Lucy Meadows: what the coroner said about how the media treated her


8:59 am - May 29th 2013

by Tim Fenton    


      Share on Tumblr

Regular readers will need no introduction to the tragic story of Lucy Meadows.

She was the trans-gender teacher monstered by the press following the leaking of a letter from her school telling parents that one of their staff would be transitioning to live as a woman. Ms Meadows was then subjected to a characteristically crude hatchet job by Richard Littlejohn.

Since Ms Meadows took her own life, Dacre has been gradually rowing back on the hostility towards trans people, notably publishing an article by trans author Jane Fae about her experiences, which was at least a step in the right direction.

And Littlejohn has been silent on the whole business, which is a further bonus. But, as ever with the Mail, no heads rolled after Lucy Meadows died.

Perhaps Dacre thought that if he threw a few scraps to the trans community and otherwise got his hacks to keep their heads down, all would be well and the protestors would melt away.

But he reckoned without Michael Singleton, the coroner who has been charged with investigating Lucy Meadows’ death, whose message to the press was as unequivocal as it was hostil, yesterday.

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

Lucy Meadows was not somebody who had thrust herself into the public limelight. She was not a celebrity. She had done nothing wrong. Her only crime was to be different. Not by choice but by some trick of nature. And yet the press saw fit to treat her in the way that they did.

He was particularly harsh on the Mail, concluding the paper had “sought to humiliate and ridicule” Ms Meadows.

“It seems to be that nothing has been learned from the Leveson inquiry,” he went on, adding that he would write to the Culture Secretary urging implementation of the Leveson recommendations (the Mail only removed the Littlejohn column from its website after Ms Meadows’ death had been announced).

But the Mail has a get-out clause: the teacher made no reference to media intrusion in one of the suicide notes she left in her house.

So Dacre and his doggies will be able to claim victim status once more, sickening though that might be. That, though, is how the tabloid mindset works. There will also be talk of the Mail only repeating what had already been published locally.

And so the whole nasty business will go on to the next victim.

    Share on Tumblr   submit to reddit  


About the author
Tim is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He blogs more frequently at Zelo Street
· Other posts by


Story Filed Under: Blog ,Media

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Reader comments


The ones really at fault are the advertisers who advertise in it and the readers who buy it.

So Tim,

Although Lucy Medows didn’t blame the papers in her suicide note you know better.

Another opportunity to try and restrict the impolite press.

3. So Much For Subtlety

The real question is why the Coroner expressed an opinion in the first place. The coroner’s job is to find out a cause of death and if possible assign some blame. If Meadows did not blame the newspapers in her suicide note, and there was a substantial gap between the reporting and the suicide, as there was, then on what possible basis does this jumped up little medical student presume to stand in judgement on what the rest of us can read?

It is more of the intolerance and lack of liberty in modern Britain. The Left has not only forgotten what a Liberal society is supposed to be, they can’t even see the point. Fire him.

4. Shatterface

Any mention in the Coroner’s report about Birchill, Moore, or any of the equalky vicious transphobics on the ‘liberal’ end of the spectrum who Meadows, as a teacher, was more likely to have read and from whom she should have expected support?

5. Robin Levett

@Kojak #2:

So Tim,

Although Lucy Medows didn’t blame the papers in her suicide note you know better.

I think you’ll find that its the coroner – the judicial official charged with establishing the cause of death in such circumstances – knows better.

@SMFS #3:

The real question is why the Coroner expressed an opinion in the first place. The coroner’s job is to find out a cause of death and if possible assign some blame. If Meadows did not blame the newspapers in her suicide note, and there was a substantial gap between the reporting and the suicide, as there was, then on what possible basis does this jumped up little medical student presume to stand in judgement on what the rest of us can read?

Youy’ve read the evidence led at the inquest? Could you provide a link?

As for the “jumped up little medical student”; to whom are you referring?

This is a very sad story and the media reporting cannot be condoned. However, any man who chooses to mutilate his body in an attempt to change his sex is by definition seriously disturbed. This action in itself should have triggered alarm bells about the mental state of this individual which, with timely professional psychiatric help, might have prevented such a tragic outcome.

@Charles Lockwood.
I appreciate that freedom of speech shines as brightly on the ignorant as on everyone else, but you should have taken a clue from the context that such expressions of prejudicial attitudes are no longer cool.

