Liz Truss says allegations against trans youth charity Mermaids ‘should be properly looked at’

Liz Truss wears a dark green outfit as she exits 10 Downing Street

Liz Truss has said allegations against Mermaids should be “properly looked at” after Tory MP Miriam Cates called for a police investigation into the charity’s activities during Prime Ministers Questions.

The prime minister appeared to back Cates’ calls for authorities to examine Mermaid’s activities when quizzed in the House of Commons on Wednesday (12 October) about child safeguarding concerns.

Cates, who has made anti-LGBTQ+ statements in the past, brought up the allegations that there have been “serious safeguarding failures” on behalf of Mermaids, resulting from a string of Telegraph articles.

She claimed that “breast flattening devices” were provided to trans youth “behind their parents’ backs” and that the charity “promoted harmful medical and surgical procedures to children”.

The allegations which Cates referred to were detailed in an article published by The Telegraph in September. This relied entirely on an unidentified adult posing as a trans teen to access services from Mermaids including its youth forum and web chat helpline.

The article claimed the charity was “giving breast binders to children behind parents’ backs”. Anti-LGBTQ+ advocates and the right-wing press vilified chest binding despite it being a vital step to help some trans people affirm their identity.

Cates, the Penistone and Stocksbridge MP, denounced Mermaids for hiring a trustee with “links to paedophile organisations”.

The former trustee, Doctor Jacob Breslow, resigned from the role at Mermaids on 4 October after it emerged he spoke at a conference organised by a paedophile support group in 2011.

Mermaids told PinkNews at the time that the conference Breslow spoke at is “completely at odds with [the charity’s] values”, and it swiftly took “decisive action to investigate”.

The charity added it will be reviewing its processes and procedures in “light of this event to make them even more robust”. 

Cates also rallied against another worker at Mermaids who posted what Cates described as “pornographic images online” of themself “dressed as a school girl”.

“For years despite whistleblowers raising alarm, Mermaids have had unfettered access to vulnerable children,” Cates claimed.

“Does my right honourable friend agree that it has taken far too long for these concerns to be taken seriously, and does she also agree that it is high time for a police investigation into the activities of Mermaids?”

Truss appeared to agree the allegations against Mermaids raised by the right-wing press “should be properly looked at” by authorities before also seeming to condemn gender-affirming care for trans youth.

“It’s very important that under-18s are able to develop their own decision-making capabilities and not be forced into any kind of activity,” Truss said. 

“What I would say on the subject of the investigation she raises, of course those matters should be raised and should be properly looked at.”

PinkNews has contacted Mermaids for a response to comments made by MPs today.

Attacks on Mermaids

Trans advocacy groups quickly stepped in to dispel the disinformation about chest binding being spread online and in the media in the wake of The Telegraph articles. 

Mermaids said in its own statements about The Telegraph article that the charity takes a “harm reduction position” when helping trans youth access its crucial and potentially life-saving services. 

It added that providing a young person with a binder and “comprehensive safety guidelines from an experienced member of staff” is “preferable to the likely alternative of unsafe practices and/or continued or increasing dysphoria”.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that supplying or wearing a chest binder is not a criminal offence after The Telegraph ran another article questioning if the practice could be considered child abuse.

‘Intolerable abuse’

Sadly, Mermaids was forced to temporarily suspend some of its helpline services due to the endless criticism, harassment and abuse. The charity said on 6 October it would close its helpline and web chat services for two days “due to intolerable abuse”. 

Mermaids said it would be reducing the hours of the services the following week to enable it to “take all volunteers off the rota”. It explained that the decision was not made lightly, but believed a “harm reduction approach” was needed to protect the charity’s “dedicated staff and volunteer team”.