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Her Name was Lucy Meadows
March 24, 2013 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Popular transgender Lancashire teacher Lucy Meadows was found dead last Tuesday. Blame has quickly fallen on an inflammatory Daily Mail article by Richard Littlejohn, which has lead to a petition to sack the writer. Is this fair? Jane Fae at the New Statesman says it doesn't matter, while the New Scostsman calls it 'monstering'. The f word blog and the Guardian have longer articles on the case and the issues surrounding it.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (72 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Stewart Lee on Richard Littlejohn
posted by motorcycles are jets at 9:45 PM on March 24, 2013 [30 favorites]


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Brinksmanship. Damnit.
posted by effugas at 9:45 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Results of a post-mortem have not been released, but Lancashire police said on Friday that there were "no suspicious circumstances" surrounding her death. It is believed she killed herself.
posted by suedehead at 9:46 PM on March 24, 2013


> If he/she died of a heart attack, for instance, then it's no one's fault.

The circumstances of constant harassment, even if they don't lead to death, are really not mere happenstance and accident, you know. Death really isn't the determinant of how badly she was treated.
posted by ardgedee at 9:46 PM on March 24, 2013 [22 favorites]


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posted by roboton666 at 9:48 PM on March 24, 2013


[A couple comments removed. This is an incredibly touchy subject; please make an effort, which in this case includes using the pronoun 'she.' Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:48 PM on March 24, 2013 [48 favorites]


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posted by Drumhellz at 9:50 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by yeoz at 9:50 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


My condolences to her family, friends, supportive co-workers, and students.
posted by gingerest at 9:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by RainyJay at 9:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Pope Guilty at 9:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Jane Fae piece really nails my reaction to this. It is a bit unfair to put the blame on individuals in the press. Transgender people have an extremely troubling rate of suicide and sometimes transition just isn't enough. As she says though, so what? They contributed to a climate of hate and mockery around a vulnerable person and bad things can happen when you do that. I'm not exactly gonna spend much time worrying about the fairness of it.

I hate how concern for the children is used as a false justification for the attacks on this woman. It wasn't about the kids, it was about a columnist who can't get over his own disgust.

Children can deal with new things and learn tolerance and understanding. For all we know there are transgender kids in that class who could really be in need of a positive transgender role model.

Depressing story. I hope the outrage might help change the climate around this sort of thing.

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posted by Drinky Die at 9:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is a bit unfair to put the blame on individuals in the press. Transgender people have an extremely troubling rate of suicide

...and Richard Littlejohn and those like him are a great big reason why.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:59 PM on March 24, 2013 [52 favorites]


Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn also wrote about Meadows in a column, titled: “He’s not only in the wrong body… he’s in the wrong job”, which claimed her transition would be too “challenging” for children. Since her death the column has been edited to remove the reference to Meadows.
That's because it is clearly against Press Complaints Commission Editor's Code of Practice to discriminate against individuals. You're free to say what you want about groups as a whole, but not indviduals:
12 Discrimination

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
To say "this person cannot do this job because they are trans" is a clear prejudicial breach. Not that Littlejohn cares, as he as already shown himself to be a worthless piece of shit.

PS This fucker lives in Florida. You're welcome to him.
posted by Jehan at 9:59 PM on March 24, 2013 [28 favorites]


Oh, god. I'm so sorry, Lucy Meadows.

When we see suicide, it often points to places in society where people are unsafe, and where we fail to be fully who and what we could be as a society. When we take difference and make it into other, and the violence buttressed by such distancing. As we are human, so we feel. And we are not immune to these myriad guises of violence. Fear-based social judgments, its intended effects of isolation, these kill. I'm so sorry, Lucy Meadows, that we failed you as a society. You deserved to feel safe and supported, before, during, after transition. And most emphatically while you were alive.

