Dear Mr Farrington, The Mail believes oral sex and Pringles give you cancer. Maybe you shouldn?t believe what they write about me either.

This letter appeared in the Southend Echo on 25/08/2015. I felt compelled to reply in full, below.

Dear Editor,

It appears that your correspondent P. Farrington in Tuesdays Letters page has fallen foul of the first rule of Common Sense and Decency that is, do not believe a word that is published in the Daily Mail. This is, after all, a newspaper with its loving arms around one Adolf Hitler, that claims that all large families on benefits may be spearheaded by a maniacal serial killer, and that while Pringles and oral sex cause cancer, tofu and ketchup can cure it. It is this same publication that, in a mere eight lines last week, managed to get my name wrong, invent a quote from me, invent a quote from a detractor for what can only be imagined as ?balance?, and cast aspersions on my ability as a parent based on my, er, tattoos. I had just finished signing off the solicitors letters to that odious hate-mongering rag, sat down with a cup of tea and my local paper, to find the baseless and defamatory accusations repeated verbatim on the very pages that I write for as a columnist. My, my.

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 To answer Mr Farrington?s questions in turn, as the only person who reasonably can:

1. ?How can blogger call herself Dr?? I am a twice-published author with a best selling book. I am a campaigner for Oxfam and the Trussell Trust and have raised over £50,000 for Street Child United, the Trussell Trust, the YMCA, Stonewall, The Food Chain and Oxfam through various fundraisers, mostly involving me starving myself for a week for charity, sleeping on a cardboard box on the floor of a car park, or catering large and complex events free of charge. I am an ambassador for Oxfam and a patron of The Food Chain. I am a mother. I am a journalist. I am a campaigner, forcing a debate on food banks in the House of Commons by getting 140,000 signatures on a petition in a matter of days, and travelling to Tanzania to interview female farmers in the rice fields of Morogoro. I have attended the G8 summit, spoken at Conservative Party conference, and Labour, and the Greens, and the Peoples Assembly. I have been on BBC Question Time. I have cooked dinner for Claudia Roden, Mary Portas, Clare Balding, Sue Perkins and dessert for Bill Nighy (but not all at once). I do write a blog, yes, but it is a fraction of what I do.

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2. ?I am very surprised that the Echo wrote nothing about blogger Jack Monroe?? I am unsurprised that the Echo did not see fit to write a news story about another newspaper?s Diary section that was mostly false and defamatory about one of their own columnists. I am however astonished that they published a prominent letter bemoaning their lack of news story about another newspapers Diary section that repeated the false and defamatory allegations. 

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3. ?that Mellisa, which is her real name?? Firstly, the name I was assigned at birth was ?Melissa?, with one L and a double-S; goodness, if you?re going to try to pull my ?old name? out of a bag you could at least pull the right one. This is something I occasionally have to address when people, usually men with a grudge (#NOTALLMEN) try to undermine my ?authenticity? by claiming that my name is somehow false. I will explain very clearly. When I was born my parents gave me a name that was very definitely feminine and I never felt particularly comfortable with. I adopted male nicknames for myself throughout my childhood. When I left the Fire Service I was struggling with the realisation that I may be transgender and realised that this was my opportunity to adopt a new better-fitting name without the hassle of having to impose it upon my colleagues. I had been considering doing this for several years by this point. And so I changed it by deed poll, legally, and proceeded to change my bank details and passport accordingly. I cut my hair short. I bind my 36DD breasts to make my chest flat. I wear clothes from the menswear departments, but they aren?t ?mens clothes?, they?re ?my clothes?. My real and legal name is Jack, and has been for many years. Calling someone by their former name, especially a person who identifies as genderqueer, genderfluid or transgender, is known as ?deadnaming? and is not only highly insulting but is an attempt to dimish them. It is simply saying ?you cannot be who you are, you must be the person I insist you should be.? I refuse to accept such crass and offensive belittling from an imperfect stranger. It is CAITLYN Jenner. CHELSEA Manning. JACK Monroe. Get it? I am currently taking legal action against the Daily Mail for printing that my ?real? name is not Jack. It certainly is. I have the passport to prove it, and gently suggest that the Echo, nor any of its correspondents, repeat this claim.

