Mermaids and the trans youth suicide myth
When a single-issue support group gets going, it’s natural that they focus on their issue from a narrow perspective. Most support groups are born from a feeling of embattlement, “us against them”, so they invest their efforts in reinforcing their position. Created by parents struggling to help their gender-questioning children, Mermaids Transgender was such a group. Now it’s a registered charity, receiving large grants from various bodies and enjoying high status as the only specialist organisation consulted on the matter by the UK Government, the NHS and others. Mermaids TG is still a group of unprofessional, blinkered evangelists. They’ve hijacked a mental health crisis, putting distressed teens in serious danger.
Mermaids TG is, inevitably, a major player in the new TELI initiative launched on 18th November. In front of representatives from Linklaters, Garden Court Chambers, One Pump Court, NHS, press and government, they gave a presentation on the sufferings of ‘trans’ children and their preferred solution: early medical intervention. Unfortunately they are no more professional than any other support group. The shock suicide slide shown above caused deep concern among their audience. It represented flawed data showing Mermaids, despite their elevated status, quite incapable of handling facts or seeing wider contexts. They are amateurs in a dangerously influential role.
The Pace study to which the slide refers sought to understand mental health difficulties among young LGBT people.
2,078 people in total were surveyed, not 2,000 trans people as Mermaids claim. Only 27 individuals were trans people under the age of 26.
Of those 27 people, 16 had considered suicide. That is 0.8% of 2,000, not 59%.?
In fact, Mermaid TG’s false extrapolation of the findings wasn’t far off some alarming truths about young people in general – more on this later. Mermaids’ vision is limited. If they cared more about the wider context, perhaps they’d have to loosen their grip on government policy.
We’ve heard from parents of agonisingly unhappy young people who, once drawn in by Mermaids’ embracing & empowering enthusiasm for drastic medical alteration of their children’s futures, found there was no support whatsoever for the reasonably cautious parent.
Mermaids TG’s line is that the gender-questioning child must be indulged – not only by permitting their choices of clothing & toys, etc (reasonable) but also by preventing puberty through the use of ‘blockers’. These are chemotherapy drugs that work by interfering with the pituitary gland. The pituitary regulates hormones throughout the brain & body – not only sex hormones, but others that are also necessary to life – and there is some doubt that the gland recovers its full function when medication ceases.
Mermaids TG claims the blockers are fully reversible: this can’t be known, because no study of long-term effects on healthy children exists. They also claim that no child changes their mind after starting on blockers. Mermaids doesn’t tolerate sensible questions about this worrying assertion.
It’s their way or the highway. And their way poses serious risks to the children’s future wellbeing.
We don’t expect readers to base their opinions on ours (though our research is better) or the national press alone. Listen to Polly Carmichael of the Tavistock & Portman:
“When the idea of the blocker being available to younger people was being pushed forward, I think that inevitably there were quite simplistic arguments that if you have a blocker then all the problems disappear. In our experience, all the problems do not go away.
“But there’s also a lot of pressure to introduce cross-sex hormones [oestrogen for boys; testosterone for girls] at a younger age. It’s currently at 16. For some, there’s a real wish to bring it down to 14.”
‘When I ask who she means, she says Mermaids and the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) advocacy service based in the UK.’
“Really big changes like that should not be considered outside proper research protocols. We just don’t have the evidence.”
As shown by a parent in the press clippings above, Mermaids TG actually encourages its members to override the Tavistock’s research-based medical recommendations so as to irrevocably alter their children before they reach independence.
Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids TG, took her own 12-year-old son to the US for drugs to medically retard his reproductive system, then to Thailand at the age of 16 for surgical castration. Now known as Ms Green’s daughter, this young person’s mother set the child on a path from which it would have been extremely difficult to divert as a teenager under pharmaceutical control. She seems happy enough if, arguably, somewhat deluded – but might she have been just as happy as an intact, unmedicated gay man?
To help their member parents evade rationally cautious medics, Mermaids maintains a list of Trans Friendly GPs and Medical Centres. To further advance the cause of drugs on demand, parents are coached in the right terms to use when speaking to doctors, schools and social workers. This intensive training takes place within the Mermaids parent forum, at meetings, and in person via attentive befrienders.
Should the determined parent have funds, the charity recommends Helen Webberley: a GP in Wales who will oblige over the internet.
Their preferred counsellor is Shelley Bridgman who, until very recently indeed, made her career as a motivational coach and stand-up comedian.
If Mermaids were less inward-looking, they’d have discovered some upsetting facts about millennial children in general – it’s debatable whether these would have served their agenda so well.
The awful truth is that we’re facing a nationwide crisis in mental health. Young or old, the risk factors are any deviation from privileged (patriarchal) norms – and this includes being female.
