UK: Activist Helen Belcher to meet MPs over media mistreatment of trans people

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Helen Belcher of Trans Media Watch has told PinkNews she plans to meet with MPs to discuss transphobia, following the death of teacher and trans woman Lucy Meadows.

Meadows, a 32-year-old teacher who had recently begun to live openly as a woman, was found dead on Tuesday in Accrington.

In December 2012, the media picked up on her decision to come out at her school, where she had previously been known to her pupils as Nathan Upton. Many sources took a negative stance on her transition.

Ms Belcher revealed that, following the news of Meadows’ death, she had emailed MPs of “every party except the nationalists and unionists” over the lack of respect and privacy that had been given to Meadow’s by the media.

She said she had already received a significant response from MPs, who had shown “a lot of concern”.

“I now have front-benchers wanting to meet, and whips indicating support,” she said, but added she could not name them at this point. She added she had at least one MP committed to a meeting, and hoped that this would start a process of raising awareness.

Asked if it was encouraging to get a supportive response from Parliament, Ms Belcher responded: “It’s discouraging we had to do it in the first place.”

She pointed out that transgender people are not covered by current hate crime legislation, adding that a trans person who is the victim of persecution for their gender identity has “no comeback. It’s just wrong.”

As Transactivist reports, Ms Belcher previously appeared before the Leveson Inquiry to speak about the disrespectful treatment trans people can often receive in the media, and the damaging psychological effect this can have.

Trans Media Watch also made submissions to the Leveson Inquiry, and welcomed the Leveson Report’s statement that there was a media tendency to treat trans people without “sufficient dignity and respect”.

Asked whether she thought her meetings with MPs might prompt better treatment of trans people in the media, she said she felt the press was “likely to ignore” concerns of activists and MPs.

Ms Belcher cited a recent Press Complaints Commission decision that a transphobic article by Julie Burchill did not breach the Editor’s Code of Conduct.

However, she said she hoped MPs might help to “correct the basic misunderstanding” which the media and the public often have of trans people.

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