The death of Lucy Meadows

Lucy Meadows is dead.


She was a popular teacher at a primary school. But on Tuesday, police and an ambulance were called to her home. She was found dead. Her death is not being treated as suspicious. Already various people have said she took her own life. Helen Belcher reports that friends said that Lucy Meadows had spoke of suicide. The police told me today a file will be passed to the coroner.


At the moment we do not know how she died and, if it was the case that she took her own life, what the relevant circumstances were.


But what we do know is that Lucy Meadows was monstered by tabloid newspapers when news emerged that she was transitioning from male to female.


Suddenly she became not only an unwilling figure in sensational news reporting, but someone ridiculed and criticised by a national newspaper columnist. There was, of course, no public interest in any of this.


Such “monster” pieces are easy for tabloids to produce (especially if they get “before” and “after” photos), and the powerless figures caught up – victims – are unlikely ever to fight back. In a way, the tabloids treat trans people the way they would treat anyone, if they could get away with it.


In December 2011, the group TransmediaWatch made a submission to the Leveson Inquiry (I helped with some of the drafting). It documents the monstering of trans people by tabloids. Anyone with an interest in media matters should read it. The stories are horrific.


A person in transition is likely to be going through intense psychological and emotional changes: the worst thing for them is the humiliation of a sudden tabloid monstering (see more on this here). They are also having the most personal surgery one can perhaps imagine; but no other comparable group of people having surgery – say women having a mastectomy or hysterectomy – would feature in such sensationalist news reporting. Instead such intimate matters are rightly regarded as nobody’s business but that of the person involved.


And this should be the case for trans people. It is a basic privacy matter. The fact that someone is in transtion does not create any automatic public interest in their national media exposure. In fact, their situation calls for a genuine respect for their privacy and autonomy. The monstering of Lucy Meadows and other trans people is wrong on its own terms, regardless of any consequences.


Such monstering pieces really must now come to an end.



You can follow TransMediaWatch on Twitter. The Samaritans can be contacted here.


Post script – I have created a resource page here.

I also did an interview for Radio 4 on the above – you can hear it here at 25:20.



Comments are pre-moderated. No purely anonymous comments will be published; always use a name for ease of reference by other commenters. Other comments published at my absolute discretion.

30 thoughts on “The death of Lucy Meadows”

  1. For all the Journalists bluster about the need for a free press, you are in the end talking about corporations who reason for existing is to make money by selling papers and advertising space within them. They will do what eve it takes provided they think they will not get sent to jail and any court costs/fines incurred are less than the revenue generated.

    1. I agree and would add that the final blame for this obscenity lies with those who buy these titillating voyeuristic publications (not to be called newspapers!).

  2. ‘Such monstering pieces really must now come to an end’

    What ought REALLY come to an end are the contracts, or commissioning, of those ‘writers’ who write such bile.

    But as long as folks click on the links, contained in outraged tweets, to such articles then nothing will change, sadly.

  3. Lucy Meadows would have been protected from any kind of discrimination or harassment by her employer, under the Equality Act 2010. The reporter who insulted her clearly implied that her employer should commit, at the very least, discrimination (“he’s in the wrong job”), and therefore himself breached section 111 of the Act which prohibits inducing discrimination or harassment. Whether there is a connection to her awful death or not, he should not get away with it.

  4. Anyone who thinks we haven’t got a long long way yet to go for LGBT+ rights should be made aware of cases like this and countless others. Truly shocking in today’s society.

  5. Well said. Although the root problem is much deeper than the thoughtless and heartless habits of the tabloids, I fear. In this case the privacy was first broken by the Accrington Observer, picked up by the Manchester Evening News (Guardian group newspapers both) and only finally – probably through the intermediation of an agency – by Richard Littlejohn’s column in the Daily Mail.

    Most decisions on what is newsworthy are made, and therefore most snowballs start rolling, at the local level. The national tabloids may fan the flames but they don’t usually start the fire.

