Tuesday, 28 May 2013

On the death of Lucy Meadows

Tonight driving back from work I listened to part of the 6:00 pm news on BBC Radio 4.
There’s a summary of it on the BBC News website here. There are also stories in the Huffington Post, The Independent and the Accrington Observer where, it seems, the whole media show began.
A male teacher at a primary school was about to undergo gender reassignment. The school wrote a letter to parents to explain what was happening. At least one parent was upset by this and the whole story ended up being published by the local and the national press. The teacher concerned was hounded by journalists and complained to the Press Complaints Commission about harassment and an article in the Daily Mail by columnist Richard Littlejohn questioning her right to teach.
The teacher, Lucy Meadows, later took her own life.
The Daily Mail has said there was no link between the article and the teacher’s death and that the article in fact defended the rights of people to have sex change operations.
However, they have removed the article from their web site.
The Daily Mail is a newspaper that is not noted for its fair mindedness. I think that it has a poor track record on how it deals with trans-gender related issues.
Having read Richard Littlejohn’s article, it is true to say that he doesn’t complain about the idea of  gender reassignment.
However, the article does seem to amount to an unjustified, unsubstantiated and unfounded  personal attack upon the teacher concerned.
Here is the text of the article (it isn’t possible to read it on the Daily Mail web site any more, so I can’t post a link to it that will work):
He's not only in the wrong body... he's in the wrong job
PUBLISHED: 17:29 EST, 20 December 2012 |
UPDATED: 03:08 EST, 21 December 2012
Look, it can’t be much fun being a woman trapped in a man’s body. Believe me, ladies, there are times when it’s not exactly a bundle of laughs being a man trapped inside a man’s body.
So I have every sympathy for the 400 or so people a year who opt for ‘gender reassignment’ surgery to put themselves out of their misery.
I don’t even have any problem with sex-change operations being carried out on the NHS, provided it’s a genuine medical necessity and not a lifestyle choice. Transsexuals pay taxes, too.
Schoolteacher Nathan Upton, 32, says he always knew he was born into the wrong sex. Yet he married and fathered a child, now aged three. It was only fairly recently that he decided to go public with his inner turmoil.
The first indications came when he began growing his cropped hair and dyeing it purple. He started turning up for class wearing pink nail varnish and sparkly headbands.
His pupils at St Mary Magdalen’s Church of England Primary School in Accrington, Lancs, couldn’t help noticing. A crayon drawing of Mr Upton by a Year 6 pupil on the school’s website shows him with long hair swept back over his shoulders.
One parent said: ‘I saw what I thought was Mr Upton dressed as a woman in town one weekend, but I decided I had imagined it.’
Oh no, you hadn’t.
Confirmation came in the school’s Christmas newsletter. It started innocuously enough, with a series of routine staff announcements. Then in paragraph six, out of the blue, BOOM! Are you sitting comfortably, children?
‘Mr Upton has made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman after the Christmas  break. She will return to work as Miss Meadows.’
It went on to stress that the school is ‘proud of our commitment to equality and diversity’. Of course they are.
This week, the school’s 169 pupils, aged between seven and 11, were informed class-by-class that from now on, ‘Sir’ would be ‘Miss’.
Teachers told them that Mr Upton felt he had been ‘born with a girl’s brain in a boy’s body’ and would henceforth be living as a woman.
Nathan Upton is now in the early stages of gender reassignment treatment. He issued a statement which read: ‘This has been a long and difficult journey for me and it was certainly not an easy decision to make.’
So that’s all right, then. From now on, kiddies, Mr Upton will be known as Miss Lucy Meadows.
What are you staring at, Johnny? Move along, nothing to see here. Get on with your spelling test. Today’s word is ‘transitioning’.
Mr Upton/Miss Meadows may well be comfortable with his/her decision to seek a sex-change and return to work as if nothing has happened. The school might be extremely proud of its ‘commitment to equality and diversity’.
But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.
Pre-pubescent boys and girls haven’t even had the chance to come to terms with the changes in their own bodies.
Why should they be forced to deal with the news that a male teacher they have always known as Mr Upton will henceforth be a woman called Miss Meadows? Anyway, why not Miss Upton?
Parent Wayne Cowie said the news had left his ten-year-old son worried and confused.
For the past three years he has been taught by Mr Upton, but has now been told that he will be punished if he continues to call ‘Miss Meadows’ ‘Mr Upton’ after the Christmas holidays. ‘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.’
The school shouldn’t be allowed to elevate its ‘commitment to diversity and equality’ above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents.
It should be protecting pupils from some of the more, er, challenging realities of adult life, not forcing them down their throats.
These are primary school children, for heaven’s sake. Most them still believe in Father Christmas. Let them enjoy their childhood. They will lose their innocence soon enough.
The head teacher denies that pupils will be punished for referring to the teacher as Mr Upton but added ominously that they would be ‘expected to behave properly around her.’ Nathan Upton is entitled to his gender reassignment surgery, but he isn’t entitled to project his personal problems on to impressionable young children.
By insisting on returning to St Mary Magdalen’s, he is putting his own selfish needs ahead of the well-being of the children he has taught for the past few years.
It would have been easy for him to disappear quietly at Christmas, have the operation and then return to work as ‘Miss Meadows’ at another school on the other side of town in September. No-one would have been any the wiser.
But if he cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he is paid to teach, he’s not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job.
In a way I find this kind of personal attack even worse than would have been an attack on the concept of gender reassignment itself. The corner at the teacher’s inquest referred to media character assassination. And to me that is exactly how it reads.
I find it difficult to understand how anyone can say “I have every sympathy for the 400 or so people a year who opt for ‘gender reassignment’ surgery” and then proceed to write an article that demonstrates an almost complete absence of sympathy.
I’m not going to write a line by line critique of Richard Littlejohn’s article. It’s tone, as well as its content, is sufficiently self-defeating.
But I will express my sadness that national and local newspapers, and journalists stoop so low as to write and publish this kind of stuff.
The coroner at the teacher’s inquest said:
"I will be writing to the government to consider now implementing in full the recommendations of the Leveson Report in order to seek to ensure that other people in the same position as Lucy Meadows are not faced with the same ill-informed bigotry as seems to be displayed in the case of Lucy."
Addressing the media at the conclusion of the inquest he said: "And to you, the press, I say shame - shame on all of you."

