statement read.

Big Lottery Fund grant would expand Mermaids support network across the country

Mermaids confirmed to PinkNews the funds would partially go towards expanding its support network around the UK.

“Mermaids understands that people may not know exactly what we do and how we support families, therefore we want to make it clear that part of the lottery funding is for family support groups across the country to allow parents and their children to meet in person, sharing experiences and reducing isolation and loneliness,” Susie Green, the charity’s chief executive, said in a statement.

Green expressed disappointment at Linehan’s antagonising behaviour against the charity.

“It is very sad to see that a white, privileged man has decided that he knows better than the parents and young people directly affected, seeking to undermine funding for often lifesaving support for children to achieve their best in the face of bigotry and prejudice,” she said. “Parents are bewildered by the hostility they are facing, as are we.”

Mumsnet moderators later removed Linehan’s thread for “causing an awful lot of reports,” but by then his post had been captured in screenshots and shared on Twitter.

Journalist Paris Lee condemned the thread on social media.

“It’s particularly repulsive to do this at Christmas, when many trans people are reminded how lack of family support feels. He also quotes false stats. The medical community is clear: accepting trans kids for who they say they are provides the best outcomes,” she wrote on Twitter.

Lee also called on Mumsnet to remove the “despicable” thread while urging her followers to contact the Big Lottery Fund to explain why Mermaids provides a crucial service to transgender youth.

Following news of the grant review, Mermaids issued a statement expressing hope that the process may shed further light on the difficulties facing transgender children and their families.

The statement read: “Whilst we are disappointed that this is necessary, Mermaids understands that the volume of correspondence, both positive and negative, received by Big Lottery has necessitated a review of the grant that we were notified of last week,

“It is unfortunate that transgender children and young people continue to be a largely misunderstood population, and we understand that misinformation about the reality for trans kids is at the heart of this. Perhaps this review will reveal more about the very real challenges faced daily by families and young people, and help to foster understanding and acceptance.

“We look forward to the outcome of this review and will work with Big Lottery to provide them with any additional information they require, as and when needed.”