A pivotal moment

Uh oh. Are terfs about to be shoved off the naughty step by merfs?

Mermaids, that’s what the M stands for. We take you now to Sydney for

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.

She what? Where did she get it? Did she murder a mermaid? Did she buy it on the black market from someone who murdered a mermaid? Those things don’t just come off like a pair of jeans you know – they’re the mermaid’s below the waist body.

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.

Oh a synthetic mermaid tail – you should have said that in the first place. Anyway, cool – trans isn’t enough any more, now we have to add pretend-fish-shape to our bottom halves to make it exciting again.

And it marked the beginning of her immersion into a watery world where she would find acceptance.

Acceptance? From whom? Fish? Squid? Dolphins? Coral?

“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.

She teaches mermaiding. Huh. Who taught her? The mermaid whose bottom half she’s now wearing?

Across the world, there are thousands more merfolk like her — at its simplest, humans of all shapes, genders and backgrounds who enjoy dressing up as mermaids. In recent years, a growing number have gleefully flocked to mermaid conventions and competitions, formed local groups called “pods,” launched mermaid magazines and poured their savings into a multimillion-dollar mermaid tail industry.

And activism, right? Harassing people who don’t believe people can be mermaids? Going to their conferences to shout and bang on the windows?

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.

All identities are valid. Scales are for everyone. Mermaids are being their authentic selves.

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.

The war between the thin mermaids and the body-positive mermaids is raging.

Merfolk acknowledge their almost-utopia is occasionally rocked by stormy seas. As mermaiding’s popularity has risen, so too has the prevalence of creeps known as “merverts,” and scam artists who sell non-existent tails, says Kelly Hygema, creator of the Facebook group “Mermaids Beware: Scammers, Merverts, & More.”

Selling non-existent tails! People can be so evil.

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