That loveable crab Sebastian had a point when he sang: “Life is better under the sea”. And as mermaid enthusiasts the world over strap on their tails and hit the waves, not only are they finding peace and joy, but also acceptance and a sense of community.
Fin-tastic! Growing ‘mermaiding’ subculture makes a splash
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 realisation of a childhood dream. And it marked the beginning of her immersion into a watery world where she would find acceptance. The former insurance 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 — 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”, and poured their savings into a multimillion-dollar mermaid-tail industry.