  6. Absolutely spot on, David.

    As you rightly say, we don’t know the facts of Lucy’s death at this juncture, but that does not change what she was subjected to.

    Absolutely tragic – and appalling.

  7. “Such monstering pieces really must now come to an end.”

    They should, but the business model for too many of the tabloids seem to have such stories at their heart – not holding the powerful to account as they so often like to claim.

    The sad part of the equation isn’t just that lives are destroyed by the papers just for failing to live the conventional life they approve of, but that apparently millions of their fellow citizens enjoy reading this sort of character assassination

  8. Correction to my previous comment.

    The Guardian Media Group sold the MEN and its papers to Trinity Mirror in 2010. The rest of my point still holds, though. The problem is endemic throughout the media, not limited to an all-to-easy-to-demonise Dacre/Murdoch axis of evil.

  9. The rôle of the parent who took the story – such was his ‘outrage’ – to both local and national newspapers and who seems to have been the only person concerned by it should also be considered, along with the readiness of said papers to exploit his bigotry to suit their agendas.

  10. I am very saddened to hear about this death.

    At the same time, I disagree that Lucy Meadows was monstered, at least by Littlejohn whose article I have read. In that article he expresses his opinions on the matter, some of which we may or may not agree. Opinions are protected by Article 10 of the ECHR and I do not see how his article could have fallen foul of a press regulator.

    1. Were Littlejohn’s opinions published on Twitter or Facebook, we would call him an Internet Troll and the police would possibly investigate him under various laws. Sadly they were not, they were published in something that claims to be a newspaper and so he remains free to ruin innocent people’s lives. If anything this demonstrates the need for a press regulator with teeth. Laws do not have to be broken for something to be wrong.

  11. You are quite right – the way they treat those unable to defend themselves shows how they would like to treat everyone. I am sick of hearing about what a wonderful free press we have. It is undeniably free to make money for foreign tycoons and British tax exiles.

  12. I’m going to make myself unpopular…

    Such monstering is demonstrably and obviously wrong. However, it will exist as long as it is legal and as long as the press thinks there is a market for it. Its existence is disgraceful, but not an argument for any sort of censorship: that this sort of thing should continue to happen is an evil, but a lesser evil than any sort of direct state regulation of the press, beyond existing laws on libel, incitement and so on. For who shall guard the guards?

    1. The thing is, it’s not legal. It breaches laws against libel, incitement of hatred, and sexual discrimination.
      A “free press” doesn’t have permission to write hateful, libellous, inciteful opinions any more than “free speech” allows you to shout “fire” in a crowded room.
      If an individual wrote this stuff on pieces of paper and handed them out on the street they’d be prosecuted. Newspapers get away with it because the companies that own them make a huge amount of money and can afford to buy support from lawyers and politicians.

  13. Sensationalist journalism, tabloid fodder they are just products of a society based on consumerism; we aren’t informed, we’re sold information. Even this story, it’s not news it’s a call to action. It has taken Lucy from Monster to Martyr.
    I would be the first to decry the fact It’s sick that an alleged news source would waste it’s resources harassing someone going through such a monumental transition, but that calls me to question what about this article drew me in to read it, and if its just the medias fault for selling it, or for me deciding its worth buying into.

  14. A few people on Twitter have said press regulation would not have stopped the Mail reporting and commenting like this. I’m not so sure. I think Littlejohn’s column breached the Editor’s code of conduct on discrimination. There are possibly other breaches. But the fact is the code of conduct, despite having being drawn up the industry, is a joke, and is ignored and breached daily by much of the industry because the PCC rarely polices any breaches – people have to complain and they;re often scared to- or upholds none but the most egrergious breaches.

    Under a truly independent body that actually upholds the code such a cavalier attitude could be very costly. Even if this article wasn’t found to have breached the code, newspapers would at least have to think twice about publishing such hateful nonsense because of the fear of a breach and possible redress. They would, at the very least, have to discuss the way the story is presented and its impact, and that might discourage this kind of approach. It would take time for the culture of many newsrooms to change but a body that upholds the code would hasten that change.