Helen@7

I am a seriously uncool person and, I hope, not at all ignorant, very necessary attributes given the uncritical context in which this news story is being reported here. One person’s prejudicial attitude is another person’s considered judgement. As you point out this is what freedom of speech is all about, a freedom which I suspect from your tone, you are not entirely comfortable with, when exercised by others with whom you disagree.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ 6 Charles

“However, any man who chooses to mutilate his body in an attempt to change his sex is by definition seriously disturbed.”

Even if we accepted that the desire to have a sex change is a form of mental illness (guys, let’s not have a row on that subject, it’s a define-your-terms kinda thing), that doesn’t magically give the person in question every other mental illness under the Sun. You’re completely equivocating.

@Charles Lockwood.
No, not uncomfortable. Just disappointed. After all, I’m used to seeing transphobic bigotry in the press, the last minority it has been okay for liberals to hate on. The Guardian/Observer (to take an example) has had much sport with nasty polemics from Bindel, Greer and Burchill over the years.

However, not even the Daily Mail (or the Accrington Guardian which started it all) have taken the occasion of a Coroner’s Report critical of the Press Monstering of a transgendered person to heap yet more ill-informed abuse on the deceased.

11. Robin Levett

@Charles Lockwood #6 & 8:

For my part, the issue isn’t whether you are uncool or not; it is that you appear to be ignorant of the issues. That might be a considered ignorance – but it is still ignorance; and taking a position while ignorant of the facts is pretty much prejudice by definition.

@Robin Levett #5

So the coroner comes to a conclusion that doesn’t match the evidence in the suicide note. Lucy didn’t blame the press but the coroner knew better did he? Great detective work.

As for the main stream press being the cause. I thought that it was the local newspaper that highlighted her case after a parent informed it. And there wasn’t any long tem harassment of her by photographers. And when she contacted the PCC they newspapers pulled back.

However, the fact that a high proportion of transgenders do commit suicide because of the huge amount of personal turmoil they go through as they try and work out their identity and the rejection by family and friends does not have a single bearing on this case – according to those who know.

I don’t know anything. But going by the half stories by the press and publicists and those using her case for political purposes on both sides, the publicity did have a bearing on her suicide but it wasn’t the only thing. Anyone who is in well known locally and makes such a dramatic change should expect to have some negative attitudes.

13. Robin Levett

@SadbutMadlad #12:

So the coroner comes to a conclusion that doesn’t match the evidence in the suicide note.

It was perfectly consistent with the suicide note; but of course the suicide note is hardly the only evidence that would have been before the coroner.

He did apparently have evidence, for example, that Lucy Meadows had made a complaint to the PCC over harassment generally and Littlejohn’s article specifically.

Lucy didn’t blame the press but the coroner knew better did he? Great detective work.

I have no idea whether the decision was against the preponderance of evidence (and more importantly neither do you, since neither of us have seen that evidence); but to take the view that the suicide note must be taken as a complete and conclusive record of the deceased’s reasons for suicide is absurd.

I don’t think anyone in this thread is saying that the papers should be banned from saying this stuff, merely that it’s immoral to pick on someone like this. Criticising what someone says isn’t the same as saying they shouldn’t be allowed to say it. They should be allowed to print anything that’s not libelous. Anything.

For what it’s worth, from the article I saw no real evidence that the reporting caused her suicide, but what do I know?

15. Charlieman

@6. Charles Lockwood: “However, any man who chooses to mutilate his body in an attempt to change his sex is by definition seriously disturbed. This action in itself should have triggered alarm bells about the mental state of this individual which, with timely professional psychiatric help, might have prevented such a tragic outcome.”

Shortly before her suicide, Lucy Meadows started the real life test to determine whether or how she might live as a woman. The real life test is precisely what the words suggest: live, work and socialise as a member of the intended sex.

The process starts off with a consultation with a psychiatrist after the patient expresses a wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery (GRS). The psychiatrist tries to determine whether the desire for GRS is a fetish or masks a mental illness. The patient is in the care of a psychiatrist who will usually be doing their best to help.

If the desire for GRS is judged to be valid, the patient starts the real life test or real life experience. The patient typically lives that way for 12 or 24 months. The patient may or may not be given hormone therapy.

Patients come to different conclusions during the real life test. Some resent psychiatrists for making them wait; others conclude that they don’t wish to proceed with GRS.