Maybe Richard Littlejohn’s article wasn’t the direct cause of Lucy’s death. But I find it impossible to believe that it wasn’t a serious contributing factor. And I agree with the coroner, that is a shameful thing. To both the author and to the publishers.

There is an online petition at http://action.sumofus.org/a/daily-mail-littlejohn-lucy-meadows/?sub=taf. Take a look at it if you'd like to express your feelings to the Daily Mail.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Surrey Swans, boobs, and lingerie

Last night was a regular Surrey Swans get together. It was different in that it was actually warm enough to sit outside for a while in the early evening.

This did pose some challenges.

Four of us were sitting at a table. Myself, Laura, Chelle and Brenda.

“Hello Andrea” says Chelle.

We struggle to see each other. The sunshade / parasol is down and positioned right between us.

“Maybe we can take it out”, says I.

Then, after a short struggle.

“Maybe it would be easier to just put it up” says Brenda.

So I hold onto the pole with my left hand and the sliding bit with my left and start pushing.

“Omg …” says Andrea.

“What’s up dear?” asks Laura.

“I think I’m losing a boob”.

At this moment Andrea loses interest in the parasol and catches the boob as it slides out from under her blouse.

The opening of the parasol is completed with an upturned silicone boob sitting on the table.

As I slide it back into place it reminds me of a joke I first heard as a schoolboy. I share it with the others.

"A friend placed his left hand on his chest and solemnly declared ‘You know, sometimes I feel a right tit.' "

We giggle like a group of schoolgirls.

Rozz is serving drinks for the night. It’s really nice to see her again.

