Support group or transgender lobby? Representing Mermaids in the British press




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Taylor and Francis



Peer reviewed



This article examines representations of Mermaids, a charity that supports trans young people and their families, in the British press. Using corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, we identify and chart patterns in reporting between Mermaids’ inception as a charity in 2015, and 2022, a turbulent year for both the charity and trans people in the UK more generally. The findings show that, in the early years, there is relatively little attention to Mermaids in the press. Where they are mentioned, the charity is represented as a useful source of advice and support, and their service users as happy and united. However, 2018 represents a turning point, with increasingly negative and misleading portrayals of Mermaids coinciding with a rise in public interest and funding. By 2019, media interest in the charity has surged and the impression of Mermaids as a support group for families is supplanted by the image of a powerful, dangerous and controversial organisation. We argue that the increasingly excessive, negative and polarised reporting around Mermaids is a strategy for indirectly delegitimising and attacking the lives of trans young people themselves. In a burgeoning culture war, Mermaids is used as a weapon against the very people they seek to support.


open access article


British news media, Mermaids, transgender, young people, corpus-assisted CDA


Bailey, A. and Mackenzie, J. (2023) Support group or transgender lobby? Representing Mermaids in the British press, Critical Discourse Studies


Research Institute

Institute of English