You could be forgiven for already having forgotten. Lucy Meadows, the trans teacher who apparently took her own life following a media ‘monstering’, quickly became a focus for the national press, and a figurehead for trans activists and liberal commentators.
Look in the local newspaper however – the Accrington Observer – and you could be forgiven for not even knowing it had happened. It did carry a perfunctory piece detailing her tragic death last month, although the handful of comments on the post – for a story that went national – might seem surprising.
The small Lancashire town of Accrington was once again in the media – at the centre of a story concerning intolerance – and despite the commendable attitudes and approach of most parents at Meadows’ school, the teachers, and the community, there was a curious silence among the media.
For me, Accrington isn’t some odd foreign Northern town. It’s my home town. It’s where I grew up, went to primary and secondary school (all just a few streets away from the school that Lucy Meadows taught at), where my Mum also grew up, and my maternal grandparents lived, worked, and died. I have always been amazed how the town has sought to blot out the existence of one of its more famous residents – the writer Jeanette Winterson despite (or perhaps because of?) her work being so deeply rooted in the area. Why – I felt the town collectively wondered – did our famous writer have to be a lesbian? And why did she have to write about it, making us look bad?
Yet, the Accrington Observer – in response to a raft of cuts by the MEN Group – is no longer based in Accrington. Its HQ is now down the road in Manchester, making it increasingly remote from the populace it seeks to report and reflect. Ask an Accringtonian what they think about the Observer these days and you’ll rarely get a dissenting view from “it’s gone downhill”.
Nonetheless, the paper team also seems rather removed from the cosmopolitan and more socially-aware city that the paper now finds itself based. The ever-excellent Jane Fae blogged how she contacted the Observer and got nowhere in terms of a meaningful response to her journalistic inquires, and indeed reports being laughed at by a senior journalist at the paper. How can they laugh you might wonder when a vigil takes place? When over 200,000 sign petitions in support of Lucy? When the issue is raised in Parliament?
The answer is that once the bandwagon moves on, it is replaced with an oppressive silence. Like the missing Harvest photograph in The Wicker Man, the town, and the media can erase this unfortunate incident from their memory.
David Allen Green has produced a terrific set of resources pulling together media coverage which is well worth a look for a comprehensive overview of this sad story. That said, let’s not forget that at the heart of this is a tragedy. A young teacher, seemingly forced to take her own life in the face of media harassment. The media would rather you forgot about Lucy. Don’t.