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