Celebrity supporters of controversial trans charity Mermaids gave it ‘unprecedented influence’

Susie Green, the chief executive of Mermaids - Getty Images Europe
Susie Green, the chief executive of Mermaids - Getty Images Europe

JK Rowling appears to have criticised celebrities, including Emma Watson, for helping trans charity Mermaids gain “unprecedented influence”.

The author made the remarks in the wake of revelations that a trustee, Dr Jacob Breslow, spoke at a conference hosted by an organisation that promotes services for paedophiles who need professional help.

Dr Breslow’s presentation appeared to be a critique of how paedophiles were understood.

Writing on Twitter, Rowling said: “We’ve now learned that Mermaids appointed a paedophilia apologist as Trustee and that their online moderator encouraged kids to move onto a platform notorious for sexual exploitation.

“This is a charity that’s achieved unprecedented influence in the UK.

“They couldn’t have achieved it without the money and public support of certain corporations and celebrities, who eagerly boosted them even though the red flags have been there for years. Mermaids’ fingers were all over the Tavistock Gender Identity Clinic debacle.

“They’ve been allowed into classrooms, trained police and had unprecedented influence over health policy, even though by their own admission they aren’t a medical charity.

“We’ve also found out they’re sending devices to flatten breasts to underage girls w/o parental consent.”

High-profile support for charity

Celebrities who have publicly backed Mermaids in the past include the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry Potter star Emma Watson and Jameela Jamil.

In 2020, Watson posted on Twitter announcing she had donated to Mermaids and encouraged others to do the same.

She added: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are.

“I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

India Willoughby, a transgender TV presenter, also criticised Rowling’s comments and said: “Someone really needs to take legal action against JK Rowling. This is off the scale.”

In response, Rowling said: “India, I swear to God, if you want to start a petition for Mermaids to take me on in court, the first signature will be mine.”

Rowling rebukes defence of allegations

She made a further series of accusations on Wednesday rebuking the supporters of the charity who tried to defend against the allegations.

She said: “I note the genderists are now arguing that it doesn’t matter that a paedophilia apologist was a trustee of a trans children’s charity, because he was ‘only one’.”

Rowling added: “You still prefer wilful blindness and four word mantras to considering you might have got this badly wrong.

“You became part of an authoritarian, misogynist, homophobic movement and you didn’t even notice. Enjoy the sense of your own righteousness while you can. It won’t last.”

Dr Breslow, who quit his role on Monday night, was a graduate student in gender research at the London School of Economics when he gave a presentation at an event for the US-based B4U-ACT in 2011.

According to its website, B4U-ACT promotes services and resources “for self-identified individuals… who are sexually attracted to children and desire such assistance”.

Its “scientific symposium” was hosted in Baltimore, Maryland, in August 2011, to address concerns about the way paedophilia was addressed in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a publication by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) for the classification of mental disorders.

Dr Breslow’s presentation was titled Sexual Alignment: Critiquing Sexual Orientation, The Pedophile, and the DSM V.

A brief extract of the presentation, still available online, said: “This paper works through the DSM’s struggle to understand ‘the pedophile’ through an investigation of the highly questionable and deeply assumptive clinical, empirical and theoretical studies it cites.”

The transgender charity, which has been hit with a wave of allegations in recent months, told the Times it was unaware of his appearance at the 2011 conference.

Mermaids faces investigation by Charity Commission

Last month an investigation by The Telegraph revealed the charity was giving potentially dangerous chest-flattening devices to 14-year-olds against their parents’ wishes.

Staff with no medical training were also found to have given advice to users, who they believe were as young as 13, that controversial hormone-blocking drugs are safe and “totally reversible”.

The organisation is now being investigated by the Charity Commission as a result of the allegations.

Speaking to the BBC in response to the allegations, the transgender children’s charity said: “Mermaids has been made aware of Dr Breslow’s historical participation in a conference that is completely at odds with our values.

“Once notified we took swift and decisive action to investigate. Dr Breslow tendered his notice on the same day.

“We will be reviewing our processes and procedures in light of this event to make them even more robust.

“Safeguarding is of the utmost importance to Mermaids and the safety of the young people we support is our highest priority.”

Dr Breslow also released a statement, saying: “I unequivocally condemn child sexual abuse. My work is about protecting marginalised children and young people, not exposing them to harm.

“It was my understanding in 2011 that B4U-ACT was an organisation that promotes treatments to prevent offending by paedophiles. I believed at the time that the purpose of the conference was to enable better treatments and interventions that prevent harm to children. I would not have attended the symposium otherwise. I have not been affiliated with B4U-ACT since.

“I decided to resign as a Trustee of Mermaids as I did not want to distract from the good work the charity is doing to help transgender and gender diverse children.”