It’s not been a good 24 hours for trans people’s relations with the British press.
Yesterday evening, the Press Complaints Commission ruled that Julie Burchill’s January article did not breach the Editors Code. On a strict “legal” definition, that’s true, as the Code only specifically restricts discriminatory articles against named individuals, and accuracy more generally. However, in a meeting between Trans Media Watch and Lord Hunt, Chair of the PCC, in September, he categorically stated that complaints from groups on this clause could already and should continue to be accepted.
Chocolate teapot by Dru Marland
Well, it appears the PCC accepts them, only to decline them. Is it any wonder, when they acknowledge that the article was offensive and would have been discriminatory if it referenced an individual, that the trans community simply walked away from them in the past?
I’m also aware of negotiations through the PCC with another tabloid, where the paper is justifying a statement of public expenditure based upon what the individual told them. Clear evidence was laid before the Leveson Inquiry about the boundaries for the amounts for that particular expenditure. The tabloid is basing its claim for accuracy on an individual’s uninformed statement of costs, rather than well-researched and publicly accessible information. They’re refusing to back down!
This afternoon came the very sad and terribly shocking news of the death of Lucy Meadows.
I, along with the other TMW trustees and directors, want to share our condolences with Lucy’s family, friends, colleagues and pupils. However it happened, Lucy’s death was untimely and tragic.
Lucy was the transitioning primary school teacher who was outed, first by her local paper, then nationally by the tabloids. There was even a phone-in on Radio 2 about her, and whether she should transition if she was responsible for children. Richard Littlejohn did his usual hatchet job. I still have the evidence, despite the Mail removing the piece from their website last week. I wonder whether the PCC did stand up for Lucy.
The coroner is still to report on Lucy’s death, so any claims about suicide would be premature. It’s certainly what it looks like, however, with the first report from one of her friends stating that she had attempted suicide repeatedly over the past few weeks. The pressures she would have been under because she very suddenly, and against her will, became a public figure would have been immense.
Let’s put this in context. The press has been shouting very loudly about the freedom it must have to hold those in power to account. It seems to be very quiet about the potential consequences of that freedom to innocent, powerless people. I’m a believer in a free press. However I’m also a believer in a responsible press. I’m not entirely sure we have either.
Just looking at the Daily Mail’s website this afternoon, there were seven main stories above the line. One was budget-related, sort-of. One was NHS-related. Two of them related to trans people – one of them a story about someone who had obtained sex by deceit – a worrying expose given last week’s events in Scotland – and the old hoary chestnut of prisoners seeking “sex changes”. Justin Welby, who’s he? Ah, yes, about halfway down the page.
My Leveson challenge to Paul Dacre was why he seems to see trans people as immoral. Certainly, driving someone to suicide, if that is indeed what has happened, is immoral. Of that there can be no doubt.