Journalistic Violence

I do agree with the very first sentence of this Guardian piece. After that, it snowballs down a hill of cis privileged dismissal and nonsense. Using Lucy Meadows’ former name, incorrect pronouns, and calling her “selfish” (if I had a nickel every time I heard that line about a trans person…), and making assumptions about her teaching qualifications in no way show that anyone “sympathizes” with the victim.

Sympathy would have been demonstrated had Littlejohn not questioned her qualifications to teach based solely on her transitioning. Her previous qualifications and experience remained intact. Sympathy would have been demonstrated had he examined the notion that the cis-gender world was selfish in expecting Meadows to continue life perceived as male. Sympathy, most tellingly, would have been demonstrated had he used Meadows’ correct name.

Sympathy would have also caused Littlejohn to use correct and preferred pronouns. Pronoun usage is hugely important for many if not most trans people, as many of us have been and continue to be extremely sensitive to it. It’s somewhat like “cocktail party phenomenon” in high gear all the time because there are so many opportunities and words that can misgender us. It’s like tinnitus that rings in our ears constantly. To me, words like he, his, man, sir, and sometimes even the neutral dude dropped quickly and innocuously into conversation hit me like a punch to the gut. I can’t not hear them. They stick out; they’re louder in volume than the words around them. They are impossible for me to ignore. When done innocently and accidentally, I can be gracious about it, to a point.

Yet, this is not at all what Littlejohn did. He continually misgendered Meadows and dismissively mocked aspects of her person and life. It was a hate piece, fueled by fear and mocking wrapped under the false pretense of protecting children. As more and more parent friends tell me, kids couldn’t care any less about this. They usually say “OK” and move on. I have yet to be misgendered or feared or rejected by a child who has been told that “Amy is now a girl.”

People talk about agendas of using somebody’s death for political aims. Let’s back up a bit here. Littlejohn appropriated Lucy Meadows’ life as expendable fodder for his own agenda. Let’s also question Littlejohn’s exploitative appropriation of children as a vehicle for his own hang-ups.

That Littlejohn’s piece ignited a shitstorm of press is not his fault. It is, however, his fault that he aligns with an organization, the Daily Mail, that’s an quagmire of ethical excrement. Were his concerns genuine, there would have been far more mature ways to write about them. Thus, it is also his fault that he chose to write a piece that blithely trashed a woman who was a good teacher and who did what she needed to live her life meaningfully.

It’s funny–by which I mean depressingly and crushingly sad–that some adults here have acted far more immaturely than the children.

Writing that there is “no clear link–indeed any link” between Littlejohn’s column and Meadows’ death is disingenuous. It’s a bit like saying that hearing anti-gay language has no effect on gay teens who commit suicide. It’s just an ethically gymnastic lie that people tell themselves to morally absolve them of the fact that their words and speech harm others.

It’s fairly typical cis obliviousness to the thick lines connecting the dots–as part of the larger phenomenon of privileged groups ignoring connections oppressed groups see plainly, like whites failing to see systemic racism or men failing to see sexist behavior. But what’s betrayed isn’t obliviousness, but attempted plausible deniability. If this was just an innocuous article, then one wonders why the article disappeared down the memory hole and was taken down from the Daily Mail’s site. Why are the dots that may be connected being pre-emptively erased?

If trans people are allegedly jumping to conclusions, it’s only because many of us have seen this pattern and have heard this rhetoric before. We’ve seen where these roads lead and we know where they are going with far too depressing accuracy. We know, as Jane Faye writes, how this will play out in culture and in “the whining, crocodile tearing lily-livered national press of this country. Maybe they played no great part in this tragedy. But they tried. And for that, they stand guilty as any common thug.”

Plausible deniability and dubious press ethics outweigh the death of another person. [Edited to add: Except that emerging information confirms what we suspected… and expected.]

Let me be unequivocal: there is a direct moral line connecting the devalueing sentiments expressed in writings like Littlejohn’s as well as the subsequent mistreatment by the press to the suicides of trans* people.

[Littlejohn’s original piece (via Internet Archive)]

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