SYDNEY (AP) – There was a pivotal moment in Queen Pangke Tabora’s life that eclipsed all others: it was the moment she first twisted her legs into a mermaid’s tail.
For a transgender Filipina woman who was approaching middle age, seeing her feet in vibrant, crooked-looking neoprene three years ago was a childhood dream come true. And this marked the beginning of his immersion in a watery world where he would find acceptance. The former insurance company employee described the experience of gliding underwater, half human and half fish, as “meditating in motion.”
“The feeling was marmai-zing,” said Tabora while walking in a fiery red tail on a rocky beach south of Manila, where she now teaches mermaid and free-diving full-time. “The outside world is really noisy.” Wally and you will find peace under the water. … It is a good skill to have in the real world, especially during a pandemic.”
Around the world, there are thousands more fiancées like her – the simplest, humans of all sizes, genders and backgrounds who enjoy dressing up as mermaids. In recent years, an increasing number have gleefully participated in mermaid conventions and competitions, forming local groups called “pods”, which launched mermaid magazines and poured their savings into a multi-million dollar mermaid tail industry. Gave.
On a planet stricken by war, disease and social upheaval, many merchants have found life in the water. Perhaps Sebastian, the ornate crab in the 1989 film “The Little Mermaid,” said it best in his warning to the land-loving mermaid Ariel: “The human world, it’s a mess. Life under the sea is better than anything else.” They were up there!”
Away from the critics and the chaos of life on land, Mer-World is a kinder, gentler, and more joyful alternative to the real world. This too is a world, say traders, where you can be whoever you want to be.
That openness attracts some transgender people who sympathize with the pain of being trapped in Ariel’s body that feels wrong. It’s also inspiring to businessmen like Che Monique, founder of the Washington, DC-based Society of Fat Mermaids, which promotes body-positive mermaids.
“I’m a 300-pound black mermaid in America over 35, and hopefully that tells someone they can do whatever they want,” says Monique, whose group sells shirts that say ‘Fat Mermaids’ Waves. ‘ and ‘The penis is fluid under the sea.’ “Of course, on the one hand it’s really silly, but I’ve seen it change people’s lives.”
After all, the ocean is vast, she notes, and most of the planet is covered in water. So why not dive in?
“I think there’s room under the ocean for all of us,” Monique says.
The allure of mermaiding is evident from Montreal’s home of Marielle Hainault, which is stuffed with mermaid tails to the gills.
They line her clothes racks and drawers, squeezed into suitcases and dripping from plastic storage tubs, slated for sale to “Merced” worldwide by the 31-year-old Aquamermade CEO. About 20 tails belong to Hainault himself.
“When you put your mermaid tail on the beach or pool, you become a superstar,” says Henault, whose company runs mermaid schools across Canada and the United States. “Children and adults, everyone is happy to see the mermaid!”
When mermaid first began to catch on, most tails for sale were custom-made silicone creations that weigh up to 23 kilograms (50 lb), cost more than $6,000 and contain a surprising amount of time and lubricant to wrestle. looks like. But over the years, the increasing availability of cheap, lightweight clothing options—some of which sell for less than $100—has transformed the mermaid community from an exclusive enclave for privileged professionals to an achievable dream for the wider public. Have given.
As mermaids went mainstream, glamorous pictures of dazzling mermaids in sparkly tails began to gain traction on social media, fueling the mer-mania. An obsession with “The Little Mermaid” is common among Murfolk, and anticipation of a new wave of mermaid interest is expected when a live-action reboot of the film is released next year.
Swimming in the tail takes practice, and has long been used by freedivers to require a piece of equipment called a monofin – a single fin into which both legs are inserted. A mermaid’s mastery of the dolphin kick is critical, along with equalization techniques to reduce ear pressure underwater.
PADI, SSI and NAUI, the world’s leading scuba diving certification organizations, now offer mermaid courses. There is even a World Mermaid Championship, last held in China in 2019, in which 70 mermaids were seen flipping over in a giant glass tank and presented in front of a panel of intense judges .
Hainault, who competes in the world championships, hopes to help get the mermaid into the Olympics, potentially as a demonstration sport. Several “Merlympics” events have been held in Europe and the UK in recent years.
Last weekend, Murfolk crowds lined the streets of New York for the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade. And mermaid conferences (“MERCON”) are now held globally. Last month, more than 300 merchants from across the US and Canada attended the California Mermaid Convention, which was, as described by convention co-founder Rachel Smith, “a three-day ‘shell-embracing’ of everything mermaid.” ” According to fellow co-founder Ashley Rastad, “‘Dolphins-Italy’ was a good time!” (Note: The mermaid community is steeped in punishment.)
