A transgender teacher is believed to have committed suicide following harassment by the media and other sources after she returned to school from winter break presenting as female. Her untimely death is yet another glaring reminder at how insensitive much of the world still is when it comes to respecting transgender individuals.
Lucy Meadows, whose "birth name" will not be published out of respect, was found dead in her Lancashire, England, home on March 19. Meadows had been presenting as male until this year, when she returned to her teaching position at Accrington St. Mary Magdalen's Primary School presenting as female.
St. Mary Magdalen's broke the news of the 32-year-old teacher's death on its website on March 20, offering support to affected students and staff. During the break, the school had written to parents of her Year 6 students saying that their teacher would be returning as a female to be addressed as Miss Meadows.
The news of Meadows' transition spread quickly among the mainstream media, finding its way in the inbox of the Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn. Littlejohn published a scathing article on December 20 — which has since been removed from the Mail's website but is archived here — condemning the school for not "protecting pupils" from the "challenging realities of adult life," and Meadows for "putting his [sic] own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children."
To add insult to injury, the article was titled "He's [sic] not only in the wrong body ... he's [sic] in the wrong job."
While the exact circumstances of Meadows' death remain unclear, Helen Belcher, director of Trans Media Watch, said that "Lucy suffered a huge amount of monstering and harassment by the press when she was very vulnerable around Christmas. That level of press attention could not have helped her mental state one bit." Belcher had made a complaint to the Mail after seeing Littlejohn's article.
Once the media got hold of the story, Meadows was hounded by press as she returned to work. Jane Fae, a writer specializing in transgender issues, was allowed access to emails written by Meadows to a member of the transgender community asking for help.
"She talks of her good luck in having a supportive head," Fae wrote. "But the stress of her situation is also visible. She complains bitterly of how she must leave her house by the back door, and arrive at school very early, or very late, in order to avoid the press pack."
Fae also mentions that when the story of Meadows' death broke, the media still referred to her as a "male teacher" and used the pronouns "he" and "his," causing confusion among those who knew the situation. Unfortunately, this is all too common among media outlets, even today.
Trans Media Watch, which breaks stories of persecution against transgender individuals, compiled a comprehensive list and analysis of several instances of the British media's mistreatment of transgender people and issues. As it outlines, this kind of harassment occurs far too much. It is a journalist's responsibility to report the truth, especially in such delicate cases, and misgendering a person — especially following their death — is a grave mistake.
A petition on SumOfUs.com calling for the firing of Littlejohn has received over 139,000 signatures. It references his "long history of using his perch at the Daily Mail to mock and harass others" and expresses disgust at the Mail's statement after Meadows' death, in which it stated "it is regrettable that this tragic death should now be the subject of an orchestrated [attack on us], fanned by individuals ... with agendas to pursue."
The Daily Mail is not the victim here, and Lucy Meadows deserves an apology. Her memory cannot be tarnished by the ignorance of those who felt the need to attack her for expressing her gender identity. "Think of the children" is an inappropriate sentiment when it is grown adults like Richard Littlejohn who have the real problem.