Mermaids responds to Mail on Sunday article
We are very proud of the training we offer to schools and we have a proven record of helping teachers to support vulnerable children who simply want to get along with their lessons like any of their classmates.
We are disappointed to find that a school governor has made a covert recording of our training because our presentations are not held in secret and all of the scientific and legal information we offer is publicly available and well-tested.
We are surprised to see that a Church of England rector is complaining about our training when we are included in the CoE guidance on support for transgender people, which can be found here.
Part of the work of Mermaids is giving training talks to schools. These talks are well received and are an important part of how we promote an inclusive and informed approach to trans children and those who support them.
We have been contacted by the Mail on Sunday who are doing an article about one such talk. This post is our response, in accordance with our policy of posting our replies to media queries for the benefit of anyone interested in our activities.
The talk was at a school where there is a trans child, and the article will be based on a complaint from a school governor who attended a training session for teachers.
We will not identify the school or the governor as that in turn could identify the child. There is no public interest in placing a child in that position.
Our trainer visited the school at the request of staff and we’re delighted to say that, following our training, we received an email from the school offering sincere thanks for our informative, helpful and fun presentation.
The story is based on a clandestine recording made of the session by the school governor, a local clergyman. The governor insisted on attending the session but did not challenge the points made during the talk. Only at the end did he make his comments.
We have been given quotations from the talk for our comment. The Mail on Sunday have not provided the full transcript or audio recording. There is therefore a risk that the quotations are taken out of context. We have full confidence in our training staff and we are very proud of the training they offer. However, we are happy to respond to the media queries as follows.
The queries are about the law and the science relating to transgender children. Both are subject to controversy, and there are a range of views and opinions. It is not news that this is the case.
We understand that the Mail on Sunday have been provided with critical opinions. Mermaids is constantly reviewing scientific literature and research, and will continue to do so, whilst maintaining an affirmative approach to treatment in line with World Professional Association of Transgender Health, the global authority on the subject.
On the law, we stand by our understanding of all the relevant law.
Transphobic speech is capable of being a criminal offence, as can any hate speech.
It is not legal to “out” somebody, nor should it be and this is protected in a number of ways by civil courts. In certain circumstances, it can even be a criminal offence.
The Equality Act 2010 means that anyone, including children and young people, is protected if they identify as trans, and this protection is extended to them everywhere, including within their homes, in education and within the wider community.
The Equality Act also makes it clear that schools have a duty to ensure that trans children aren’t treated less favourably than other students.
The Equality Act 2010 allows for the provision of separate-sex and single-sex services where this is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” (a form of words intended to require the application of an objective standard of justification).
The Act also effectively permits service providers not to allow a trans person to access separate-sex or single-sex services—on a case-by-case basis, where exclusion is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
The term “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim” is not a blanket rule and cannot be applied as a matter of policy.
It is intended solely in respect to the impact of one individual by another individual in that specific situation at any given moment in time.
On the science, our position is as follows.
In isolation, blockers are safe and not harmful to bone growth, and don't affect greater brain function. The few negative effects of puberty blockers do not change children's minds. Puberty blockers are also easily and permanently reversible, and this has happened successfully in the past before . No clinically significant effects on physiologic parameters were noted.
Important evidence to consider is the evidence of the efficacy and safety of puberty blockers to treat children with precocious puberty.
If young people decide to continue onto further medical interventions, then options around fertility preservation should be made available to them. Mermaids has worked with the EHRC and NHS England to help secure robust guidance to help young people access this treatment, which up until this point was difficult to secure in the UK.
Regarding a child’s gender identity and when this is established, research suggests that children are aware of these gender cues early in development and begin perceiving sex and gender categories at a young age.
Supporting Evidence represents the following:
- Infants display an ability to discriminate male and female faces by 6 months of age
- They can accurately match male and female voices to male and female faces by their first birthday
- At are around age 2, they begin to acquire knowledge of gender labels
- They display preferences for objects and people associated with their own gender, demonstrating intrinsic understanding of their own gender identity
- Infants show rudimentary gender stereotyping
The latest research published on this topic by Kristina Olson found that:
Young, socially transitioned transgender children between 3 and 5 years old are just as likely as gender‐typical children to:
(a) Prefer toys, and clothing culturally associated with their expressed gender,
(b) dress in a stereotypically gendered outfit,
(c) say they are more similar to children of their gender than to children of the opposite gender
There are a number of chromosomal variations. We understand that the total number of individuals with sex chromosomes that are neither entirely XX or XY are currently identified as follows:
o XXY has a prevalence of 1 to 2 per 1,000 births
o XXYY has a prevalence of 1 in 18,000-40,000 births
o XXX has a prevalence of 1 in 1,000 births
o XO has a prevalence of 1 in 2,000-5,000 births
We make two final observations.
First, we are always looking for ways to improve the training we offer and only base the information we share on the best research, legal bases and guidance. We will look carefully at the feedback to the Mail on Sunday article.
Second, the clergyman’s church states on its website that it is signed up to the Church of England’s own policy on safeguarding children and young people.
We believe that attempting to disrupt a school’s efforts to understand and support a vulnerable child whilst exposing that child’s situation to the national press is a far cry from safeguarding their right to privacy and safety.