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National Autistic Society cuts links to transgender charity

Nick Duffy October 5, 2018

The UK’s National Autistic Society (NAS) has erased all mentions of transgender charity Mermaids from its website, following “enquiries” from unidentified members of the public.

Research shows that transgender people are disproportionately likely to be on the autism spectrum, and the neurodiversity support sector has slowly adapted materials to cater to LGBT+ people.

But every link to Mermaids, which focuses on supporting transgender and non-binary children, has now been deleted from the NAS website’s support section.

In a statement to PinkNews, a NAS spokesperson said: “Following enquiries to the charity, we have recently removed some links from our Gender and autism webpage. This change in our information is not the result of a change in our support for people to make their own decisions, but a reflection of our desire to make sure people get the best information on this topic. We believe that Stonewall and the NHS are better-placed to make sure that people find out about the most supportive and reputable organisations to help.

“Issues around gender are highly contested—and not our area of expertise. By following links via Stonewall and the NHS, people can get to a range of different sources of support and information. Importantly, these sources are being assessed by organisations that are more centrally involved in these issues than we are. We are also adding advice that people always review a range of different information about such an important issue.

“We believe that directing people via other, more expert sources is the best approach. As with all our information, we will keep this position under review and will continue to listen to feedback from autistic people, their families and experts.”

Links to Mermaids have been erased from the NAS website. (Screenshot)

The NAS decision was celebrated by some members of internet parenting forum Mumsnet. A post published on Thursday by the user “twofalls” cited a NAS representative responding to a complaint from a member of the public—identified as a “friend” of the poster who is not a member of the forum.

In the Mumsnet post, a NAS representative was quoted as saying: “In light of the concerns raised in your message, and of other feedback that we have received, we have decided to remove all links to Mermaids UK from our website, while we take the time to consult with relevant professionals and to reconsider which organisations we wish to place links to on our website.

“As such, our Web Team are working to remove all links to Mermaids UK from our website as soon as possible.”

It added: “Thank you again for bringing this to our attention, and I hope that you are satisfied with the actions we are taking in light of the concerns that you have raised.”

Mumsnet is used as an organising platform by anti-transgender activists. (Screenshot)

Asked about Mumsnet users’ interest in the organisation’s links to Mermaids, a NAS spokesperson told PinkNews: “Our Supporter Care team responded to enquiries from members of the public and explained that we would remove a link while we considered. We were not aware of any targeted campaign.”

PinkNews has approached Mermaids for comment.

Laura Kate Dale, the author of upcoming memoir Uncomfortable Labels: My Life as a Gay Autistic Trans Woman, criticised NAS for the decision.

“The news [is] a huge blow for the proper education of autistic youth and their parents on the overlaps observed between autism and gender diversity,” she told PinkNews.

“It has been recognised by multiple studies, including studies previously hosted on the National Autistic Society’s own website, that there’s around an eight to ten fold increase in autism diagnosis in the the trans community and vice versa compared to the general population.

“While we don’t know exactly why, we do know that autistic kids are more likely to come out as trans or non binary in their life, and that overlap is very rarely discussed by healthcare practitioners during the diagnostic or aftercare process for either group.”

She added: “Taking links to a well respected trans youth support charity away from their website takes away a link to somewhere I would wholeheartedly trust to give accurate advice on how to support kids on the autism spectrum who are in that statistically high area of overlap where gender dysphoria is experienced.

“The National Autistic Society have been fearmongered by transphobic rhetoric into removing one of the most high profile examples of an autism group explaining this overlap and who might be able to help with it from the internet, and as someone who lives in this overlap, as well as having heavily researched it for a book, this feels like a real step backwards.

“I implore the National Autistic Society to please reconsider their position, and put the established research into the validity of this overlap above the fearmongering concerns of a group trying to erase me and those like me from public life.”

National Autistic Society

Mermaids has been a frequent target of anti-transgender campaigners. The Sunday Times newspaper retracted a number of false claims about Mermaids from an article in January.

The newspaper admitted claims that the group advocates “fast-track cross-sex hormone treatment for children” was false.

Anti-trans campaigners previously unsuccessfully attempted to pressure the Girl Guides and Caledonian Railways to revoke trans-inclusive policies.

More: autism, LGBT, Trans, Transgender

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