The National Lottery Community Fund will proceed with a £500,000 grant to Mermaids UK, a charity for transgender children and their families, after an anti-trans campaign prompted a review of the proposed funding.
A source has told BuzzFeed News that the review was vigorous and far-reaching in examining the concerns raised against the planned grant, which would enable the charity to set up localised support for young trans people. The grant, to be paid out over the course of five years, represents 0.1% of the money raised by the lottery each year to fund community projects.
Opponents of Mermaids' work had accused the charity of encouraging children into medical transition, of promoting the notion that transgender children exist, and of being part of a "cult".
In a statement posted to its website, the National Lottery Community Fund said: "Following public interest regarding the proposed grant to Mermaids UK, The National Lottery Community Fund undertook a review of a number of concerns expressed in relation to the charity.
"This review did not find any grounds to withhold funding from Mermaids UK. The grant has therefore been approved by the England Funding Committee. As part of our grant management process, we will work closely with Mermaids UK to ensure they are supported in their development."
The outcome of the review will be seen as a major victory for the charity and for the progress of transgender inclusion in Britain, following a backlash against trans individuals and organisations over the past year, which peaked amid the outcry over Mermaids.
Susie Green, the CEO of Mermaids, said in a statement: "For Mermaids, the review was an opportunity both to affirm the value of increasing direct support with local groups, alongside training delivery and research development, and to demonstrate to the Fund that the charity was well positioned to produce and manage these initiatives.
"Mermaids will now be able do more to improve outcomes and experiences for transgender and gender-diverse children and young people."
Mermaids, which was established in 1995, works to support the rights of trans children, to raise awareness of the issues young trans people face, and to improve the emotional wellbeing of those transitioning and their families.
In December 2018, a post on the Mumsnet website prompted members of the public to email the National Lottery Community Fund, previously named the Big Lottery Fund until January, opposing the pledged grant.
Although the nongovernmental funding body, which raised money through the National Lottery, did not reveal how many messages it had received, a spokesperson announced in December, “in light of the nature and volume of the communication we have received, we have decided to undertake a review of this grant."
The Mumsnet post against the proposed grant was started by Irish comedian Graham Linehan, who has written some sitcoms and does not have training or expertise in the treatment protocol of trans children.
“The idea of 45 Mermaids clinics opening round the country is terrifying,” Linehan wrote. He attached what he said was a note from a “friend” who opined that Mermaids has an “extreme ideological agenda”, stating without evidence that 80% of trans children would simply end up with a “same-sex orientation” if “left alone”, and urging Mumsnet users to email the CEO of the Big Lottery Fund, and posted her email address.
Shortly after, a spokesperson announced the review while revealing the messages received were both critical and supportive of the organisation.
Mermaids' Green said in a statement at the time: “It is very sad to see that a white, privileged man has decided that he knows better than the parents and young people directly affected, seeking to undermine funding for often lifesaving support for children to achieve their best in the face of bigotry and prejudice.”
Linehan has become a prominent opponent to trans rights over the last year, mostly using Twitter to criticise trans people, notions of trans inclusion, and organisations that support the LGBT community.
After receiving a police warning notice in October 2018 following a harassment allegation from a trans woman, Linehan gave a radio interview in December 2018 in which he likened the current climate surrounding debates over trans rights to the emergence of Nazism in 1930s Germany. This prompted Twitter users to remind him that the Nazis gassed members of the LGBT community.
Linehan’s campaign against Mermaids backfired somewhat. In response, YouTuber Harry Brewis, whose online moniker is Hbomberguy, last month began playing the video game Donkey Kong 64 for as long as he could, streaming his attempt while raising money for Mermaids UK. Several public figures appeared on the livestream including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the pro-trans feminist congresswoman; Chelsea Manning; and journalists Paris Lees and Owen Jones.
The grant will enable the charity, which has won several awards, to establish a network of 45 local groups across the country to carry out its work, primarily paying for extra staff.
Trans organisations and campaigners have repeatedly highlighted the scarcity, and in some areas a total absence, of gender identity clinics, which they say heightens the need for emotional and familial support. There is only one gender identity clinic in England for trans people under the age of 18.