Part way into the evening Claire introduces herself.

It seems that in the near future she’s running a lingerie sale kind of event at the pub as a charity fund raising event. Mike, who runs the pub, had mentioned to her that we might be interested in the lingerie. So she asked if we’d be interested in taking a look at some catalogues that she had brought.

Oh and the lingerie as well.

Things were then quiet for a little while as people studiously looked through the catalogues.





The pictures were taken just before the rack of lingerie was assembled.

It was really nice to meet Claire and she was really helpful to everyone. I think a few people had checks on bra sizes.

On checking with Emma, it seems that the first ever Surrey Swans meeting was in September 2003. So in September 2013 we’ll be 10 years old. That’s cool.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Caring and Care

I received the following letter from Care, dated May 2013:

Making a Christian Difference for the sake of the future

By the time you read this the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will have completed its journey through the House of Commons. It now goes to the Lords.

It was important to set out arguments for MPs and maximise the vote against the Bill, but we realised that it would be very difficult to win in the Commons. However, at the Second Reading in the House of Lords on Monday 3 June there will be a vote and, if all the Peers opposed to the Bill are present, there is a real chance of defeating the Bill at this crucial stage.

I am therefore writing to ask you to act urgently by sending a letter or email to one or more of the Peers specially selected and listed overleaf. Please contact as many as you can as soon as possible, asking them to attend the debate on Monday 3 June, to consider speaking in support of traditional marriage and to vote against the Bill. You could also mention the following:

There are many constitutional irregularities in the Bill's development. There was no mandate for this fundamental policy change. It was not in any party manifesto or the Coalition Agreement. There was no

Green Paper or White Paper. It wasn't in any Queen's Speech.

Religious liberty measures in the Bill are limited to 'wedding ceremony' protections for church ministers and churches. Contrary to what the Government has said, these are far from robust. There are no free speech conscience protections for public sector employees: chaplains, teachers, registrars, and others.

Please ask others to write too and, above all, continue to pray about this issue. More information about the

Bill and its progress is at www.care.org.uk/marriage. If the Bill is passed at the Lords' Second Reading there will still be opportunities at its later stages and we will keep you informed.

Thank you so much for your ongoing support in this crucial matter. If the Government passes this Bill there will be far reaching consequences for society that will affect us and future generations.

Yours in His grace

Nola Leach

Head of Public Affairs

Nola Leach


53 Romney Street


SW1p 3RF


Care is a registered charity: Charity No. 1066963

The reverse of the letter includes a list of about 40 Peers from Lord Moran to Lord Saatchi in alphabetical order. There are details of email addresses of a whole load of Peers here. There’s also information on how to contact them here.

I think it’s interesting that the letter makes no mention of the following facts:

  • The vote in the House of Commons was a free vote. Each Member of Parliament was free to vote however she or he wished.
  • A very large majority of the MPs that voted were in favour of the bill
  • The House of Lords is an unelected body made up of these people. It even includes bishops of the Church of England. Peers in the House of Lords aren’t answerable to any electorate. Effectively they are an undemocratic body of people.

My own point of view:

  • Whether there was a mandate, party manifesto commitment, coalition agreement, green paper, white paper or Queens Speech on this is irrelevant.
  • I don’t see a real reason as to why public sector employees should have special treatment compared with other employees
  • I believe that it is not only churches and church ministers that are “protected”. The protection talks about religion rather than churches
  • It seems a shame that Care are keen to capitalise on the potential support of an unelected and undemocratic body to further their own socio-political view of how life should be

I think that the people at Care likely have good intentions. But I believe that the main reason for their opposition to this Bill is really that they believe that the Bible says that Gay relationships are sinful. They don’t want to do anything that encourages or makes it easier for people to get involved in sin. I believe that they would say that they do this because sin damages people. And so their opposition to the Bill is actually about doing the best for society and for individuals. Ultimately they believe that in opposing the Bill they are performing the will of God.

Of course, all of that depends on believing in God, believing in the Bible as the Word of God, and also believing in a particular interpretation of the meaning of the Bible.

