‘Mermaids must fall next.’ That was the response of Professor Kathleen Stock to the news that last week that the NHS was closing its Tavistock gender identity clinic for children. Stock, who quit Sussex University over what she called a trans rights ‘witch-hunt’, added that it was now time for ‘a no-holds barred journalistic dive’ into Mermaids, the British charity which supports ‘gender variant and transgender youth.’ Their methods of doing this have come under much scrutiny, such as by promoting breast binding at an event last year.
Mermaids is also involved in lobbying and has provided training in public sector bodies. In May this year, the TaxPayers’ Alliance revealed that Mermaids had received £20,483 in taxpayer funding between 2018 and 2021. And now, Freedom of Information requests have confirmed that officials at the Cabinet Office held three meetings with the charity between 2019 and 2022: in October 2020, in February 2021 and January 2022.
The latter two meetings were confirmed by the Cabinet Office as pertaining to the issue of whether to ban conversion therapy but the minutes of these meetings were withheld. However, the minutes of the October 2020 meeting were released, which confirmed the charity acknowledged that 50 per cent of its resources are used for ‘advocacy’, that Mermaids had started work on trans inclusion in sport and that there had been a large increase in people engagement. Separately, the Department for International Trade also confirmed that it held information on meetings between ministers and Mermaids; however it blocked it on the grounds of Section 35 which relates to the ‘formulation or development of government policy.’
Helping formulate and develop government policy? Looks like if Mermaids’ critics want the charity out of government, they’ve got a long way to go in Whitehall.