Lucy Meadows was a 32 year old primary teacher in Accrington. She was popular with her students. Three months ago she started the challenging process of transitioning to live as a woman. People who are transitioning need to be afforded human dignity, and more than a little peace. It’s an awkward, stressful time. She was well supported by the school principal, who requested in a newsletter that after break, students refer to her as “Miss Meadows”.
Unfortunately, Lucy Meadows was subjected to a derisive article in the Daily Mail, where columnist Richard Littlejohn led with the inflammatory headline:
“He’s not only in the wrong body… he’s in the wrong job”
Littlejohn went on to argue that having a transgender teacher might have a “devastating effect” on Miss Meadow’s pupils.
Littlejohn’s article started a press furore. The local press went as far as even trying to pay parents for a photo of MIss Meadows. The Guardian quotes Jane Fae, Trans writer and acquaintance of Lucy, as saying:
“Lucy writes [in an email to another friend] of how parents themselves complained that their attempts to provide positive comments about her were rebuffed,” Fae said. “The press gang, it seems, were only interested in one story: the outrage, the view from the bigots”.
On Tuesday morning, Lucy was found dead following suicide.
Grossly enough the Daily Mail have defended Richard Littlejohn. You can sign a petition calling for him to be fired here.
Lucy’s death is a tragedy. It’s not good enough that the Daily Mail can pretend that public words don’t create harm. They clearly do. Lucy did not deserve such a cruel attack.
And we as a broader community of trans, genderqueer folk and allies did not deserve such a cruel attack. Beyond the media hounding of a particular person, hate speech creates fear and apprehension that resonates far more widely. It’s a form of gender bullying. We don’t all need to be bullied to know that the bullies are out there – and to be a little bit more afraid because of it.
My partner Jaimie is a transwoman. When I see transphobic media, I feel more afraid for her safety. I stress unnecessarily about late night public transport. Transphobia wins a bit of ground.
I’m feeling a deep sadness about this case because the world needs good transgender teachers. The kids is Miss Meadows class deserved to get to know a transgender person as a human being, someone they looked up to, someone who treated them well. Children deserve to learn that difference isn’t scary, it’s our prejudices that make it so.
And more than that, moralistic finger pointing about “protecting the children” forgets that there are trans kids too. Kids that deserve to know that they are not alone, and see transgender adults in places of responsibility and value. Kids that – like all kids – deserve to believe they can grow up to be whatever they want to be.