March 26, 2013
Lucy Meadows: Teacher, Neighbour and Friend
Imagine slipping out the back door to work every morning to dodge the paparazzi. Leaving for work early and departing late to avoid harassment.Having to contact the Press Complaints Commission to stop journalists and photographers lurking outside your workplace.
This was the life of Lucy Meadows, a teacher of St. Mary Magdalen’s C and E School in Accrington, Lancashire. Like many trans women, Lucy just longed to be herself, and at age 32, that is what she did.
Upon coming-out to her workplace, the Headmistress, Karen Hardman, wrote this letter that made the headlines in the press:
“Mr. Upton has recently made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman.”
On Wednesday Mrs. Meadows’ pupils were told the worst. Their teacher was dead.
Post-mortem results have not been released, but it is believed she killed herself.
We’ve learned this woman’s tragedy through the emails gleaned my the media. In a New Years mail to her friend, Mrs. Meadows spoke out about the media’s publishing of her wedding photographs and other private photos from a sibling’s Facebook page. She also spoke about her urge to come-out.
“I was lucky to have a supportive head, but I think I’d have done it here regardless as I couldn’t put it off any longer and I have family and financial commitments as well. The guidance I’ve had from the trans community has been generally sound and very much appreciated, and I’d like to be able to say I’ve given something back. I suppose the best way for me to do this would be to educate the people around me and children at school – I am a teacher after all!”
Lucy goes on to describe her taunting by the papers;
“I became pretty good at avoiding the press before Christmas. I live about a three-minute walk from school so they were parked outside my house as well as school. I’m just glad they didn’t realise I also have a back door. I was usually in school before the press arrived and stayed until late so I could avoid them going home.”
Unfortunately, this kind of harassment avoidance is common among trans people – whether it be to avoid the papers, their family or even the neighbours.
Littlejohn and the Mail
In December, Lucy’s fate was to get even worse when her gender reassignment became the subject of nationwide media attention. In a piece headlined, “He’s not only in the wrong body… he’s in the wrong job.” Richard Littlejohn of the Daily Mail asked readers what they thought of “the devastating effect” on the students of Mrs. Meadow’s change in gender. It was then that Lucy complained to the PCC.
Over 150,000 people have signed a petition urging the Daily Mail to fire Richard Littlejohn and demanding a formal apology. The Daily Mail has since struck back in defence. A spokesperson has 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.”
Last night a candlelight vigil was held outside the Daily Mail headquarters, with up to 300 members of the transgender community and supporters attending. Participants held placards with the message “I am not afraid.”
Stand up and be counted
Lucy isn’t alone in her battle against a transphobic society. GIRES (Gender Identity Research and Education Society UK) estimate 300,000 to 500,000 transgender people live in the UK. Of these, 78% of transgender people have seriously thought about ending their lives and 40% of those have attempted, 22% of those at least 3 to 5 times. (The Trans Mental Health and Well-being Survey 2012)
Lets not let Lucy’s story go to waste. In a era where the faces of the transgender community are rising to the fore – stand up and be counted. It’s not so long ago lesbians and gays felt the stigma.
If you or someone you know is affected by these issues and need to talk to someone urgently, the Samaritans is available 24 hours a day on 08457 90 90 90; or email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Samaritans’ website.
Sarah Schulman at Lesbian Lives 2013
Legendary queer activist Sarah Schulman has spoken out against the LGBT Center of New York City and its decision to ban her from a controversial book reading.
February 17, 2013