Friday 22 March 2013

My response to Bullies.

If you were under any illusion that the mainstream press was being victimised by the mild 'imposition' of LJ Leveson's recommendations, as they would have you believe; or if you thought that the freedom of the press was under threat and that self-regulation was more than adequate as already exists with the Press Complaints Commission, here is just one example why I don't believe this to be the case.

The article linked describes things quite well, but to summarise; Lucy Meadows is a primary school teacher near Manchester.  Before Christmas and after considerable personal distress, Ms Meadows' Headteacher, with the full support of her colleagues, put out a letter to parents and pupils explaining that their teacher (who they'd previously known as male) would be transitioning and returning to work to be known as Miss Meadows.  Pupils largely shrugged and parents were also largely supportive of someone reputed to be a very good teacher.

The Daily Mail took a different view and reportedly paid for stories and photos to be provided from 'shocked' parents and 'scarred' pupils.  Many parents provided positive responses of support, but these were entirely ignored in favour of reporting and emphasising any 'shocked' perspective they could to promote their agenda that Ms Meadows was: disturbed, wrong, a danger and confusing for the poor children who would grow up scarred. The headline: "He's not only in the wrong body… he's in the wrong job"

Elements of the Daily Mail story are still to be found in a Guardian article online.

Reporter Richard Littlejohn, wrote in the Daily Mail, "Why should they be forced to deal with the news that a male teacher they have always known as Mr Upton will henceforth be a woman called Miss Meadows? The school shouldn't be allowed to elevate its 'commitment to diversity and equality' above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents. It should be protecting pupils from some of the more, er, challenging realities of adult life, not forcing them down their throats. These are primary school children, for heaven's sake. Most them still believe in Father Christmas. Let them enjoy their childhood. They will lose their innocence soon enough."  Note the apostrophes in that second sentence.  Diversity and equality clearly being highlighted as opposing good common-sense.

Mr Littlejohn concluded:  "Nathan Upton is entitled to his gender reassignment surgery, but he isn't entitled to project his personal problems on to impressionable young children.  By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalen's, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years.  It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as 'Miss Meadows' at another school on the other side of town in September. No-one would have been any the wiser.  But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he's not only trapped in the wrong body, he's in the wrong job."  That final line is strangely reminiscent of my experience in the newspapers. But I was the lucky one.

Lucy had press camping outside her door and hounding her daily life.  That almost certainly had an effect on the pupils.  Despite complaints and pleading with the PCC from Ms Meadows and on her behalf by concerned members of Trans Media Watch, this was deemed legitimate reporting.  Self-regulation.  I can't link you to the report on the Daily Mail website, because it was removed yesterday. Self-regulation.

Yesterday, Thursday 21st March 2013, Lucy was found dead at her home.

Self-regulation - removing an article after the subject of your reporting kills themselves. It's early days of course, but the Police's statement of "No suspicious circumstances," would imply that suicide was likely.  The Sun do still have their version of this story online (  I have zero sympathy for a press crying about their rights, their freedom of speech being under threat, or claiming that they hold a moral high ground and that self-regulation works.

Today, hearing about Lucy's death, The Sun followed this up with the headline, "Sir who became Miss is found dead after return to school."  This is the edited 'sensitive' online version; look at the original printed headline in the link (  Apparently in death, Lucy loses her remnants of dignity to a witty headline.  Something which I know for certain invoked a response of, "Well, she was just weird," and worse from Sun readers.

Sun readers... they include my colleagues and other intelligent people who wouldn't dream of victimising an individual and would likely have been very supportive of Lucy, had they known her.

But they didn't know her, and they were never allowed to. What they knew was what they know about all faceless transsexual people - people like me - portrayed time and again by the media.  What's worse is that there is no counter-balance and any discussion about what being trans really is, is avoided.  It's a dirty word.  I know this because if the subject ever comes up at work, or often in chat with cis-gender (i.e. not trans) friends, no discussion is entered into.  People are too embarrassed or unsure to ask, to find out, and the subject is evaded.  The Sun readers, the Daily Mail readers, but (not to discriminate) this includes the readers of any number of other newspapers who ran similar stories, never knew Lucy.  They rarely know any trans-person, really, who have little to no voice in mainstream media where they are considered fair game for poking fun at and vilification.  And nor will they while Trans is considered a dirty word - a subject too 'adult' for sensitive ears... too embarrassing.

Lucy wasn't embarrassed.  Against this backdrop of 'othering' and misunderstanding in mainstream media and in the mindsets of those consuming it (all of us), she'd found the courage to be herself and continue her important work as a teacher, with the support of her peers and her community... but not of the press.

Trans is not a dirty word.  I think it needs talking about.


1 comment:

  1. You are clearly in the wrong job Ayla. Your reportage is beautiful and sensitive pity the press cant be a little more sensitive with "people like us" . Lucy's was truely tragic and unfortunately one of many and i fear not the last.
    Pamela Faye Smith