First-of-its-kind community space for trans and non-binary youth to open in Northern Ireland

Mermaids House will open its doors on June 8, and thereafter serve trans, non-binary and gender diverse youth and their families throughout the UK and Ireland.

This article is about a new community space for trans youth in Northern Ireland. The image shows a crowd of people at Pride, with a pink banner reading
Image: Sang Cheng via Shutterstock

A first-of-its-kind community space for trans, non-binary and gender-diverse youth is coming to Northern Ireland. Officially titled Mermaids House, it will open its doors on Saturday, June 8.

The community space will serve as the home to the Northern Irish brand of Mermaids, formerly known as Support Acceptance Information & Learning (SAIL). Since 1995, Mermaids has been one of the leading charities for trans youth in Britain. It offers support through its helpline and webchat, builds community through safeguarded online and in-person groups, hosts educational workshops and campaigns for trans young people’s access to healthcare and supportive schooling. 

At its address on 138 University Street, Belfast, Mermaids House will be dedicated to providing a safe space for trans, non-binary and gender-diverse children, young people and their families from anywhere across the UK and Ireland. It will host weekly groups, fun events and activities, and with the support of local communities, deliver services across multiple counties, cities and towns from Fermanagh to Newry to Lisburn and beyond.



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Ahead of its opening, Director of Mermaid’s Northern Ireland Nicola Doran said: “We are really excited to be able to provide a concrete space to our service users, volunteers and wider community, whose support we have fortunately been able to count on over the years.

“Right now, the discourse on trans rights across the UK is especially harmful and divisive. Transphobic hate crime in the UK has peaked, and we have slid to a woeful 16th place according to the Rainbow Map’s index of queer-friendly countries in Europe.

“Against this backdrop, it’s more important now than ever that we can hold space for our community, whilst empowering the next generation as best as we can,” Doran concluded.

Reflecting the impact that a space like Mermaids House can have on families in Northern Ireland, Aoife Walsh, the mother of a trans girl, commented: “A memory that I will always cherish. Taking my daughter to the Belfast local group for the first time. Knowing there are other families out there, who are also on a similar journey and that I am not alone, means the world to me.”



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