Staff at trans children’s charity Mermaids having ‘nightmares’ over death threats and abuse

Susie Green marches with Mermaids at Pride in London

Staff at trans children’s charity Mermaids received abuse so threatening and severe that the police had to be called, CEO Susie Green has revealed.

It’s why the charity has launched a “fightback fund” to ensure staff can continue to do the vital work of supporting trans kids and their families.

In September, The Telegraph embarked on a string of articles targeting Mermaids and accusing the charity of safeguarding issues.

The right-wing paper also published an “investigation” which relied entirely on an unidentified adult masquerading as a 14-year-old child to access services, including the charity’s youth forum and web chat helpline.

Another story inaccurately suggested that the use of chest binders, a safe and common practice for some trans and non-binary people, could be considered child abuse.

Much of the mainstream British press bought into the narrative, creating a media firestorm and prompting shocking abuse of Mermaids staff.

Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, told PinkNews that between March and August of this year, the charity received 29 abusive calls or messages, none of which crossed the threshold of being a hate crime.

Following the publication of The Telegraph‘s stories, in less than a month the charity received 130 abusive and threatening calls and messages, 80 of which were so severe that they had to be reported to the police.

Mermaids’ staff are being doxxed by ‘horrible’ transphobes

Many of the calls were made to Mermaids’ vital helpline for young people, forcing the charity to temporarily suspend it.

As the abuse continues, the charity has decided to close on Wednesdays so that staff are able to have some midweek respite from the “deeply traumatising” calls.

Green said: “We’ve had staff who are having nightmares after having received those messages, their information has been put up on social media, we’ve had pictures of staff posted online, with really unpleasant, horrible comments underneath.”

“There are members of our staff team and our volunteer team that have never been exposed to that hostility on such a personal level,” she added. “It was and continues to be deeply traumatising.”

While Green said she is personally “used to” online abuse, “to actually receive a death threat on a telephone call, and to be called a paedophile and a child abuser, it’s disgusting”.

“The worst thing about it is for our staff and volunteers, who do this because they care deeply about trans kids and deeply about them being able to live in autonomy with respect, to be abused in that way, when they’re there to help,” she continued.

“It does make you wonder where people’s heads are at when they think it’s an acceptable to do phone a children’s charity and abuse people who answer the phone. It does boggle the mind somewhat.”

As well as abuse of staff and volunteers, there is a “coordinated attack” on Mermaids’ sources of funding, from the charity’s partners being contacted, to complaints being made to the Charity Commission.

The Mermaids fightback fund aims to raise £25,000 to secure Mermaids’ future – keeping its helpline open, continuing to provide safe spaces for children, young people and their families, and helping to ensure that trans young people’s voices are heard.

Of course, the anti-trans abuse faced by Mermaids is massively impacting the children and families they support.

Green said: “I had a conversation with a parent who was saying to me: ‘Am I going to be considered to be a child abuser now? Because I’m supporting my kid who is now so happy that they’ve got a binder, they are absolutely delighted, and I’ve never seen them so happy. Am I now going to be accused of being a child abuser, because I’m supporting them to be feel better about themselves?

“And for the kids themselves, this is just more and more about invalidating trans youth, invalidating their existence and invalidating the right to be themselves, to make themselves happier, to feel more comfortable.”

Anti-trans rhetoric in the media is having a real life impact

The idea for the fightback fund was sparked by Mermaids’ supporters, who could see how the charity was being targeted and desperately wanted a way to help.

“Our allies were saying they were absolutely outraged that this is happening,” said Green. “It is an outlet for that, and a mechanism for people to show that support and to be able to put themselves forward for something publicly that supports us.”

The ramping up of vicious anti-trans rhetoric in the media is “having an impact in real life, on kids and young people and trans adults”, Green said, noting that recent Home Office statistics showed a 56 per cent increase in anti-trans hate crimes in just one year. 

With its decades-long history of supporting trans young people across the country, the idea of a UK without Mermaids’ services is a worrying one.

But Green is sure about one thing: “We’re not going anywhere.”

You can donate to Mermaids’ fightback fund here.