The number of girls under 18 who have needed hospital treatment after poisoning themselves has gone up from 9,741 in 2005-06 to 13,853 – a rise of 42% – figures collated by NHS Digital show. The numbers of boys ingesting a poisonous substance have stayed almost unchanged; 2,234 did so in 2005-06 and 2,246 did so in 2014-15.
The number of girls treated as inpatients after cutting themselves has almost quadrupled over the same period, from 600 to 2,311 – a 285% rise. The number whom A&E teams have treated after hanging themselves has also risen during that decade, from 29 to 125.
While far fewer boys end up in hospital after cutting themselves, the numbers went up from 160 in 2005-06 to 457 in 2014-15 – a rise of 186%. Similarly, the numbers of boys who hanged themselves also doubled from 47 to 95 over the same period, the figures show.
“This is a depressing confirmation of the clinical experience of child and adolescent psychiatrists’ experience on the ground,” said Dr Peter Hindley, chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Experts said the rises were likely to be due to a variety of factors, including pressure to succeed at school, the damaging effects of social media, family breakup, growing inequality in recent years, children’s body-image fears, a history of abuse, including sexual abuse, and increasing sexualisation.
- Young offenders
- Looked-After Children
- Gang involvement
Among LGBT youth, they find that:
- 44% of young (16-24 year old) LGBT people have considered suicide. This echoes the PACE findings misused by Mermaids, and the NHS.
Young Minds Mental Health statistics: http://www.youngminds.org.uk/about/whats_the_prob…
What is far from clear is that ‘transgender’ children present a special case. The majority would have grown up to be gay if left alone: being an LGB child is a high risk factor in itself. It’s extremely unlikely that violent body modifications and hormonal assaults can in any way mitigate the bullying such a child may experience among their peers – and bullying leads to depressive behaviours including self harm.
Furthermore, ‘social’ transitioning risks physical harm to a growing child, especially for girls. Breast binding can and does cause fractured ribs, permanently broken blood vessels leading to clots and heart attack, collapsed lungs and permanent back problems. Ongoing hormonal treatment brings serious lifetime health risks, not to mention sterility. Socially transitioning itself increases the likelihood that a child will proceed. It’s not known whether interrupting puberty prevents full maturation of the brain: frontal lobe functions such as theory of mind and social skills develop between puberty onset and the mid-twenties; altering the biochemistry at this stage could impair the process. Reconstructed genitals rarely work as expected.
See our links below for first-person transgender advice.
Overall, transitioning seems like a heavy answer to the problem of teenage depression, which is not unique to, or worse for, gender-questioning kids. There’s little evidence that it even works. Yet Mermaids, with almost cult-like tunnel vision, continue to insist their children’s problems are special and their solution the only way.
It’s widely accepted that suicide and self-harm can be contagious. For this reason, there are guidelines in place for suicide reporting which, by and large, seem to be respected by the media. The one glaring exception is the trans community, which actually exaggerates the rates of suicide and raises a vast media circus whenever a death is (rightly or wrongly) ascribed to gender transitioning.
This creates a real risk of encouraging suicide.
By announcing that trans people are an unmitigated suicide risk we are telling them and their families that they are likely to commit suicide. People are very suggestible. If you are told that 50% of people like you will be suicidal, you’re more likely on a dark day to assume this is your signal to join them. Parents who think their child is suicidal may treat them differently and make different decisions based on that information.
In its haste to ‘prove’ transgender people deserve special treatment, Mermaids is very irresponsible.
Other links for background:
Child gender identity referrals show huge rise in six years (BBC, 2016): http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-35532491
“Gender identity clinic services under strain as referral rates soar” Guardian 2016: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/10/transgender-clinic-waiting-times-patient-numbers-soar-gender-identity-services
House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Equality report, 2015: https://fairplayforwomen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/390.pdf
? 2,078 people were surveyed, of which 120 were trans. Of those 120, 27 were under 26 and make up the ‘youth trans’ on which Mermaid TG’s slide is based. So their ‘shocking statistics’ equate to a very small number of people – 59%, 16 people. 48%, 13 people. It’s very different to a large scale survey and doesn’t have anything like the same weight. This is without examining how a statistician is to determine whether a respondent is transgender in terms applicable to the survey population as a whole.
As a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analysis with a difficult-to-access cohort, the survey had acknowledged limitations (stating: “Ultimately our findings can only be considered valid for our samples.”) It seems to have reflected NHS data reasonably well, as did similarly-structured studies by Young Minds and others. None of these sources can possibly yield reliable data on trans people as differentiated from LGB or other at-risk people (including women); transgenderist groups should not be trying to claim they do.
Others have noted that by far the most appalling number in the NHS’s very robust report relates to ESA recipients: we’re not, however, seeing any Government ministers rush to alter our legal structure in favour of people with disabilities over any other sector. Maria Miller should be more circumspect when considering transgender arguments.