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4: ?I find it alarming that she can even give herself that title.? I didn?t. The University of Essex did. I subsequently changed the first two letters of my user name on a social media website, with their blessing and in accordance with their policy. I do not refer to myself as ?Doctor? in any formal setting, but if I wanted to, it would be ?Dr Jack Monroe (Hon)?. Regardless as to your feelings around honorary degrees and title use thereafter, those who take Twitter so very seriously should probably go for a walk or join a book club or take up meditation. There is a whole world out there not limited to the inane 140 character ramblings of the mostly-media-circle. Go on. Read. Fuck. Bake. Log off. Wind down.

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5: ??just a good self publicist?? See point 1.

6: ??with not much business acumen behind her?? At this point I Googled to see if Farrington had ever had a bestselling book. Oh. Please tell me more about my failed business acumen, with my recipe development for high street food chains, my work with Universities, my part in the School Food Plan, the Peoples Supermarket meetings, my patron status of charities, my books, my frequent political commentary in newspapers and on television, my speaking engagements to corporate companies to try to improve their understanding of social needs and poverty and LGBT rights in the workplace, my work with food banks and at political conferences, the 80 hour weeks, meaning that I type this letter to you at 02:39 in the morning because I fly to the US tomorrow for new and exciting work. Please tell me more about my failures. I am always willing to learn.

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7: ??and a failed relationship which has resulted in a child in tow?? If you consider an eight year friendship followed by five years of solid co-parenting and a very happy, safe, secure, intelligent child to be a failure simply because Mummy and Daddy don?t have matching wedding bands, then I am genuinely saddened by your narrow viewpoint. Families come in all shapes and sizes, from divorcees to widows to lesbians to shared custody arrangements to single parents to remarriages to adoption and fostering. To quote the actress Sophie Ward in last week?s Telegraph: ?Bringing up children is mostly common sense. They need love and security and encouragement and boundaries, none of which is gender-specific.?

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8: ?If she considers she is a good cook?? My friends and family clear their plates. I don?t have an opinion on my cooking other than that I enjoy it and so do several million other people. And my guinea pig loves it, because he gets the roots and shoots.

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9: ??she should?earn more honest money that way.? To be clear, lobbing ?Dr? onto the front of my Twitter handle (see point 4) is neither ?dishonest? nor a money spinner. Of the work I have done in the last six weeks since receiving my honorary degree, none of it has been related to my title. None. To suggest that I earn my income as a fraud is a serious allegation and one that I am minded to challenge the Echo on, or any other newspaper, if they ever publish such baseless insinuations again.

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I hope this clarifies the matter and draws a line beneath it. I shall keep this letter as a handy resource for anyone else who wishes to repeat the Daily Mail?s claims. Repetition of slander is still slander. Publication of that repetition is as serious as the initial offence. I hope I make myself absolutely clear.

I shall be carefully considering whether I still want the Echo to publish my column, which I give them for free every week and have done for three years, as it seems my name is good enough to sell their newspapers but somehow simultaneously worth undermining for a little consternation and controversy. I respectfully request that you do not publish any more excerpts from my blog ? except this one ? while I make a decision either way, and am deeply saddened by such gross disloyalty from the newspaper that took me in as an untrained junior journalist when I needed a job, cut my teeth and let me fly when the Guardian came knocking. The newspaper that frequently refers to me as ?Our Jack? in its headlines. I thought we were family, and not of the distant-cousins-bitching-on-Reddit variety (I see you). It would have just taken a phone call, you guys, a quick clarification. My phone number and email address haven?t changed since I sat at my desk off Alexandra Street. I?m friends with most of you on Facebook. It could have been so easy.

Yours with a heavy heart and wondering where all the good people go,

Jack Monroe. ADDRESS WITHHELD. <<<for obvious reasons, I hope.
Jack Monroe || Twitter: @DrJackMonroe || http://www.agirlcalledjack.com

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