Lucy Meadows’ Coroner Says Press Deserves Shame for Her Death

feature image via The Guardian

“To the members of the press, I say shame. Shame on all of you.”

These were the words of Michael Singleton, the coroner assigned to the case of Lucy Meadows, the British school teacher who took her own life shortly after her gender transition made national gossip headlines in the UK earlier this year.

As previously recounted here at Autostraddle, in late 2012, St. Mary Magdalen’s School informed Lucy’s students that Lucy, who had previously lived outwardly as a man, would return after the winter break as a woman. And although this story is something that has virtually no news value whatsoever for people who aren’t directly connected to Lucy’s classroom, for some reason a series of sensationalized stories on the subject appeared in the British press; this started with a story in the local Accrington Observer, featuring a scowling picture of the parents of one of Lucy’s students, and then spiraled up to the UK national press, including two articles that appeared in the Daily Mail tabloid.

The most over the top of these was an opinion column from shock jock commentator Richard Littlejohn titled “[S]he’s not only in the wrong body… [s]he’s in the wrong job” that implied Lucy should be fired or moved to another school. The article also included pre-transition pictures of Lucy with her then-wife; in clear breach of any kind of journalistic standards, these pictures were directly lifted from Facebook.

Richard Littlejohn

Richard Littlejohn [via the Guardian]

Lucy chose to end her life in March of this year.

While we can never be certain exactly what role the harassment she faced from the press played in that decision, it is clear that Lucy bitterly resented the press intrusion into her life, and it is clear that the behavior was entirely inappropriate. Lucy did file a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about the Littlejohn column; it took two months for the process to be resolved and in the end the Daily Mail offered nothing more than to simply take the story down from its website. That was about a week before Lucy’s death.

The coroner Singleton described the gesture as merely tokenistic, stating, “It seems to be that nothing has been learned from the Leveson inquiry.” It was during the Trans Media Watch presentation to the Leveson inquiry that it became widely public that the British press has gone so far as open up the lives of trans children for public ridicule and abuse.

It is heartening to see that Singleton was willing to come out and make such a strong statement to the UK press (and elsewhere, by extension) that the harassment and abuse of trans people’s lives and stories needs to end. Let us all remember Lucy’s story as we demand that the press starts to listen.


Savannah is a queer trans woman and physicist originally from the great state of Carolina (that alone should tell you which one).  She also writes on trans feminism and other social justice issues on her blog leftytgirl, preferably while listening to metal.  Savannah presently lives in Tokyo where her principle hobbies include singing at karaoke clubs and getting lost on the subway.

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Savannah is a queer trans woman and physicist who was unleashed into the cosmos from the great state of North Carolina. She has been active on LGBT diversity issues in physics and also writes on trans feminism and other social justice issues on her blog leftytgirl, preferably while listening to metal. Savannah presently works at a university in Osaka from where she misses her amazing cat Zinfandel back in North Carolina very much. Follow her on Twitter.

Savannah has written 11 articles for us.

7 Comments

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    I’m glad someone is sticking up for her, but really? I thought this was the 21st century, and that Britain prided itself on being so much more equal minded, as with slavery ending and women’s suffrage being achieved earlier than in the states. If that’s how it is there, I shudder to think how far the US has to go.

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      I would suggest keeping a close eye on the media for the most part.

      However, in the present moment, it would be really helpful to send letters to the editor and that sort of thing. It says a lot, for example, that now that it has actually become a *real* national issue (meaning it actually has relevance to the real world, i.e. it speaks to how the national press abuses common citizens), the Daily Mail has apparently refused to cover the story any further.

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    While I’m surprised a coroner would make such a public statement, my heart breaks for Lucy and the pain she endured. Some days I don’t understand how, in 2013, when we have such amazing knowledge and technology and potential and we’ve come so incredibly far, people still hurt each other so much. :(

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    I don’t even know what to say. It just doesn’t make any sense to me that ignorance and general assholery are still considered “opinions” and therefore “single incidences” while those things literally hurt and kill people. How can public voices in media ignore the broader structures of oppression that lie beneath those “single opinions”? And why do they get away with it?

    :(

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    No, there is nothing that you can do for the family because they asked for people to stop using her name in campaigning (a request that Trans Media Watch originally supported, but have since breached). Lucy gave a reason for suicide, but it is not a palatable one and she acknowledged that most people would not find the reason rational. She chose to end her life because she felt that she had achieved all that she wanted to do with her life. So maybe there is something you can do for the family and that is to stand up for her reasons for choosing to end her life and not make her the basis of anti-media campaigns. You can read about Lucy’s own words at http://transscribe.wordpress.com/2013/07/05/listening-to-lucy/ which is my take on the Huffington Post write-up on her inquest.
    Mercia McMahon
    Trans Scribe

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