After Transphobic Attacks, Mermaids Helpline Temporarily Suspends Service

· Updated on March 23, 2023

Mermaids, a UK charity organization that provides resources and support to transgender youth, has been forced to shut down its helpline due to an uptick in “intolerable abuse.” The rise in transphobic callers abusing a life-saving helpline coincides with the publication of a series of articles in The Telegraph attacking the charity.

Mermaids shut down the helpline on October 6, writing on Twitter and their website, “Due to intolerable abuse, we have made the decision to close the helpline and webchat services for the rest of today and tomorrow. Next week, to enable us to take all volunteers off the rota, we will reduce hours to 9am to 6pm only.

“We do not make this decision lightly, but our duty of care towards staff and volunteers necessitates a harm reduction approach to protect our dedicated staff and volunteer team. We hope to be able to resume normal working hours as soon as possible.”

The decision was met with outrage at the bigots abusing the helpline.

Mermaids has been wracked by negative press coverage in recent weeks, which has likely spurred the harassment campaign. Most has been published by The Telegraph, starting with a September 25 article accusing the charity of giving chest binders to minors without parental consent. This was based on an email exchange between a Mermaids staff member and an adult reporter impersonating a trans adolescent, which included extensive guidance on binder safety, according to PinkNews.

Shortly afterwards, The Telegraph published an article insinuating that the provision of chest binders could be considered child abuse by falsely comparing it with the violent practice of breast ironing. The paper later inaccurately claimed that Mermaids was under investigation by the Charity Commission over concerns with their safeguarding of minors. In fact, PinkNews reports that the Charity Commission did not conduct a formal investigation. They contacted Mermaids to ensure the charity is meeting regulations, and they did so because of the complaints they received as a direct result of The Telegraph’s coverage.

Earlier this month, The Times reported that a trustee of Mermaids, Jacob Breslow, had spoken at a pedophile support group in 2012. Breslow immediately quit, and Mermaids apologized, launching a review of its hiring and recruitment practices. But the damage had already been done, with anti-LGBTQ+ trolls (including You Know Who) seizing on yet another opportunity to link queer people with pedophiles. And at the center of it all are trans youth, who now are losing access to a vital helpline thanks to a coordinated effort by transphobes.

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