Maybe you would like to write to Care and let them know how you feel? In a polite way, of course. There is contact information here.

As an aside, I just started to read through the Bill here. Whoever wrote it isn’t going to be getting any prizes from these people.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The possibility of same sex marriage comes a little closer

The House of Commons has voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. This was the third stage.

In common with a lot of people, I don’t know much about how a Bill becomes Law in the UK. If you’re like me then there’s a descri0tion of the process here.

So it looks like it now has to go through a whole series of stages in the House of Lords.

Some of the statistics are unusual.

According to the Daily Mirror 133 Conservative MPs voted against the Bill, whilst only 123 voted in favour.

However, a total of 366 MPs from all parties voted in favour, with only 161 voting against – a majority of 205.

I believe that it’s quite unusual a Bill to be passed when so few of the Governments own party voted in favour of it.

There are now calls from some of the people that voted against the Bill asking that the (unelected and undemocratic) House of Lords prevent it from becoming law. 

My own Member of Parliament, Adam Afriyie has consistently voted against the Bill. There’s a record of communications that I had with him here and here.

Adam wrote:

For the avoidance of doubt, I am very much in favour of a long term commitment between same sex couples and I would like to see the same legislation underpinning every long term relationship so that there is no further inequality in the eyes of the law.

I must admit, that I don’t understand this at all, and I very much doubt the truth if the above statement.

I’m suspicious that some people that have spoken out against the Bill haven’t been completely open about their reasons. The list of reasons include protection of families, of the institution of marriage, of children. The Daily Mirror says:

It comes after Tory grandee Norman Tebbit accused Mr Cameron of “f***** things up” over gay marriage.

The former party chairman claimed the change could spark a constitutional crisis if a lesbian queen married a woman and had a sperm donor child.

The mind boggles.

I don’t know what Norman Tebbit’s real objections are.

However, I think that maybe, for quite a few people, there’s an underlying feeling that the Bible says it’s wrong. And so they think it’s wrong. And so they are against it. There are some people that say this. But I have the feeling that there are others that think this, but don’t say it. Instead they come up with a host of other reasons.

Over the coming few days I hope to make time to write to my MP and ask exactly why he voted against the Bill and what actions he is taking to ensure that there is no further inequality in the eyes of the law.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Ends and Beginnings

Tuesday was a TV dinner at Billie and Kathie’s.

But sadly it’ll be the last regular one though there may be occasional ones in the future.

Over the years both Billie and Kathie, the TV dinners and the people that go along to them have played a very special part in my life.

I first visited them on July 10 2007 as described here.

It was the first time that I met people outside of home when I was wearing wearing makeup that I’d put on myself.

At that time Billie and Kathie organised the Surrey Swans group and it was when I first went there on the last Sunday of July 2007 that I first ventured outside my own front door dressed as a girl.

Billie and Kathie invited Sally around for a meal so that she’d have a chance to meet another t-girl and the partner of one. There’s an account of that here. That has made a big difference to us both.

My first venture into Windsor as a girl was with Katie, who I met at Billie and Kathie’s. It’s described here. It’s sweet that last Tuesday I mentioned to Katie that we’re planning a School Uniform theme for Surrey Swans in July and she asked me if I still has the Spank Me knickers.

My first shopping trip as Andrea was with Billie on March 1st 2008 as described here.

My first trip to Sparkle was with Billie in June 2008 and it’s all documented here.

And also, Billie and Kathie’s place is where I met such lovely friends as Laura and Tina and Nikki bringing to mind thoughts of Pink Punters (I still have the sparkly Stargazer eye shadow) and Candy Girls. And Susan and Julia, who accompanied me to the Bridal Wear shop in Bracknell mentioned here.

In writing all of this because I just want to say a very big thank you to Billie and Kathie – for being who they are and for the difference that they have made to me. And also, I know, to many other people.

In a way it’s the end of an era. But, ends do lead to beginnings.