There is something profoundly sick about a society that allows community members to become this full of grief, to believe that they are alone.
All [Lucy Meadows] ever wanted, she told her friend in emails shared with the Guardian, "was to be me[.]"
You were always you. I'm sorry some people in this world could not recognize it without hatred turned against themselves directed at you.

You are missed.

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posted by simulacra at 10:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


A 'challenge' like this seems it would be a great thing for young kids to go through.

So sad.
posted by skewed at 10:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


PS This fucker lives in Florida. You're welcome to him.

All great defenders of the British Isle do, it seems.
posted by Artw at 10:01 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


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posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:02 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is a very sad story. Assuming it was a suicide, there's more than enough moral culpability to go around.
posted by sfred at 10:09 PM on March 24, 2013


PS This fucker lives in Florida. You're welcome to him.

I hope he runs into Laura Jane Grace in a dark alley.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:11 PM on March 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


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posted by gorestainedrunes at 10:19 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Golden Eternity at 10:25 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by quazichimp at 10:50 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by Bwithh at 10:55 PM on March 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bigotry disguised as but think of the children again. I love how reactionaries thinks preschoolers are going to be shocked out of their little gourds. Have these people never interacted with children? They learn new things every five minutes. The only way this will shock them is if their parents overreact so badly that the whole experience is redefined as a personal affront. This is like saying someone who goes on holiday and gets a deep tan shouldn't come back to the same school because the children will think they are a different race.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:00 PM on March 24, 2013 [31 favorites]


For a little bit of background for non-British people - the Daily Mail is a fairly well known to be a hate filled rag targeted at close minded little englanders. It targets, in no particular order, immigrants, europeans, the unemployed, gay people, black people, and women (and any group that they can 'other') for generally nasty and unsubstantiated stories to titillate and enrage. As opposed to say, the Sun, it particularly finds favour among a certain type in the middle class (no topless girls, but lots of celeb gossip, and an obsession with the royals). It is our Fox News in print form.

Richard Littlejohn is one of their star columnists at dishing out the hate. I'd link to some examples, but I frankly don't want to give their site the traffic.

It's also worth noting that the Daily Mail went on a pretty bizarre witch-hunt over one of the Leveson inquiry advisors - the Leveson inquiry being a broad investigation of media standards, particularly over the hacking into people's voicemails scandal.

Leveson recommended, among other things, a press complaints body that wasn't subservient to its media masters, overseen by an independent regulator to make sure it was doing its job properly. The royal charter to implement this has only just been passed through parliament with cross party agreement (long story that in itself), with much vociferous complaint by, unsurprisingly, the Daily Mail (and its editor, Paul Dacre) and News International that it would result in the newspapers becoming state mouthpieces, unable to hold politicians to account - which is a massive load of horse shit.

For me personally, the feeding frenzy around poor Lucy Meadows is precisely the sort of thing we need a beefed up press regulator to prevent, or at least force the papers to print apologies with the same or greater prominence as their hatchet jobs, along with substantial compensation. What 'journalists' did to her, was nothing less than mob harrassment.

I think the Daily Mail official response sums up what kind of paper they are, and how much responsibility they take for their stories pretty well.
The Daily Mail defended Littlejohn's column. A spokesman said: "It is regrettable that this tragic death should now be the subject of an orchestrated Twitterstorm, fanned by individuals – including former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell – with agendas to pursue."
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:21 PM on March 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


She is a private individual and she has an expectation of privacy. There is no general public interest that is served by publishing her name and place of employment. Frankly I find it quite distasteful that we are even mentioning her name here, because it really does not benefit the discussion in any way. It's just gawking.
posted by Authorized User at 12:55 AM on March 25, 2013


My god, Littlejohn is such a bastard.

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She deserved better.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:22 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Children can deal with new things and learn tolerance and understanding. For all we know there are transgender kids in that class who could really be in need of a positive transgender role model.

That's pretty much exactly what people are scared might be the case when they say 'think of the children' - that you might 'turn someone trans' with your terrible trans aura (when in actual fact, you'd more likely be providing a context and intellectual toolset to enable a hypothetical trans kid to understand themselves somewhat, and come out).
posted by Dysk at 1:26 AM on March 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


And for Lucy Meadows, harried to her death by bitter newspaper individuals with agendas to pursue, all any of us can offer now is our thoughts and prayers. Deeply tragic.


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posted by Dysk at 1:40 AM on March 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


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Very sad. The only reaction the children are genuinely having is that they are probably incredibly sad and miss their teacher. Kids don't care about stuff like this..... I hope Lucy is at peace.
posted by pearlybob at 1:44 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've been following this because it is a topic painfully close to my heart.

I'm an academic who teaches at the university level (and plans to until they cart my cold dead body from the lecture hall), my sister is training to be a high school teacher, one of my best friends teaches high school, etc. As well, several people close to my heart are either trans or genderqueer, and I'm a bit fuzzy on the gender spectrum myself, though I'll probably always be within the "she" range of it.

To see this happen strikes a bolt of cold terror through my body and heart. It could be a friend, it could be family, that this happens to. I had thought, fuck I had hoped (stupidly, it seems), that we had gotten to a point this was going to stop happening. That with the growing acceptance of the fluidity of gender identity, we'd stop having people hounded to the point of death any longer.

Of course individuals who are trans have a high rate of suicide... you try waking up every morning and looking in the mirror to see a body that isn't right, to have to dress, speak, and act like something you aren't, every day. Then have everyone question your sanity when you finally come to realize there's a term for it. To have to go through years of therapy "to be sure" before you can be treated for what is really a broken body, one that doesn't match who you are and always think of yourself - something you are VERY sure of. And then to have all of this vile crap spewed at you by society, by the media, by your friends and family and people you thought loved you. To live with a secret before, and then after transitioning, in fear of people finding out because of how they might react. To know one slip on the paperwork, one narrow minded HR person, one small but deliberate comment, and your world might implode even though now you are happy with your body for the first time in your life?

"What is your real name? No, your REAL name." "No, really, what does all that down there look like?" "Are you still, ya know..." "I love Rue Paul!" "No, I will not call you that. You're a boy, and you'll be called one." "No, you are my son!" "Tranny!" "Shemale!" "Why's your voice sound weird?" "Are you a boy?" "Nah, you're not a girl, no way!" "Well, your drivers license says male!"

Is it no wonder the black dog becomes a pack of black wolves, hounding you until you collapse, exhausted and broken?

I've seen it happen.

I need to go be sick now.
posted by strixus at 1:45 AM on March 25, 2013 [30 favorites]


Very sad and I hope charges are eventually brought against Littlejohn.

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posted by colie at 1:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I worked for Littlejohn, once, for a couple of days, on this TV show. I can't profess to know the man, but my abiding memory was that there was an observable distance between the public persona of the right wing blowhard and the actual man.

I'm not saying he didn't believe some of it. But in comparison to his producer, who virtually went purple with outrage on the smallest political or cultural questions and seemed to embody the very essence of the splenetic Daily Mail reader, Littlejohn was not the caricature I expected.

The man is a professional troll, and he is good at his job. He earns in excess of £1m per year to generate these headlines, to engage Daily Mail readers and others in their disgust at either the story itself or Littlejohn's treatment of it. He is a shit stain of a human for how he targets the vulnerable - a perennial target of his and the Daily Mail's - as a means to drive up his readership.

This is, unfortunately, where we are with him and the Daily Mail. Until Littlejohn has stepped sufficiently over the line that even the Daily Mail won't defend him, all this trolling is good for business. We, in this FPP, are good for business. Our outrage helps make the Daily Mail more important to read and discuss than whatever the Independent, or the Times, or the BBC is talking about.

Some time back the Daily Mail made a large commercial play: it would wind down what little remained of its proper newspaper coverage and become a tittle tattle rag. It would embrace digital, shun the paywall and chase the advertisers with outrage, lifestyle stories and the one of the best SEO in the business. The Daily Mail does this through a very simple and successful formula:

- get the story first at all costs
- get a picture for every story
- generate emotion and engagement for every story, typically one of: fear, scorn, envy, pity, disgust, lust, intrigue and, some distance behind, joy, laughter and goodwill.

As long as the world is going to pot, the country is being overrun by social problems, and political correctness is destroying the future of country, there will be stories to print. The Daily Mail is the paper of choice for people who have ceased to care about what the generations below them think or do or the problems they face. These people are looking for a comfort blanket and reassurance that their problems are not of their own doing.

The Daily Mail doesn't care about collateral damage. It never has. It has a track record of mumbling apologies and a large war chest to fight off all but the best funded and most solid libel cases. As with Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, the key to fighting this is to target the advertisers and attack the positioning of these outlets and individuals as the voice of the moral majority.

I feel terribly sad for Lucy Meadows. She isn't the first person hounded to death by dishonest and malicious reporting and she won't be the last.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:01 AM on March 25, 2013 [44 favorites]


By sacking Littlejohn, I hope they mean putting him inside one and then kicking him a lot.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:17 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


I have been debating for days whether or not to post anything about this online. I have been so filled with sadness and outrage and helplessness - and I wonder why none of my friends (both on- and offline) seem to talk about this. I worry that I do not have the right to feel sad, outraged or helpless about this because I rest within my biological gender. But then I think of my former flatmate Alex and I feel I should be out there explaining my I feel so sad, so outraged, and so helpless.

Alex and I shared a flat back in the late 1990s. She had left her native Italy for Scandinavia partly because of a love affair and partly because she felt misunderstood. We shared a big flat with several others and we rarely spoke. That is, until one night.

I had come home late and Alex was out in the kitchen crying. Yet another boyfriend had broken her heart. Alex always fell quick and hard for macho men who promised to protect her - she was a tiny slip of a thing - and who vowed they loved her for her. Quickly, though, they always started to want to change her. They would buy her clothes and makeup and Alex would sit in the kitchen crying.

She told me that night that she was a biological woman who identified as a gay man within a female body and that she preferred to dress as a boy because female clothing made her uncomfortable. She didn't want to transition - she just wanted to be loved for who she was. Her real name wasn't Alex but she wanted a gender-neutral name unlike her actual name. (And I refer to Alex as she because that was what she wanted me to call her.)

Oh Alex. Wonderful Alex.

I was maybe 21 years old and naive for my age, but I grew up that night. Alex was so full of pain and contradictions. We sat there until dawn and she just talked and talked. Our late nights became a habit. I left that flat a year later and I often wonder what became of her. She was vulnerable with very few friends outside the constant cavalcade of awful boyfriends.

Today I wonder if she ever decided to transition because her identity seemed very fragmented and contradictory - with a strong emphasis upon 'boy' - but I also recognise that there are never any easy answers. Identity is fragmented and contradictory and what may seem like an obvious thing to me may not be an obvious solution to someone as complex Alex.

So, I read about Lucy Meadows and I remember my late nights in the kitchen with Alex. And I want to shout and cry.

. !
posted by kariebookish at 2:36 AM on March 25, 2013 [34 favorites]


I worry that I do not have the right to feel sad, outraged or helpless about this because I rest within my biological gender.

Please don't feel that way. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but having cis allies shout about this sort of thing is really encouraging. Helps take it out of the 'special interests' ghetto.
posted by Dysk at 2:49 AM on March 25, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is perhaps the quintessential example of the British free press in action: find a vulnerable target and monster it, always punch down, never up and for goodness sakes never target somebody who could concievingly defend herself. It's not just the Mail of course: once this poor woman was outed she was fair game to all the tabloids.