For most Murfolks, it’s all a little tongue-in-cheek. But it is also very important. While swimming in the Sacramento pool where California convention mates were in attendance, Merman Maui summed up the importance of community this way: “I have a new family with all these people.”
“Life is a lot better when you learn to have a little fun, or a little bit of fun, because we all believe in magic,” says Maui. “At times, life can be very dull and boring. So why not just enjoy every aspect of it that you can?”
Mermaid can give you a chance to be something different. But it can also give you a chance to be more like yourself.
Mermaid Nymphia grew up as a male-presenting child in the 1990s, and gender norms dashed her dreams of dressing up as her idol, Ariel. Years later, as an adult transgender woman, her dream finally came true when her mother helped her sew her first mermaid outfit.
Nymphia would later find a diverse community of like-minded people online, and, at her mother’s suggestion, turned her lifelong passion into a profession. The Los Angeles-based Nymphia has since appeared at everything from children’s parties to corporate events, and served as a Trans Murfolk ambassador at the 2019 California Mermaid Convention.
The fish’s transformation into a human in “The Little Mermaid” is inspiring to a subsection of the LGBTQ community, says Nymphia.
“With transgender and nonbinary Murfolks, they often engage in that mindset where you’re not sure what world you’re in, but you’re able to be this fascinating creature of the ocean and live as your most authentic self, Says Nymphia. “I know a lot of people who have changed their gender identity, myself included, through mermaids.”
In the Philippines, Tabora also appreciates the inclusion of the mermaid community.
“You can accommodate young people, straight men and lesbians, older people,” says Tabora, whose mermaid school is called Diversity by Serenang Pengki. “Everyone can be a mermaid!”
He, too, found a connection between his personal transformation and the Mer-world. For him, it’s about growth—his own, and that of the ocean.
“As a transgender, it’s a transition,” Tabora says. “It’s like the ocean, everything evolves. Fish evolve, coral evolves.”
Delastair Kidd, whose “Mrsona” is mermaid Salasia: the Sea Witch of South Australia, found the mermaid community reassuringly accepting when Kidd came across as transgender and nonbinary.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, we all share this love of the ocean,” says Kidd, who is the proud winner of Mercon Australia’s 2017 Miss Congeniality “Sandra Bull-Shark” award. “You can choose a name if your birth name doesn’t suit you. You don’t have to be the one that was assigned to you at birth. You can choose your own pronouns. … And that’s okay, because fish pronouns doesn’t care!”
Merfolk admits that his almost-utopia is sometimes shaken by stormy seas. As the mermaid’s popularity has grown, so have the scam artists selling creeps and non-existent tails known as “merwarts”, according to the Facebook group “Mermaids Beware: Scammers, Merworts, and More”. Says producer Kelly Hygema.
“Being mermaids, it’s a primarily female-dominated hobby and profession… so it certainly gets the attention of strangers on the Internet,” says Hygema, who lives in the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. “Most of the time it’s just creepy comments, like they want to see you without a tail or hold your breath underwater.”
Hygema advises Murfolk to always have a reliable companion, or “mortender,” when performing tails-to-backs.
“Your legs are tied, you can’t really run, so it’s important to have that set of feet in there to make sure you’re okay,” she says.
Tails has also raised security concerns with several consumer groups. A 2018 study of 25 children by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia found that most experienced an average reduction in swimming ability of 70% when using mermaid fins and 60% when using tail. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission said it had received three reports of mermaid tail incidents in the past four years, the most serious of which involved a 5-year-old who was hospitalized after she put her arms inside the tail with her. had tucked in. foot and got stuck under water.
There’s even more reason why proper training is important, says Sydney Mermaids founder Lauren Metzler. Metzler received its advanced mermaid certification this month with the goal of teaching rookie merfolk how to avoid drowning in the ocean.
Dawn is near Sydney beach suburb Manly as Metzler strolls up to the harbor and slips into a shimmering pink and turquoise tail. She runs backwards along the sand and into the cool grey-blue water, catching some amusing grin from the passengers who are heading towards the pier near the city.
“Some people have coffee to wake them up in the morning, some people have a mermaid swim,” Metzler says with a laugh as she glides through the water, her skin adorned with glittery sequins. “It’s so much fun to swim in this tail!”
And at its core, it is for many traders: fun. There is a strong need to just indulge and enjoy creativity, says Metzler, especially after the COVID-related lockdown.
“The more we open up to our imagination and accept everyone for how they are, it makes it a beautiful experience,” she says. “The sky – or the ocean floor – is the limit to what you can do with a mermaid.”
Associated Press journalist Serginho Rosblad in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.