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Statement: On the NAS’ removal and reinstating of Mermaids’ information

This is a statement regarding the National Autistic Society’s decision to remove information from Mermaids, a trans youth support network, from their website. This also discusses their decision to reinstate it after mass objection online. This occurred over the week commencing 01/10/2018.

In a move that the National Autistic Society indicated did not “follow [their] usual process”, information provided on the group’s website regarding Mermaids was removed after complaints made by several anti-trans groups, particularly anti-trans parents groups. They quickly apologised after many autistic activists, especially trans and non-binary autistic activists, raised their serious concerns regarding this decision.

For a moment, the National Autistic Society aligned themselves with transphobic parents of autistic and non-autistic children. For a moment, they turned away autistic trans and nonbinary people making use of support networks they desperately need. For a moment, it seemed that trans and non-binary people, and in particular autistic trans and non-binary people, may be just and afterthought for the organisation as a whole.

We are thankful that the National Autistic Society is to reinstate online support for Mermaids, as well as their apology. However, we are concerned that this happened in the first place. Groups aiming to destabilise and undermine support for marginalised groups don’t always appear as such at first glance. They just seem “concerned”, “worried” or otherwise anxious about a certain group, using this facade to conceal malicious intent. In this case, it is clear that these groups were successful in their actions.

Whilst the NAS stated they do support the right of autistic people to “decide their own gender”, this may not be felt by trans, non-binary and otherwise gender non-conforming autistics who saw their very support networks stripped from the site with no explanation. Any continuing concerns are completely understandable and valid. Not only that, but the belief that gender is “chosen” is one that undermines the identity of many trans people. Your gender isn’t something that you choose – it is something, much like being autistic, that you are.

The fact this was done in a method that did not follow process is also inappropriate. This indicates that supporting these individuals is something that is not cemented within the NAS.

It is also concerning that this comes after a rebrand in which they indicated they aim to “reflect the world as it is now [… to create] a society that works for autistic people”. After being made aware of the above information, alongside information that individuals looking into gender identity had been made redundant around the time of the rebrand. This commitment could be easily undermined, which worries many of us. Society needs to work for trans and non-binary autistic people, too.

We wish to praise the online trans and nonbinary autistic community for fighting to ensure their own support. Currently, the environment towards autistic people is poor at best, and no better towards trans and non-binary people. When the mental and physical health of people in both groups is at risk on a near-constant basis, taking a stand on this level is commendable.

Autistic UK wishes to ensure we fully support all trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. We will soon provide important information from Mermaids on our website for individuals to make use of. We will also be providing contact information for other national and local-based trans- and LGBT+ support networks.

Not only do we need a society within which autistic people are recognised as valuable by the simplicity of being, so too do we look toward a society that is trans-inclusive, recognising the fluid nature of gender and the validity of all individuals regardless of it.

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