Some awful guff has been talked about the Leveson report and the mild recommendations in it, as well as the threat of political regulation of the socalled free press. But the truth is that the tabloid press has long been muzzled voluntarily and Leveson showed how press, politicians and police operated as little more than a gang, with the press buying intelligence from the police, while protecting the police against its own mistakes (the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, Hillsborough) by monstering the victims, while giving space to politicians to attack their enemies as long as they agreed with the tabloids' rightwing policies. Far from being a check on state power therefore the tabloids are an enabler of it and part of this function meant aiming a never ending stream of two minute hates at everybody different, anybody who like Lucy Meadows could not defend herself.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:07 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


I worry that I do not have the right to feel sad, outraged or helpless about this because I rest within my biological gender.

I'm a cisgendered lady and I think I have every damn right to be angry about this stuff.

I have the right to be angry, because we are all human and we all deserve to be treated like human beings.

But I also have the right to be angry, because the mockery of ladies for having adam's apples or ill-fitting wigs seems uncomfortably close to the mockery of ladies for having hairy legs or dubious makeup skills or too many opinions.

Mock one lady and you mock all of us.

I also note that I've seen trans people who pass well, keeping quiet in these kinds of conversations, because they need the shelter that their ability to pass gives them. And it seems that trans people who don't pass are rarely taken seriously.

How about we all get really damn angry?
posted by emilyw at 3:16 AM on March 25, 2013 [31 favorites]


I'm so angry, but I don't know what to say. She deserved better, so much better.

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posted by gkhan at 3:24 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's also worth noting that the Daily Mail also misgendered Lucy throughout their obituary.

When I read about Lucy's death on Tuesday I felt it as an ache in my chest and my stomach, like I'd been punched in the gut. It still hurts, but I can't even begin to compare it to what Lucy must have felt, so I let it remind me of how lucky I am and how far we have still to go, and the importance of anger.

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posted by fight or flight at 3:53 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


For London-based folk, there's going to be a candlelit vigil for her outside the Daily Mail offices tonight at 6:30PM.
posted by fight or flight at 3:54 AM on March 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


Maybe it's in poor taste, but seems to me the appropriate candle for a vigil outside the Daily Mail is a Molotov cocktail.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:06 AM on March 25, 2013 [8 favorites]


I know where she was coming from. I'm trans and a teacher and it's... tough. I hope you don't mind if I don't go into further detail.
posted by jiawen at 4:08 AM on March 25, 2013 [13 favorites]


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posted by alby at 4:12 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I grew up in the next town over from Accrington. In my Catholic sixth-form college (so ages 16-18) we had a music teacher who ended one year as 'Mr' and came back as 'Mrs'. (I wasn't in her class - a friend and I speculated about whether the teacher we kept seeing was a feminine man or a masculine woman. Perhaps for that reason, it wasn't a huge shock.) There was a small amount of awkwardness when she announced it to the class, and one parent IIRC complained, but after a week life went on as before.

This was in 1999 so it was before the Mail's Sidebar of Shame culture, but even given the Catholic angle, there was very little press attention. A small piece in the News of the World, no pictures, and that was it; if Littlejohn was writing then (I think he was) he didn't pick up on it. This area of the country is, to put it mildly, not the most accepting of alternative views - everyone I grew up with who was gay came out once they left town, and the two lesbian friends I had would only kiss in the pub toilets, not in public; friends all knew someone who was beaten up for being a goth, or Chinese, or having the wrong accent. It could have been made into an issue, but it wasn't. The local paper didn't even write about it.

I'm coming late to thsi story, but I wonder where the paparazzi element came from. Is it because trans people are more visible than they were fourteen years ago, or is it because it was a primary school, not an establishment catering to teenagers, and someone decided we needed to think of the children?
posted by mippy at 4:14 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved this tweet:
"Trans issues are confusing for children." EVERYTHING IS CONFUSING FOR CHILDREN. THAT'S THE WHOLE REASON WE HAVE TO TEACH THEM SHIT."
posted by alby at 4:15 AM on March 25, 2013 [53 favorites]


Thank you for posting this, OP - I read the story at the weekend via a Facebook link to a Zinnia Jones article but don't have enough knowledge to do it justice.

