From the Associated Press:
By KRISTEN GELINEAU
SYDNEY (AP) — There was a pivotal moment in Queen Pangke Tabora’s life that eclipsed all others: It was the moment, she says, when she first slid her legs into a mermaid tail.
For the transgender Filipina woman approaching middle age, seeing her legs encased in vibrant, scaly-looking neoprene three years ago was the realization of a childhood dream. And it marked the beginning of her immersion into a watery world where she would find acceptance. The former insurance company worker described the experience of gliding under water, half-human and half-fish, as “meditation in motion.”
“The feeling was mermai-zing,” Tabora said one recent morning while lounging in a fiery red tail on a rocky beach south of Manila, where she now teaches mermaiding and freediving full-time. “The world outside is really noisy and you will find peace under water. … It’s a good skill in the real world, especially during the pandemic.”
Across the world, there are thousands more merfolk like her …
Away from the critics and chaos of life on land, mer-world is the kinder, gentler and more joyful alternative to the real world. It is also a world, merfolk say, where you can be whoever and whatever you want.
That openness attracts some transgender people who empathize with Ariel’s agony of being trapped in a body that feels wrong. It is also inspiring to merfolk like Che Monique, the Washington, D.C.-based founder of the Society of Fat Mermaids, which promotes body-positive mermaiding.
“I’m a 300-pound Black mermaid in America over 35, and hopefully that tells somebody they can do whatever they want to do,” says Monique, whose group sells shirts that read ‘Fat mermaids make waves’ and ‘Gender is fluid under the sea.’ “Sure, on the one hand it is really silly, but I’ve watched it change people’s lives.” …
“When you put your mermaid tail on at the beach or pool, you become a superstar,” says Henault, whose company runs mermaiding schools across Canada and the United States. …
An obsession with “The Little Mermaid” is common among merfolk, and there is anticipation of a fresh wave of mermaiding interest when a live action reboot of the film is released next year. …
Henault, who competed at the world championship, hopes to help get mermaiding to the Olympics, potentially as a demonstration sport. …
Mermaid Nymphia grew up as a male-presenting child of the 1990s, and gender norms dashed her dream of dressing up as her idol, Ariel. Years later, as an adult transgender woman, her dream was finally realized when her mother helped her sew her first mermaid costume.
Nymphia would later discover a diverse community of like-minded mers online, and, on the suggestion of her mother, turned her lifelong obsession into a profession. The Los Angeles-based Nymphia has since appeared at everything from children’s parties to corporate events, and in 2019 served as a trans merfolk ambassador at the California Mermaid Convention.
The transformation theme of fish to human in “The Little Mermaid” is inspiring to a subsection of the LGBTQ community, Nymphia says.
“With transgender and nonbinary merfolk, they often connect with that mentality where you’re not quite sure which world you belong in, but you’re able to be this alluring creature of the sea and live as your most authentic self,” Nymphia says. “I know a lot of people who have found their gender identity, myself included, through mermaiding.”
… “As transgender, it’s a transition,” Tabora says. “It’s like in the sea, everything evolves. The fish evolve, the coral evolves.”
Dalestair Kidd, whose “mersona” is Mermaid Salacia: South Australia’s Sea Witch, found the mermaiding community reassuringly accepting when Kidd came out as transgender and nonbinary.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, we all share this love of the ocean,” says Kidd, the proud winner of Mercon Australia’s 2017 Miss Congeniality “Sandra Bull-Shark” award. “You can pick a name if your birth name doesn’t suit you. You don’t have to be whatever you were assigned at birth. You can pick your pronouns. … And that’s OK, because fish don’t care about pronouns!”
… The tails have also raised safety concerns with several consumer groups. A 2018 study of 25 children by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia found that a majority experienced an average decrease in their swimming ability of 70% while using mermaid fins and 60% while using tails. …
How long until this becomes an Identity and schools and businesses are ordered to carry the mermaid-identifying around in sedan chairs until they can be returned to their natural environment?