The Big Lottery Fund has announced it will be reviewing a £500,000 grant intended for the charity Mermaids, which helps transgender and gender non-conforming children, after receiving a “high volume of correspondence”.
In a statement on their website, the Big Lottery Fund said: “We have received a range of correspondence in relation to a proposed grant to Mermaids, expressing both concern and support regarding this organisation.
“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.”
The grant was reported in the Sunday Times, with Conservative MP David Davies expressing his concern.
On the announcement to review the funding, Mr Davies told talkRADIO: “I welcome [the review] because I’m very concerned about the way Mermaids are going into schools and campaigning on transgender issues. They seem to be encouraging children to question their own gender when there’s no need to.
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“Their guidance online makes it very clear that if a boy transitions into a girl, it’s up to everyone else at the school to feel comfortable with that, even if that boy is in the girl’s changing rooms. As a parent, I don’t think that’s acceptable.
“Obviously there are some children confused about their gender who deserve help and support, and no way do I have a criticism of that, but these organisations seem to be encouraging people to question their gender and making problems where there aren’t any.”
'Impact on women's rights'
He added that those with concerns about Mermaids were not “social conservatives”, but spanned the political spectrum.
“There is a widespread concern about Mermaids and about various trans-activist groups and the impact these groups are having on women’s rights,” Mr Davies said.
“This isn’t some sort of campaign of social conservatives at all. Many of the people I’ve worked with on this are on the left, and part of the feminist and the lesbian movement.”
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Mermaids CEO Susie Green’s daughter Jackie was born male, and had gender reassignment surgery at 16 with the full approval of her mother.
The concerns around Mermaids and Ms Green’s approach to transgender children lie with her views on medical intervention, which she advocates for children under 16.
Ms Green has previously said that basing the prescription of cross-sex hormones on age is “inappropriate”, and that it should instead be judged on the child’s maturity.
At present, it is not permitted to prescribe cross-sex hormones to children under 16 on the NHS.
The UK’s only NHS-run gender identity clinic at the Tavistock Centre will prescribe puberty blockers - which delay the onset of puberty - to children around 12, and require patients to have been on blockers for a year before they will prescribe hormones at 16.
Concerns on Mumsnet
Comedy writer Graham Linehan, who has become a vocal critic of transgender issues on Twitter, posted on Mumsnet urging users to write to the Big Lottery Fund to complain about the grant.
In a now-deleted post, he wrote: “I was a bit knocked back when I saw the news about Mermaids being being given whatever insane amount by the National Lottery”, and gave an email for users to send their complaints to.
The now-deleted post by Graham Linehan on Mumsnet. Image: Mumsnet
Transgender people, including the journalist Paris Lees, and supporters of Mermaids expressed their anger and disappointment on Twitter.
Ms Lees stressed the work Mermaids does in supporting transgender children and their families.
talkRADIO has approached Mumsnet and Mermaids for comment.
Update 17/12/18: Mermaids responded with the following statement:
"Mermaids welcomes all levels of scrutiny into the charity and the services that we deliver to families and young people, and are determined to continue to support trans children to achieve a better future. We want to reassure all parents that access our support that we will continue to be there for you and your children.
"We are very proud of the work that we do, and would like to thank our supporters, including our individual donors and funders who have made this enormously important work possible.
"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."