There is a petition calling for Littlejohn's firing at change.org and one at sum of us - signing them might make you feel marginally less helpless in the face of the [sweary rant deleted] Daily Mail, even while knowing that while he and his cohorts continue to make money for the rag, nothing will actually change.

What else can we do other than grieve?
posted by humph at 4:45 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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No matter what events led to Lucy's death, we HAVE to do better by our trans friends. Misgendering them is just the beginning.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:23 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I worry that I do not have the right to feel sad, outraged or helpless about this because I rest within my biological gender.

Not only do you have the right to feel that way, I think it's incumbent on those of us who are in the "normalized" category TO feel that way, and to express those feelings clearly. In the same way, we need men to be feminists, white people to be anti-racists, wealthy people to be strongly in favor of wealth equality. As long as any marked category relies on the people who have less power in that arena to make the change, change will be slow, begrudging, and of extremely narrow scope.

You are sad, outraged, and frustrated because you are human.
posted by spindrifter at 5:23 AM on March 25, 2013 [11 favorites]


Here's the archived, original version of the Littlejohn article.

Mr Upton/Miss Meadows may well be comfortable with his/her decision to seek a sex-change and return to work as if nothing has happened. . . . But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.

Littlejohn isn't just being a judgmental ass in this case, but he's also being extremely invasive in his violating of someone's privacy. If he is an American journalist, well, we have a name for what he's doing here: Invasion of Privacy.

Courts have recognized that certain intimate details about people, even though true, may be "off limits" to the press and public. For example, publishing detailed information about a private person's sexual conduct, medical condition or educational records might result in legal trouble.

He also has to show that what he wrote was newsworthy -- a claim that has a higher burden of proof for non-celebrities than those who are public figures.

These things matter. They exist specifically so people like Miss Meadows wouldn't be hounded to death, either by the press or by their readers. They are a matter of standard journalistic / human ethical standards... ones that Littlejohn apparently lacks.
posted by markkraft at 5:27 AM on March 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm coming late to thsi story, but I wonder where the paparazzi element came from. Is it because trans people are more visible than they were fourteen years ago, or is it because it was a primary school, not an establishment catering to teenagers, and someone decided we needed to think of the children?

I think it's just that when something becomes the ravenous media will attempt to eat and digest even the tiniest bit of information. People are a curious sort and once we hear about something like is we want to know more and the media will gladly provide.
posted by Authorized User at 5:58 AM on March 25, 2013


I've been following this for a few days now, busy with life, trying to figure out my own transition plan, a little too busy, a little too numb, a little too scared, bargaining with my own existence, thinking "Surely this will not happen to me". I'm still not letting myself feel this. It's.too.close.

But I realized this morning that to live a life out as a transgendered person is a declaration of war against bigotry, through no fault of our own, true, and no it is not fair. I know I do not mean, nor do I want, to declare a war, that I shouldn't have to declare a war, but I am not going to live in the shadows anymore. Preserving a bigot's comfort is not worth the price of my right to exist.

I'll end this with a quote from "Black Boys on Mopeds"
These are dangerous days,
To say what you feel is to make your own grave
Remember what I told you,
If you were of the world they would love you.
posted by roboton666 at 6:14 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


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posted by jb at 6:15 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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posted by rtha at 6:15 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


[Comment deleted. We don't do the punitive doxxing thing here.]
posted by taz at 6:23 AM on March 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


That's pretty much exactly what people are scared might be the case when they say 'think of the children' - that you might 'turn someone trans' with your terrible trans aura (when in actual fact, you'd more likely be providing a context and intellectual toolset to enable a hypothetical trans kid to understand themselves somewhat, and come out).

