Susie Green is the Chair of Mermaids UK, a charity which offers support to transgender children and teens. She spoke to Gabriel Samuels about her experiences and the work undertaken by Mermaids.
As a mother, Susie Green has had more previous experience understanding children with gender identity issues than most.
“When she was five, after we got home from school, my child came to me and told me she was in the wrong body, she said she wanted to be a girl.”
“I didn’t know what to do – so I called Mermaids, and they helped to lead us through the whole thing, from start to finish. That kind of backup was invaluable.”
Susie and Jackie
At the age of 16, Jackie Green (née Jack) underwent gender reassignment surgery in Thailand with her mother Susie by her side – becoming the youngest person in the world to have the operation.
Jackie’s incredible story has since seen her achieve success as a model, making it to the finals of the Miss England Championships in 2012.
Susie meanwhile has taken charge of Mermaids as its Chair – and is fully focused on getting more support out to teens like Jackie.
Formed back in 1995 by a group of parents of children with gender dysphoria, Mermaids UK is a support group which for almost twenty years has acted as a front-line between teens with gender identity issues and the help to overcome the “difficulties and trauma” they are going through.
“Alot of the kids that phone us up are feeling completely lost, pretty desperate and defenseless.”
“They’ve often got no-one else to turn to at that point in their lives.”
“They feel isolated and rejected – sometimes by their families, by their communities – because of the way they are. We give them a place to come for help.”
Now Mermaids, which is run entirely by volunteers is in the process of attempting to secure additional funding to expand their work to get more young people the support they need.
Susie is currently one of three mothers manning the helpline at Mermaids – one of whom is a qualified psychotherapist – but she says they need more manpower to cope with demand.
“Sometimes we get several calls in a day, sometimes one a week – but over the past couple of years the number of teenagers coming to us has risen quite staggeringly.”
In July of this year The Tavistock and Portman Hospital, which supports gender identity patients, reported a 50% rise in transgender referrals since 2012.
“Our main aim is to get more information out there”
Mermaids are also beginning to work more alongside schools with London and Leeds to give advice to parents and help them through the experience.
“What we really want to do is to bring parents together into a shared community, so that they never have to feel as if they’re alone.”
“The best help we can give them is letting them talk to someone who has dealt with the same issues themselves – you can’t compare with that experience.”
The group is in the process of engaging more heavily with the NHS and The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) in a bid improve support and therapy services for vulnerable teens.
We’re all about forcing these conversations into the mainstream
Yet for all the proactive work that Mermaids is doing, Susie says it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as attitudes to gender identity are concerned.
“Our main aim is to get more information out there. So many of the issues we want to get people talking about are still stigmatized, still misunderstood.”
“We’re all about forcing these conversations into the mainstream – so that children and teenagers don’t feel afraid to raise their concerns and seek help.”
“If we can get just some way towards improving the lives of young people in those situations, it will be a job well done.”
If you need someone to talk to, contact the Mermaids hotline on 0208 1234819 or email firstname.lastname@example.org