The tide is turning

Yesterday was Transgender Day of Remembrance which is held each year on 20th November to remember those who have been murdered in the past year with their trans status suspected as a motivation in their murder. I had the interesting experience of being at a Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Seattle last year that was deliberately seeking to shift the focus away from a naming of the dead towards affirming the life of trans and gender variant people. Yet when contributions were invited from the floor it was quickly brought back to the origins of the event. One of the first to speak had been at the original vigil in Boston for Rita Hester after her murder on 28 November 1998. That vigil inspired a website Remembering Our Dead that in turn inspired this international Transgender Day of Remembrance (brought forward 8 days from Hester’s death date to reduce clashes with US Thanksgiving).

It is important to remember that Transgender Day of Remembrance is about murder victims, especially as there are continuing attempts in the UK to link Lucy Meadows to this day, despite the fact that she was neither murdered nor a victim. The most egregious example of this in 2014 was trans celebrity Paris Lees’s article for The Guardian Why we should all celebrate life on this Transgender Day of Remembrance.” The article had to be corrected because of Lee’s erroneous claims about Meadows as is noted on the editorial statement at the bottom of the page:

This article was amended on 20 November 2014. It originally said in the third paragraph that Lucy Meadows’ coroner had blamed the media for “hounding her to death”. He did not say this, but had said “shame on all of you” to the assembled press.

That editorial intervention was in response to my comment:

“Or beloved primary school teacher Lucy Meadows, whose coroner blasted the press for “hounding her to death” last year.”

No he didn’t. He condemned the press reporting of Meadows’ transition and the reporting after her death. He found that she had taken her own life while in full possession of her mental capacity, after writing an eloquent suicide letter detailing that there was nothing left to keep her in this life (i.e., nothing drove her to death) and taking great care to consider the needs of those who would chance upon the suicide scene. As there are so many victims to remember at TDOR why is there the need to turn Meadows into a victim instead of affirming her as the strong character whom the coroner commended? One who took on the press via the PCC and won her case.

It is pleasing to see the prompt response from The Guardian to correcting Lees’s article as their reporter Helen Pidd had played a major role in spreading misinformation about the inquest verdict in May 2013. In a rush to be the first to file copy on the day she submitted a report seeking to use the coroner’s closing tirade against the press and claim that they formed part of the verdict. Pidd had form as she was the journalist who first quoted directly from a private email that Meadows had sent requesting support from someone (possibly the charity Trans Media Watch). Pidd was not the first to breach Meadows’ confidentiality that was trans campaigning journalist Jane Fae, who quoted indirectly from the email.

Meadows died at her own hand on 19 March 2013 three months after she experienced a brief period of press harassment. Her death came on the day that the Press Complaints Commission determined that her complaint against the Daily Mail was settled in her favour. It also happened just as press regulation was being debated in Parliament. There was an immediate rush of trans activists (and Littlejohn haters) to put two and two together and get themselves all at sixes and sevens. In the week between Meadows’ death and funeral there was an international campaign to have Littlejohn sacked for driving Meadows to her death, despite the fact that the coroner would not rule on her death for a further two months. In addition to the anti-Littlejohn campaign there was a flurry of trans journalists writing about Meadows, including Paris Lees. In the first article that she had in the print edition of The Guardian she wrote that Meadows’ death would not be in vain. That meant that she was passing a value judgement on Meadows’ death long before the inquest and she seems determined to continue to do so, despite the findings of the inquest being the opposite of what Lees presumed (death by suicide unrelated to press harassment). Lees is far from being a lone voice in seeking to rewrite the inquest verdict to fit a press regulation agenda. When The Observer media commenter Peter Preston wrote about the inquest and criticised the school for publicising Meadows’ transition the previous December, Lees was one of five prominent trans activists who commented critically in the article’s feedback feed, the others being Christine Burns, Natacha Kennedy, Jennie Kermode, and Jane Fae. They all wanted the inquest result to focus on the press harrassment of Meadows in the Christmas and New Year period rather than the coroner’s correct focus on the death three months later and Meadows’ suicide letter. For Lees that desire to reword the inquest verdict remains as strong as ever eighteen months later.

Mercia McMahon