Not to mention that by teaching all children tolerance and understanding you're explaining something they need to learn: that everyone is human and no one should EVER be attacked, belittled, humiliated or shamed for who they are. Which would help a great deal when that hypothetical trans kid comes out to their peers, looking for acceptance and support.

That's really what this is about. The perpetuation of a disgusting level of bigotry across generations -- teaching children that only people who fit within a particular set of parameters deserve respect and compassion.

No one deserves to be treated this way. This is disgusting. Infuriating. I hope her family sues the shit out of the Daily Mail and that asshole Littlejohn, and I hope the uproar gets so loud that he's fired.
posted by zarq at 6:55 AM on March 25, 2013 [9 favorites]


'Trans people and the media' from the New Statesman today.
posted by Dysk at 7:38 AM on March 25, 2013 [5 favorites]



I think it's just that when something becomes the ravenous media will attempt to eat and digest even the tiniest bit of information. People are a curious sort and once we hear about something like is we want to know more and the media will gladly provide.

Yeah, but last time this happened in the same area, there was no feeding frenzy. Something has changed, and I'm curious as to what.++
posted by mippy at 7:39 AM on March 25, 2013


I'm coming late to thsi story, but I wonder where the paparazzi element came from. Is it because trans people are more visible than they were fourteen years ago, or is it because it was a primary school, not an establishment catering to teenagers, and someone decided we needed to think of the children?

Sort of horribly, I suspect it's having rights. IIRC, fourteen years ago trans people had very little protection in Britain.* If you were a Daily Mail reader, you could just assume that any trans teacher would be sacked immediately and you were so firm in this assumption that the fact it was false would never occur to you. Whereas now Richard Littlejohn and his ilk now have been forced to acknowledge that they're on the losing side of history or whatever. Because rights for trans people in Britain (and everywhere really) only seem to come when someone is willing to stick their head above the parapet and kick up a fuss, the transphobes end up noticing that they're losing.

*In 1999, trans people had just started winning cases at employment tribunals.
posted by hoyland at 7:43 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dog whistle in Littlejohn's article, even though he doesn't say it, is the underlying assumption that gay and trans people are perverts. And that the discussion of sexuality, at any level, is somehow corrupting.

I note with interest that the next article is about an actual pervert who abused children.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:17 AM on March 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


One way to talk to children about being transsexual (in this sample size of one case, where someone chooses to identify not as transgender but as transsexual):
I transitioned when my nephew was five, and I was very worried about how I could talk to him about it. What I would say. But, it was a really easy thing to sit and say, "My heart felt kind of sad, and one way that I could feel, really, a lot better was that I decided that I wanted to be a boy. And so that's what I'm going to do now, and it makes me feel really good." And he was like, "Great! Feeling good is good."
—Eric Plemons (YouTube video clip starts at 04m44s)
From the inimitable The Devotion Project. We can all sense when real, loving connection is palpable and present.

Ms. Meadows, I am sure that you would have found similar words to explain to your students about what it meant for you once you returned to teach, and thus expanded and opened their world views and capacity to understand people different from themselves. I am sure you already did.
posted by simulacra at 8:43 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing is, trans issues are just not that confusing to children! I have an actual child, a 6-year-old daughter, and when we were discussing Coy's case here on Metafilter, I talked to her about it.

"So, I was reading the most interesting story!" I said. "In Colorado, there is this little girl. She is six years old, and she's in kindergarten. . . "

"Just like me!" interjected my daughter.

"Yep! But this little girl is kind of unusual; she has a boy's body."

"Um, wow!" said my kid. "Did people think she was a boy?"

"Yeah, they did," I said. "Even her own parents thought she was a boy, until she told them she was a girl. But after they told them, they said 'Oops! Sorry about that!' and now everyone knows she's a girl."

