Why the National Autistic Society were right to reverse their decision on award winning charity Mermaids

This post was originally posted to Lib Dem Voice in October 2018.

This week, in a move described as “worrying” by LGBT+ Lib Dems, the National Autistic Society removed all links to the trans youth charity Mermaids from their Gender page. Yesterday they reversed their decision and apologised. As a trans person with autism myself, I know it’s crucial that signposting to proper support is essential.

I was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old. It’s a diagnosis that has been constantly rechecked throughout my life.

When, aged 16, I came out as transgender, one of the first things I faced was disbelief in my Gender Identity by medical professionals because of my autism. Instead of seeing gender specialists, I was sent back to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).

I turned to Mermaids for support, who helped me secure a referral to the Tavistock and Portman NHS Gender Identity Services. If Mermaids had not have been there for me, I likely would’ve continued to experience rejection of treatment because of my autism. I continue to be asked about my autism at Gender Identity appointments, despite it being repeatedly addressed.

My experience is just a small snippet of why these charities should work together to ensure there are signposts to the right support for young transgender people with autism. Research shows that transgender people are disproportionately likely to be on the autism spectrum.

LGBT+ Lib Dems were among those highlighting the original decision and rightly calling it worrying;

I’m thankful that the National Autistic Society realised quickly they made a mistake and worked hard to fix it. Thanks to people supporting autistic trans people, and the NAS reacting quickly. I know that more people will be supported in accessing support.

People’s perception of my autism diagnosis nearly stopped me from being able to be myself. I hope that other trans people soon won’t have to face similar identity policing. You can help make that a reality by responding to the Government’s consultation on the Gender Recognition Act until 19th October. There are guides available from both Stonewall and LGBT+ Lib Dems.

I dedicate this article to Kayden Clarke, a trans man who was shot dead by police in February 2016. He’d just been denied treatment because of his autism.