    To ensure a truly independent body like that you need some kind of statute.

    It’s this point those who think the events leading to Leveson were a failure of law-enforcement and not regulation fail to understand. Hacking etc arose out of the rotten culture that already monstered and smeared, and distorted and hired private detectives to access all kinds of illegal information. All that happened because sections of the press paid no heed to their own code of conduct and believed themselves above the law because there was no punishment for their misdemeanours from their own watchdog. So they did pretty much as they pleased, with the consequences we saw. In order to rein in that behaviour and the culture which spawned it, you need a watchdog that is independent and has the power to act. The press have shown they cannot be trusted with setting up such a body. It needs some kind of statute to guarantee true independence

  15. In a week in which the Press Complaints Commission found that the notorious Julie Burchill article about trans people did not violate its code of practice, we learn of the death of Lucy Meadows at the depressingly young age of 32. Suicide is suspected, but not yet confirmed.

    Some may remember press coverage over the Christmas period about a teacher from a Lancashire primary school who had announced an intention to commence a process of gender reassignment and who would be returning to work as Miss Meadows at the start of the new year. Richard Littlejohn of the Daily Mail was highly critical of the way in which Lucy’s employer, the Blackburn Diocese Board of Governors had addressed matters, particularly in the way in which the news had been broken to parents by way of a small paragraph titled ‘staff changes’ in the end-of-year newsletter. Littlejohn appealed to the basic prejudices of his readers in questioning whether primary children should be exposed to such situations. Such prejudices are not uncommon but, thankfully, seemingly in the minority; the 2006 EHRC Scottish Social Attitudes Society found that 30 per cent of respondents felt that a transsexual person would be unsuitable as a primary school teacher. More recent research in Wales puts the figure at 33% with 48% taking an opposing view.

    Without prejudging the findings of the Coroner’s Court in the present case, some further statistics may bear repeating. In the 2012 Trans Mental Health Study 84% of respondents disclosed a history of suicidal ideation, with 48% attempting to take their own life and 34% making multiple attempts.

    It is for others to determine whether intrusive press coverage contributed to the untimely demise of Lucy Meadows. I am unable to share with you the thoughts of Richard Littlejohn on the suitability of transpeople as primary schoolteachers to help you make up your own mind on the matter; in a belated show of respect, they appear to have been edited. However in a brief commentary on the sad news of Lucy’s passing, David Allen Green is characteristically erudite in his plea for the ending of the monstering of trans* people by the bigots who masquerade as polemicists, and he reminds us that the true monsters in this narrative are the people who oppress us. Thank you David for your continued support of trans people.

  16. This terrible thing happened, and will keep happening. What is the appropriate mechanism for stopping it happening? You are a legal expert in this area: perhaps you can say whether it can be achieved through proportionate law or regulation. Or is it related to social attitudes which will take time to change?

  17. Every industry in this country with the potential to harm people is regulated. Except one.
    We pass legislation to protect vulnerable groups from discrimination, harrassment by the state, by employers etc, but we exclude the press.
    We can speculate why.
    It cannot be beyond our legislators – those legislators who put the interests of their constituents before the party political interest in their media coverage in the run-up to the next election – to define “public interest” and protect the innocent from being hunted by the pack of hounds.
    There was no public interest in Lucy Meadows. Only the prejudice of a parent called Wayne Cowie and the complicity of local and national newspapers in his campaign to bring shame on the school and the teacher because he could not tolerate the idea of gender reassignment.
    100 years, Cowie, Littlejohn and their cronies would have kicked up a stink when the first black teacher was appointed to a class of white kids. 50 years ago it would have been outrage at a gay teacher. Today, they cannot tolerate a transgender teacher.
    It’s really helpful to see all all this material in one plce, by the way. Thanks.

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