Some days have now passed since the sad death of Lucy Meadows was reported to an unsuspecting world. The storm that followed has, i believe, genuinely taken many in the press and media by surprise.
But it is important not to lose sight of what this froth is really about – and while death was the catalyst, it really is NOT the point.
Because at the end of the day, an inquest may reveal all manner of things and as those leading the commentary have been very clear from day one: this is not as foolish or as simplistic as a bunch of angry trans folk accusing the press of “causing” anything.
Though it does suit the press to claim otherwise.
In truth, there are three issues here central to Lucy’s story, and a fourth that affects us all.
Let’s remind ourselves of them.
The real issues
First, this was NOT a story: it was something whipped up and confected by a press that went out of its way to ignore positive support for Lucy and went looking for the few parents critical of her.
Second, what the press needs to understand is that whenever they report a story they touch a life. Both through the story told and the words used: and the methods used to get to that story. It doesn’t matter whether an individual crumbles under the stress or soldiers gamely on: it is the fact that the press trample so carelessly over lives that matters.
Remember a joke that went badly wrong earlier this year? Two Australian DJ’s phoning the nurse looking after Kate Middleton were slammed by the British press for their irresponsibility when she killed herself. But who could know? The “joke” was one probably played a thousand times before with no tragic consequence. The point is not WHETHER there was a link, but whether the behaviour was responsible.
Third, and most depressing: whatever the cause of Lucy’s death, the press response was disgusting. The last thing she did in her life was to start a difficult and tortuous journey to be recognised as a woman. Every journalist and every editor who therefore reported her dying in terms of her being a man should hang their head in shame.
And last up – and here is where the community dimension arrives. For a brief interlude, while Leveson was sitting, the press put the kid gloves back on. In the last three months, they have been well and truly off.
The press has monstered a trans GP, while studiously refusing to report multiple stories now taken up by the GMC of sexual and physical abuse perpetrated on trans people. It continues to attack and sensationalise. All around are stories displaying a similar lack of respect, of sensitivity.
The bottom line is not whether it was Littlejohn or Stuart Pike (the local journalist) most “to blame” for the awful coverage. They ALL are, because underneath the reporting is a sickness – a bigotry – that seems to think that being trans is news on its own. That being trans is some sort of license to treat people like freaks.
And that is why this campaign, this anger, is not, will never be about why Lucy died, even if that is important in its own right. No. This anger is about how the press treat the trans community, all of us, every day.
It is about Lucy, in the sense that her life was touched in an especially awful way by the press. But in the end, it is not just about her. It is about all of us.