Lucy Meadows And The Monsters Of Fleet Street

On Thursday28th March 2013 a funeral was held. A funeral that should never have had to take place. A funeral that, possibly, (and I use the word loosely), was a result of the very thing that the Leveson Enquiry sought to prevent. Lucy Meadows was, first and foremost, a teacher. A woman whose job was to educate children and help prepare them for the world outside the school yard. I know that teaching is not an easy job. I know from personal experience that teaching adults is difficult enough, so teaching children must amplify that difficulty a hundredfold. To come out to the school as transsexual was an incredibly brave move. So, what was the motive behind her being persecuted by a national newspaper? Why did a humble but brave schoolteacher take her own life? Was it because she was transsexual? Or was it because she was a teacher as well? I hope that these questions can be answered soon.

I’ve never suffered from press intrusion, never had to worry about stepping out my front door and looking to see who was there. I’ve never wondered who was watching me, or filming me or who was talking to my friends and what they were being asked. Lucy Meadows did. According to emails seen by Jane Fae, (New Statesman, 22nd March 2013), Miss Meadows had to leave her house by the back door early in the morning and arrive very early or very late to avoid the press. The same members of the press were also asking parents of the children she taught about her, although apparently listening only to those who had bad things to say about her. Anyone with anything good to say was apparently ignored. Images were plucked off the internet and published, including an image of a child’s drawing of her. There was no ‘public interest’ in ‘monstering’ Lucy Meadows. Aside from the immense psychological damage it would cause to a person in a very vulnerable position, it was an out-and-out invasion of privacy that should never have happened.

Then there was the Richard Littlejohn article, sympathising and condemning at the same time. Sympathising with anyone who is transsexual and what we have to go through, and then condemning her for staying and transitioning in her job:

“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this [Miss Meadows’ transition] is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.”

I know, from personal experience, that children are a lot more resilient when it comes to change than Mr Littlejohn would give them credit for. As for the apparent worry from the children about mistakenly calling her ‘Mr Upton’ (which would have had to be expected):

The head teacher denies that pupils will be punished for referring to the teacher as Mr Upton but added ominously that they would be ‘expected to behave properly around her.’”

What, I ask, is so ominous about asking children to behave properly around a teacher, be they male or female? Teaching children politeness from an early age can only be good. Of course they are going to make mistakes. It would’ve taken them time to get used to the change. I doubt calling her ‘sir’ or ‘Mister Upton’ would have resulted in anything more than a raised eyebrow and a “You mean Miss”.

“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.”

If she’d come out as gay, would that have been ‘putting her own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children’? Would that have been ‘projecting her personal problems’? No, because none of the children would have known unless she had told them. Unfortunately transsexuality has a visual component which cannot be hidden. I suspect that Lucy would have spent an enormous amount of time considering all possible effects that her transition would have had and, had she thought that it would be too difficult, or too harmful to the children, she would not have come out, or would have left beforehand.

“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.”

Condemning her in a national newspaper, trying to give rise to ‘outrage’ and ‘disgust’ amongst the adults, belittling her by using male pronouns, and causing a huge fuss about it would cause the children more harm than the actual event itself. It may be that this ‘moral’ outrage inherent in Mr Littlejohn’s article, combined with the actions of his colleagues, may have resulted in more distress for the children than Lucy’s transition ever could have.

RIP Lucy Meadows

Still waiting for the fall of society and the end of the world….

It’s been a few weeks since the second reading of the Same Sex Marriage Bill (Bill 126) and the 400-176 vote in favour. A few weeks since the furore caused by the bill, the verbal battles in parliament, the written battles in the comments sections of the online press and various blogs, and the church, battling anything and everything that doesn’t suit or fit in with their worldview. The loudest shouts appearing to come from the religious factions, espousing the end of society as we know it (because gay couples cannot naturally produce children), the demise of family values, the end of religious freedoms, and the death of marriage as a religious institution.

Well, I’m still waiting. Waiting for this vote to bring about the end of society as we know it. Waiting for the sky to fall, all heterosexual marriages to instantly fall apart and newborn children to suddenly turn feral. The world is still turning, the sun still shining (although, living in Britain, we can’t be one hundred percent sure of that. It’s the clouds you know), people go about their normal business and the children play. So, what’s it all about?

First, a little background, and why this affects me. I am a transsexual woman. This means that I am a woman who was unfortunately born with a male body. I am in transition, meaning I am going through the process to change my natal body to match my natal mind. I have a female partner whom I love and we are getting married soon. One minor problem. If we marry now, without my Gender Identity Certificate and amended Birth Certificate, I would be legally male and our marriage would be recognised in law. If I had my amended BC, it wouldn’t. I would have to enter into a Civil Partnership. On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with this. CP’s have the same legal rights as marriages, it enables us to show our love and commitment, what’s not to like?

It may seem minor but a Civil Partnership is not a Marriage. It has the same legal standing but its name, and any reference to it, implies separation, division and inequality. David Lammy (Labour MP, Tottenham), put it best:

“Let me speak frankly: separate but equal is a fraud. It is the language that tried to push Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. It is the motif that determined that black and white people could not possibly drink from the same water fountain, eat at the same table or use the same toilets.”

Civil Partnership was never a permanent measure. It was intended as a stopgap measure to enable the government to prepare the way for same-sex marriage. To continue with CP would be to continue with a type of semi-visible segregation that has no place in this society, the lessening of a segment of the population. There have been many people saying of marriage: “it’s just a word”. Yes it is, but in our society, human society, words give meaning to events, situations. Words have a power that most people don’t recognise. “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” we are taught as children, so that the bully’s words will have no power over us. But as we grow, the saying changes, the words become powerful again. If misused they can hurt. They can sometimes kill. Marriage is not Civil Partnership, nor is Civil Partnership a Marriage. They are separate, apart, despite being the same underneath, and too many people use that sameness, the legal equivalence, to justify having this separation, and when the government dares to introduce same sex marriage to replace civil partnership, there is uproar. Even though, allegedly, they are the same, just the wording has changed.

So I ask, where does introducing same-sex marriage demean opposite-sex marriage? It doesn’t. It simply removes an inequality that shouldn’t be there. It is a legal update that doesn’t have to impact on religious institutions. The government has put safeguards in place so that religious institutions that do not want to perform same-sex marriages don’t have to without fear of reprisals, legal or otherwise. I’ve never felt the desire to get married in a religious setting so they are quite safe there, but I do want to legally cement my relationship with my partner and still be able to call it marriage. Doing so will not demean the marriages of my parents, my cousins, my friends or anybody else. It will not ruin society, it will improve it. It will, in some small way, prove that we, as a society, can grow, learn, change for the better. It will prove that our civilisation can actually fulfil the definition of the word.

I’m not a religious person but, if God does exist, I think he’d be happy with that.