This week, a schoolteacher took her own life, a tragic result of media bullying that was egged on by a right-wing columnist for the UK's 2nd-largest paper.
Lucy Meadows just wanted to quietly teach her students, but Richard Littlejohn of the notoriously inflammatory Daily Mail led a nasty witch-hunt against her. In a hit piece mockingly titled "He's not only in the wrong body... he's in the wrong job," Littlejohn began a wave of harassment that drove Lucy from teaching. Two months later, she would be dead.
Lucy's death sent a wave of shock and anger across the UK, with tens of thousands of people demanding that Daily Mail fire Richard Littlejohn. The Daily Mail is one part a of huge global media conglomerate, and if people around the world stand up to hold the paper accountable, it will send a clear message that the media can't peddle this kind of bigotry and get away with it.
Lucy was raised male, but recently underwent a transition to live as female -- which for Littlejohn was reason enough to attack her in his column. The vile article led to a witch-hunt targeting Meadows. Newspapers offered to pay parents for a picture of her, and she complained of having to leave home by the back door and arrive early to school to avoid the packs of journalists.
Throughout the hit piece, Littlejohn callously referred to Lucy as "he", and claimed that getting gender reassignment surgery showed that she didn't care for the children she taught.
Richard Littlejohn has a long history of using his perch at the Daily Mail to mock and harass others, including people of color, the LGBT community, and people with cerebral palsy. Littlejohn is a disgrace to journalists, but the Daily Mail is defending him. The paper released a statement that "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." Disgustingly, the Daily Mail thinks that it is the victim in this situation.
Trans people face a horrifying level of discrimination and violence around the world. If we want to make the world safe for the trans members of our community, we need to act together to ensure that major institutions like the Daily Mail aren't contributing to this climate of hate.
Littlejohn claimed that children don't have the capacity to handle a gender transition -- but kids are smart and don't carry the bias that adults have absorbed over the years. Just take the experience my partner Max had when he came out to his little cousin as a transgender man. The cousin said, "Oh, that makes sense. I always thought you were a boy. Now can we go play Legos?" Gender transition is only an issue for kids when the adults in their lives -- many egged on by these sorts of offensive opinion pieces -- make it out to be a problem.
Everyone has the right to say what they think, but mainstream publications like the Daily Mail shouldn't promote this sort of hate. The Daily Mail needs to ensure that this never happens again -- by not only yanking Littlejohn's column and apologizing for the paper's decision to run the hateful opinion piece, but also instituting an editorial review policy that prevents discriminatory writing from ending up in its paper again.
Thanks for fighting for basic human decency,
Kaytee and the rest of us
The Guardian: Trans teacher believed to have killed herself had told of 'press harrassment', 3/21/13