GRS is a scary procedure, but it is not mutilation. Medics have performed GRS for about 80 years so their outcomes have improved. Roughly 1 in 20,000 children, intersex people, are born with contradictory anatomy. A proportion of them receive sexual assignment surgery during childhood, growing into happy adults. Sometimes the medics get it wrong. Don’t merge the ideas too much; most transexual people are not intersex; the essential argument is that assignment surgery is unexceptional.

As I wrote the last time Lucy Meadows was discussed on LC, she was prevented from getting on with the real life test by the press. Some of the press made a stink about a private matter for which there is a prurient but not a public interest.

16. Charlieman

@12. SadButMadLad: “However, the fact that a high proportion of transgenders do commit suicide because of the huge amount of personal turmoil they go through as they try and work out their identity and the rejection by family and friends does not have a single bearing on this case – according to those who know.”

You are correct to note that suicide is disproportionate amongst identifiably transgendered people. I have not seen figures that separate out post-op TS people from people starting on a journey.

I acknowledge that Lucy Meadows may have been rejected by former friends and family. She would have been told what might happen. What seems abnormal to me is her collapse in self confidence over such a short time interval. Most TS women starting transition get on with it privately. I thus conclude that the press coverage was a significant factor.

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Helen

“After all, I’m used to seeing transphobic bigotry in the press, the last minority it has been okay for liberals to hate on. The Guardian/Observer (to take an example) has had much sport with nasty polemics from Bindel, Greer and Burchill over the years.”

Word. I’m not sure how liberal those people are, but they definitely count as lefties, and their “put trans people down to score a cheap point for feminism” agenda puts the cart before the horse somewhat. We at Liberal Conspiracy had a minor flamewar with a Mumsnet enclave over their attitude to trans people, which can be best described as completely fucking disgusting.

18. Charlieman

@10. Helen: “After all, I’m used to seeing transphobic bigotry in the press, the last minority it has been okay for liberals to hate on. The Guardian/Observer (to take an example) has had much sport with nasty polemics from Bindel, Greer and Burchill over the years.”

The Guardian/Observer is a commercial newspaper group, and nasty polemics bring in readers, which brings in money. I’m more concerned when/how nutball polemicists are treated with respect by other small scale, but considerate, political journals. I think that Julie Bindel’s comments about feminism have to be considered alongside her abject contempt for TG men and women. I do not understand why she is tolerated as a feminist philosopher whilst her prejudices are well known.

@17. Chaise Guevara: “I’m not sure how liberal those people are, but they definitely count as lefties…”

It ain’t about up front lefty stuff or up front liberalism. It’s about the up front question: Who are you?

Bindel, Greer and Burchill have expressed contempt for TG people over the years [assume that Helen @10 plus Wikipedia are about right]. All three are prolific writers and Burchill managed to get columns in the broadsheets. They followed the most powerful sides.

As a teenager, I grew up reading Julie Burchill in NME. It did not harm me.

19. So Much For Subtlety

15. Charlieman

The real life test is precisely what the words suggest: live, work and socialise as a member of the intended sex.

And this rests on the assumption that gender is shallow and easily mimicked. It seems not.

GRS is a scary procedure, but it is not mutilation.

By any sane definition it is mutilation.

Medics have performed GRS for about 80 years so their outcomes have improved.

The improvement has been with psychological treatment, not the actual surgery which is more or less where it was 50 years ago.

Roughly 1 in 20,000 children, intersex people, are born with contradictory anatomy. A proportion of them receive sexual assignment surgery during childhood, growing into happy adults.

Except that has nothing to do with people who are trans gendered. As you point out. The number of people born with ambiguous genitals or some rare chromosome problem who later turn up among the transsexual is roughly zero.

Paul Dacre is Gay he should know better than to allow this sort of thing, he is not only a disgrace to the gay community, he is a disgrace to the world.

Retribution re comment 20:

“Paul Dacre is Gay he should have known better …. he is a disgrace to the world”

You forget that it was Paul Dacre who refused to accept police accounts of the murder of Stephen Lawrence 20 years ago and directed the Daily Mail to campaign for a proper investigation where all other papers had failed to do so. For that Britain should be forever grateful no matter how peeved you may be that an equivalent vigour has not been shown towards all things trans-gender.

“The real question is why the Coroner expressed an opinion in the first place. The coroner’s job is to find out a cause of death and if possible assign some blame.”

