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Does your children’s school use Mermaids?

We know many parents who are concerned about the continuing influence of the lobby group Mermaids in certain schools. In response, we have written the below letter template which will shortly be available as a downloadable via our Resources section. This can also be adapted for use by people who are concerned about their influence in other areas.

Dear [Designated Safeguarding Lead],

I am writing to you because I am concerned about your plans to use Mermaids’ training materials in [school].

Mermaids is a lobby group, about which there is much to say. Most importantly from a schools’ point of view its ethos and training materials contravene this government guidance issued on 24th September 2020. In summary:

Here follows more details on each of these points. After reading I would hope you would agree that the only course of action is to reconsider the use of Mermaids as a suitable partner for staff training.

How Mermaids Contravenes DfE Guidance

Government Statutory Guidance states that:

“75. Pupils should be taught the facts and the law about sex, sexuality, sexual health and gender identity in an age-appropriate and inclusive way. All pupils should feel that the content is relevant to them and their developing sexuality. Sexual orientation and gender identity should be explored at a timely point and in a clear, sensitive and respectful manner. When teaching about these topics, it must be recognised that young people may be discovering or understanding their sexual orientation or gender identity. There should be an equal opportunity to explore the features of stable and healthy same-sex relationships.”

Mermaids’ resources are not compliant with these reasonable-sounding requirements, as they continually conflate sex and gender. This also means they are not safeguarding compliant.

Mermaids’ ideology and approach are clearly visible on its website, and are not in the best interests of any child. I have provided some examples below:

a) Mermaids makes scientifically confusing statements about the nature of sex and gender, stating:

The site also suggests to children that everyone has a gender and conflates sex and gender:

Mermaids’ definitions, resources and entire approach are based on the belief that everyone has a gender identity. However this is just an opinion and is non-scientific. The concept of gender identity is highly debated and politicised. Teaching gender identity as fact takes away any ability to discuss or hold alternative viewpoints, or address how damaging the concept of gender identity could be to children. To pursue a political agenda in this way is contrary to s.406 of the Education Act 1996.

b) Mermaids teaches children to keep secrets from their parents. Their website has an ‘Exit button’ to disguise what the child is looking at.

This practice discourages children from talking to their parents and thereby promotes alienation from parents at a time when children are vulnerable. By the time children do speak to their parents about this they may have become committed to an ideology which will have serious long-term consequences for their health.

c) Mermaids teaches visitors to their website that trans-identified children and young people are entitled to violate the privacy of opposite sex children by using their private, single sex spaces. It does this by linking to external news stories, such as this:

d) Mermaids scares parents by suggesting that trans-identifying children who are not ‘affirmed’ by their parents are likely to commit suicide:

This message about suicide is repeated elsewhere on their website:

Discussing suicide in this way on a website aimed at vulnerable children is irresponsible and goes against Samaritan guidelines. In reality, as acknowledged by the Tavistock NHS Gender Identity Clinic, suicide among trans-identifying young people is thankfully extremely rare. There is also little evidence that affirmation prevents suicide ideation. The statistics on trans youth suicide have been comprehensively debunked in ‘The Suicide Myth’ by Transgender Trend.

e) Mermaids promotes adult political ideologies such as the idea of a ‘true gender’ which reinforce sex stereotypes:

This specific point is not in fact stated in the Equality Act and has never been tested in a court of law. In contrast, the right to freedom of belief is protected in the Equality Act (2010) and the Human Rights Act (1998). Teachers have the right to reject the constructions of sex and gender that are put forward by organisations like Mermaids, and may also have concerns regarding the 4000% increase in the number of young people identifying as transgender, particularly natal females who are same-sex attracted, have ASD or have experienced sexual abuse or trauma. They must be able to discuss this using meaningful language.

Mermaids’ training material has been discussed on the Safe Schools Alliance website. The key question which is yet unanswered is how would Mermaids ever identify any child as transgender without reference to stereotypes? Their very ethos relies on children not conforming to stereotypes. 

This is a slide from Mermaids’ training materials which shows Barbie at one end and GI Jo at the other. Are we to assume that all girls who do not identify with Barbie are actually boys?

How Mermaids’ stance on Gender Affirmation runs Counter to NHS Advice

Whereas Mermaids contends that blockers are harmless:  

Blockers, hormone blockers or puberty blockers: a type of medication which temporarily stops the production of the natural hormones which progress puberty. They are considered by the NHS Gender Identity Development Service and a body of international research to be a physically reversible intervention: if the young person stops taking the blocker their body will begin developing as it would have done without medical intervention.”

The NHS updated its guidance in 2020, stating that:

“Little is known about the long-term side effects of hormone or puberty blockers in children with gender dysphoria. Although the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) advises this is a physically reversible treatment if stopped, it is not known what the psychological effects may be. It’s also not known whether hormone blockers affect the development of the teenage brain or children’s bones.”

This change was documented by the Support Group Bayswater, no doubt in anticipation of the judicial review of the Tavistock and Portman Clinic which was held over 7th & 8th October 2020 and judgement delivered on 1st December 2020. The outcome of this case is momentous; the High Court stated unequivocally that the Tavistock had experimented on children

Mermaids was refused permission to intervene in the Tavistock case because it had nothing of any relevance to add. However the organisation continues to support and advocate for the use of puberty blockers for children, and so their position is at odds with child safeguarding.

Mermaids’ message is resolutely not factual but is based on stereotypes which should be abhorrent to educators. I am sure you can see that inviting Mermaids to give training contravenes this new Government policy and constitutes a safeguarding failure.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.