Late last year, a UK primary school teacher, Lucy Meadows, decided to begin presenting herself as a woman for the spring term. She had the support of the school, which sent a letter to parents in December. It read simply,
“Mr Upton has made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman after the Christmas break. She will return to work as Miss Meadows.”
The Daily Mail (think of it as a cross between HuffPost and the National Enquirer, but for the UK) ran an article by Richard Littlejohn that attacked Miss Meadows (note: original article removed, see below), referring to her as “he” or “he/she” and using her former name. The alleged problem, of course, is that we need to “protect” children:
“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.”
It’s condescending to assert that children are too stupid to ‘make sense of’ a transgender person. I’m sick of people projecting their own ignorance, insecurities, and intolerance onto the minds of children, who are probably much better equipped to understand these things than their parents whose views on gender and sexuality were formed in a different era. Why do we tolerate arguments like this, which boil down to “X is bad, because children”? Why do we tolerate their use to silence debate and oppose progress? The ignorance behind their intolerance is exemplified by another quote from the article, this time from a parent with a child in Miss Meadows’ class:
“My middle boy thinks that he might wake up with a girl’s brain because he was told that Mr Upton, as he got older, got a girl’s brains.”
The article treats this as though it’s a legitimate reason to keep her out of the classroom, to take away the career she no doubt worked hard to build.
Littlejohn concludes by calling Miss Meadows “selfish” and suggests that the best solution would have been to “disappear” Miss Meadows by sending her to a different school where the students would be none the wiser (kind of reminds you of the strategy-of-choice of another organization that promotes intolerance of people like Miss Meadows, for dealing with its employees who actually are a danger to children, doesn’t it?). The coup de grâce of Littlejohn’s character assassination is his assertion that
“if he [sic] cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he [sic] is paid to teach, he’s [sic] not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s [sic] in the wrong job.”
This week, Miss Meadows committed suicide. In response, The Daily Mail has removed the hatchet job about Miss Meadows without declaring the change. Fortunately, I found a site with Littlejohn’s original article. If this weren’t a CYA move and the Daily Mail’s editors were actually sorry, wouldn’t they have said so?
I wonder if the UK’s notorious libel laws are loose enough to charge Mr. Littlejohn for his role in this tragedy. It might be the best way to discourage Mr. Littlejohn and others like him from bullying LGBTQ people in the papers.