Maybe he’s sick of having to examine sad and pointless deaths. If he’s gone over the bounds of what he’s meant to say on this occasion, I hardly think that’s as bad as engaging in the sordid, self-righteous ‘free speech’ that tips people like Lucy Meadows over the edge in the first place. He has my respect, anyway. And RIP Lucy Meadows.

And shame on the media, right or left, that hounds and denigrates transgender people for sport.

23. So Much For Subtlety

22. Lamia

Maybe he’s sick of having to examine sad and pointless deaths.

Then he shouldn’t be a coroner. As that is pretty much the definition of what he has to do. Especially not if he is going to spend much time looking at the trans-gender community which has a very high rate of suicide.

If he’s gone over the bounds of what he’s meant to say on this occasion, I hardly think that’s as bad as engaging in the sordid, self-righteous ‘free speech’ that tips people like Lucy Meadows over the edge in the first place.

Well not everyone gets the concept of free speech.

And shame on the media, right or left, that hounds and denigrates transgender people for sport.

I fail to see any denigration.

24. Charlieman

@19. So Much For Subtlety: “Except that has nothing to do with people who are trans gendered.”

The thing is that I wrote an argument with caveats. Popular assumption is that somebody who fails to observe caveats in debate is either:
* a blustering fool who needs to win the argument at all cost, even at the cost of his/her dignity.
* an idiot who can’t follow the argument.

Let’s have a look at the bit I wrote @15 which you intentionally skipped when quoting me: “Don’t merge the ideas too much; most transexual people are not intersex; *the essential argument is that assignment surgery is unexceptional*.”

My argument is clear: I don’t regard assignment or reassignment surgery as sanctioned mutilation or weirdness.

SMFS: “The improvement has been with psychological treatment, not the actual surgery which is more or less where it was 50 years ago.”

No plastic surgery improvements in fifty years? No improvements in electrolytic hair removal?

More or less fifty years ago, Philip Larkin wrote ‘Annus Mirabilis’: “Sexual intercourse began; In nineteen sixty-three…” (which appears to be where you mentally reside).

@23. So Much For Subtlety: “I fail to see any denigration.”

Previously @19 SMFS wrote: “And this rests on the assumption that gender is shallow and easily mimicked.”

What, no denigration when you presume that transgendered people wish to “mimick” the adopted gender/sex? You talk about transgendersim as if it is a game.

As I mentioned above @15, UK psychiatrists challenge fetishists who think about sex change as a game. So people who wish to undergo GRS on the NHS in the UK, probably, aren’t playing games.

25. So Much For Subtlety

24. Charlieman

My argument is clear: I don’t regard assignment or reassignment surgery as sanctioned mutilation or weirdness.

Good for you. But that does not mean that it isn’t.

No plastic surgery improvements in fifty years? No improvements in electrolytic hair removal?

Actually not really. Not as much as you would think. But there has been a lot more involvement of psychologists and other professionals.

What, no denigration when you presume that transgendered people wish to “mimick” the adopted gender/sex? You talk about transgendersim as if it is a game.

No, none. And no I didn’t. But of course you need to use such language because it helps your feeling of self-righteousness. Not because it reflects what I said.

UK psychiatrists challenge fetishists who think about sex change as a game. So people who wish to undergo GRS on the NHS in the UK, probably, aren’t playing games.

Probably not. But that doesn’t mean the people who are encouraging them to undergo GRS are not. After all, if you believe, deeply, that God made you the wrong way and you should have one fewer limbs, it is strange to actually cut off a limb – as the NHS will do – rather than deal with the underlying psychological problem. If you suffer from the very rare Cotard’s Syndrome and you are utterly convinced that you are dead, the solution is not for a doctor to bring your physical condition in line with your mental one.

But people have ideological games to play here. They have another political agenda. And I think they are playing with the transgendered in an effort to push that agenda.

26. Charlieman

@25. So Much For Subtlety: “But there has been a lot more involvement of psychologists and other professionals.”

I gave you a chance earlier, to talk about psychiatry and psychology. You use psychiatry and psychology interchangeably. I conclude that you don’t comprehend any difference between the disciplines. I conclude that you don’t know much.

27. Robin Levett

@Charlieman #26:

@25. So Much For Subtlety:

…I conclude that you don’t know much.

What took you so long?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy: Lucy Meadows: what the coroner said about how the media treated her | moonblogsfromsyb

    […] via Tim Fenton Liberal Conspiracy http://liberalconspiracy.org/2013/05/29/lucy-meadows-what-the-coroner-said-about-how-the-media-treat… […]





Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.