Time and Peace

On Monday Sally and I went to see Fairport Convention at Nettlebed Folk Club.

According to Wikipedia then band was originally formed way back in 1967.

I remember the name from my youth, but not really any of their music.

It was a good evening with quite a few timeless kind of songs from way back when.

For me the highlight of the evening was the song Who knows where the time goes written by Sandy Denny who played with Fairport Convention for a while back in the 60’s.  Sandy died in 1978. There’s an official website here.

In introducing the song Simon Nicol, who plays with Fairport Convention now, and also at the time when Sandy Denny did, mentioned how wise he felt the words were, almost especially because they were written by someone who was still only a teenager at the time. Not to denigrate teenagers, he pointed out. More to compliment them.

There’s a fairly recent Fairport Convention version of the song here:

Fairport Convention: Who knows where the time goes?

And a Sandy Denny version here:

Sandy Denny: Who knows where the time goes?

And the words:

Across the evening sky, all the birds are leaving

But how can they know it's time for them to go?

Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming

I have no thought of time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?

Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving

Ah, but then you know it's time for them to go

But I will still be here, I have no thought of leaving

I do not count the time

For who knows where the time goes?

Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone while my love is near me

I know it will be so until it's time to go

So come the storms of winter and then the birds in spring again

I have no fear of time

For who knows how my love grows?

And who knows where the time goes?

The first line, it seems, originally mentioned a purple sky.

I, like a lot of people, think that it’s a beautiful song.

To me it speaks of the possibility of finding peace even in a world where things are changing all of the time.

In a way that reminds me of one of the songs sung by Miranda Sykes and Rex Preston on the album Sing a Full Song. The song is called Windowbox and it’s beautiful. I saw Miranda and Rex at Norden Farm Park recently as mentioned here.

You can listen to the song here. It’s really worh listening to, honest. The lyrics are by Boo Hewerdine:

When I was young

The world went on

For ever and a day

I'd run beneath the endless sky

Where I would dream and play

How could I know or even care

What the coming days will bring

And sometimes in the branches there

I'd hear the robin sing

So I grew up to understand

How life was going to be

Daily cares that tell us all

That nothing comes for free

I'd lie awake and worry o'er

What coming days might bring

And sometimes on the fence post there

I'd hear the robin sing



So many years have gone by now

I look back on them all

It's funny how as time goes by

The world's become so small

And now I know for certain what

The coming days will bring

Sometimes on the window box

I hear the robin sing





When I was young

The world went on

For ever and a day

It’s not always an easy thing to discover and to live in peace. And it is strange how perspectives on so many things change as time passes.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Show of Hands

Last week Sally and I went to a concert featuring Show of Hands along with Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston at Norden Farm in Maidenhead.

It was a great evening. Lots of humour as well as great music.

Miranda and Rex opened the evening. Here’s one of their songs:


Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston: Me and my Sister the moon


Steve Knightley opened the Show of Hands part of the evening with Widecome Fair.

Show of Hands: Widecome Fair

Steve wandered on to an empty, darkened, stage singing the song as a solo.

He told a tale of singing this at the Albert Hall in London. The plan was to enter from the back of the hall. However the man guarding the door wouldn’t let Steve back in. He said that he wasn’t allowed in until there was a sound of applause. “It’ll be a long night then” said Steve. However, on pointing himself out on a poster advertising the evening the door guard was persuaded that he could relax the rules this once. And thus the show went on. 

One of the more atmospheric pieces of music during the evening was Katrina,  which relates to the hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Haunting. Moving.

Show of Hands: Katrina

If you get a chance to see them then go along. You won’t be disappointed.


On Friday I paid a visit to Candygirls and met up with Laura. Nikki was also there and Laura (that’s another Laura). The Friday night parties there are pretty popular these days with usually over a hundred people dropping by. Here’s Laura, myself and Nikki.


It’s a great place to socialise.

Whenever I visit Candygirls it’s become inevitable to get chained up a little, and Friday was no exception.

A great place for just hanging around.


And this didn’t hurt much: