I went to the candlelit vigil held outside the Daily Mail's Kensington headquarters, Northcliffe House, in memory of transgender primary teacher Lucy Meadows, who died last Tuesday 19th March.
The speeches weren't exactly overwhelming and, lest a placard-bearing group suddenly turn up outside my window demanding my resignation, I hasten to add this was because the deliverers simply weren't good public speakers, not because they were transgendered. However, the reason for the vigil and the force of numbers in attendance was a moving spectacle.
Transphobia has been prevalent in the news recently, with shock journalists like Julie Burchill publishing ill-thought out and seemingly vicious polemics designed to attack the trans community. The reason for this particular vigil was Richard Littlejohn's article in the Daily Mail last December 'outing' Lucy Meadows as transgendered, and 'monstering' her for being who she was.
Did Littlejohn paint her as a monster? He spoke of Miss Meadows for the entire article as 'Mr Upton', using the masculine pronoun, described her as 'selfish', suggested she might be 'in the wrong job' and, most cruelly, wrote '[she] isn't entitled to project [her] personal problems on to impressionable young children.' The full article, although now taken down from the Daily Mail website, is available to read here.
As most of the speakers mentioned on the night of the vigil, we can't know whether this article was responsible for Lucy Meadows' death. And, although we can't see how a fragile mindset may have viewed these words, it appears from a neutral distance that all Littlejohn really manages to monster in the article is his own intelligence and inherent misunderstanding of modern culture.
Using children as a factor of moral leverage is always a low journalistic blow and the quote Littlejohn uses to support his notion is tellingly without context: '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.' Who, exactly, told him this?
What the vigil achieved was the message that we need more education and understanding to rid ourselves of transphobia, which could be instilled in our youngest minds easily by the transition of Nathan Upton to Lucy Meadows and the brave, honest treatment of it, as the school tried to achieve. Littlejohn was too trapped in the box of his upbringing and narrow concept of society to perceive this. Yet targeting hurt back into hate will not bring relief, and ridding ourselves of Littlejohn will not rid ourselves of Littlejohn's mindset.
Perhaps we can work together to gain greater harmony through spectacles like this touching vigil, rather than simply achieving someone's sacking.