"Does that happen a lot?"

"Not a whole lot, no. Most people with boys' bodies are boys, and most people with girls' bodies are girls. But it does happen. And then there are people who aren't really boys OR girls, they are just, like, people -- they might still have boys' bodies or girls' bodies, though. And occasionally, you get boys or girls whose bodies are unusual, so their bodies aren't really like boys' bodies or girls' bodies."

"I am a girl who has a girl's body," she said.

"Yeah, I kind of figured," I told her.

"Twilight Sparkle is my favorite My Little Pony now. Because she's a princess. She grew tiny wings!"

And that was that. Honestly she was way more confused and upset when her best friend's parents divorced.
posted by KathrynT at 8:48 AM on March 25, 2013 [53 favorites]


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posted by michellenoel at 8:48 AM on March 25, 2013


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posted by dlugoczaj at 8:56 AM on March 25, 2013


I have two thoughts, one personal and one historical.

On the personal level, I'm another trans* person in the education field who has been very aware of this story since the hateful Littlejohn piece was published, dripping with transphobic tropes. I know I am like many in that I felt great empathy for Lucy Meadows, and wondered how she could bear up under the twin strains of the most difficult cusp of gender transition--coming out publicly--and being at the center of a bigoted news storm. I thought that she must be almost superhumanly brave and strong to be able to manage it, because I couldn't imagine enduring it. . . I'm so sorry, Lucy.

My other thought is that the Littlejohn piece was not just tabloid hatemongering in the service of internet traffic and clickthroughs. It was a political act, intended to generate resistance to the slow increase in political rights for trans* people, following the precedents of prior regressive campaigns. Back in the 1970s, when what were termed "gay rights ordinances" had begun to be passed in various locations and seemed to be gathering momentum, that movement suddenly ran into a wall in the U.S., due to the "Save Our Children" campaign, with Anita Bryant as its figurehead. That campaign claimed that "homosexuals" were seeking employment guarantees so that they could access and sexually abuse children in order to "convert" them, make them gay. “As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children, therefore, they must recruit our children," Bryant stated.

Today, 35 years later, this claim sounds silly to most--but those of us who lived through those years remember how potent the claim was as a tool for anti-LGB organizing, and further, for energizing the political right in general. Now the anti-gay movement seems to be breathing its last as Western nations embrace same-sex marriage, and so now the right has shifted its focus to trans* people. The same cry of protecting the innocents is being broadcast--targeting trans* teachers, framing trans* people as bathroom predators, and presenting trans* children as simultaneously endangering their peers and as victims of warped parents. So Lucy Meadows was not a random victim of a prurient press. She was targeted in a political move, employing familiar tactics.
posted by DrMew at 9:28 AM on March 25, 2013 [19 favorites]


I think DrMew has it and it's very disheartening - worse perhaps than if it was mere hateful bigotry because this kind of organized ugliness is harder to fight. I'm sad for Lucy Meadows and those who knew her - awful to be treated with such cruelty.

Dru Marland is an excellent blogger on trans issues among other things. She has written about Lucy Marland here as well as her own experiences with being harassed and abused through her own transition.
posted by leslies at 10:04 AM on March 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


Too late for typo window - Lucy Meadows not Marland!
posted by leslies at 10:11 AM on March 25, 2013


What a wry and lovely blog that is, leslies. I particularly snorted and nodded at this illustration.
posted by DrMew at 10:13 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really like her writing and her drawings!
posted by leslies at 10:17 AM on March 25, 2013


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posted by 1066 at 11:39 AM on March 25, 2013


The thing is, trans issues are just not that confusing to children! I have an actual child, a 6-year-old daughter, and when we were discussing Coy's case here on Metafilter, I talked to her about it[...]

I've written briefly about coming out to my siblings before on the blue, but basically I just wanted to say that I agree with this completely.
posted by Dysk at 11:45 AM on March 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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