1. Hayley Patterson was the first trans character on British television.
She was introduced to the Street in 1998, which was a full five years before the soap even introduced a gay character. That would be Todd Grimshaw who was retroactively gayed up in 2003.
2. She developed a friendship with eccentric cafe owner Roy Cropper, a man with a thing for steam trains and order.
Roy had originally been brought in as Dierdre’s weirdo, cagoule-wearing upstairs neighbour. But his popularity with viewers saw him promoted to a regular, loveable eccentric and he took over the cafe.
3. Roy and Hayley’s was a tender love story of two outsiders finding a connection.
Lifelong loner Roy found somebody who saw through the anorak, and Hayley had the affection of someone who saw her as a woman without prejudice.
4. At first, there was controversy about a cis actress, Julie Hesmondhalgh, playing the character.
And trans groups were concerned about what they saw as a stereotyped and satirical portrayal. Producers responded, and a trans woman with an interest in the show was found to act as an adviser, and what followed was a series of powerful stories about the routine problems and prejudices faced by trans people. The story broke ground.
5. Their story broke proper political ground.
Following their “wedding” of sorts in 1999, the Labour government created a parliamentary working group looking at ways of granting trans people legal rights. This led to the tabling in 2004 of the Gender Recognition Act, which granted trans people full legal status in their acquired sex.
6. They had this sort of impact on the national consciousness.
From The Sun letters page, in all its rambling glory.
7. LGBT History Month lists Hayley as one of the most important figures in its history.
Despite her being a fictional character.
8. Hayley was a national treasure!
9. The trans storyline was always there at the back of the character, but they didn’t make her into an “issue” character.
But Hayley did have to be accepted by every new person she encountered. When Roy’s mother Sylvia arrived of the Street, she herself was shocked. But Hayley’s warm charm soon won her over and she became a fierce defender of Hayley.
10. She loved to dance.
She had to go with Norris because Roy doesn’t do dancing.
11. They fostered a child called Fiz.
At first she was a snotty tearaway and didn’t stay long. But she ended up back on the Street and now she’s with Tyrone and they’re like the new Jack and Vera.
12. In the feral Becky Grainger they got a kind-of surrogate daughter.
13. Eventually, they were allowed to get married after all.
Things went off with all the traditional Corrie wobbles you would expect.
14. She developed a touching friendship with Carla, the Footballers Wivesy one who runs the factory.
16. We’ve had 15 happy years of Roy and Hayley. But now Julie Hesmondhalgh has decided to leave.
There was just no feasible way they could have split this couple up.
17. Hayley had to die. So now she’s been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
It brings her story full circle. She was brought in for a story that doesn’t affect very many people at all. Now she’s going out on a story that touches everyone.
18. Julie told the Express.
“Hayley is part of me and I’m sorry I’m doing this to her. It’s because of me this is happening. I also feel really sad because I’m leaving my friends, especially David Neilson who plays Roy. We have a special working relationship that you get once in a lifetime. So when I’m filming a sad scene it’s not even just about the words, which are heart breaking anyway, it’s also about everything else. I’m really upset that Hayley is dying because I love her.”
19. Corrie producer Stuart Blackburn says killing Hayley was an easy decision.
“I would have done anything to persuade Julie to stay, but I appreciate that her mind was made up, which made killing off Hayley the easiest decision I’ve made. There was no other way.”
20. So now they’re doing a “bucket list” storyline.
22. Next they’re exploring “right to die”.
Julie backs a change in the law. She told The Mirror: “It’s a very complicated issue. Everybody feels that if they got a terminal disease they’d want to be shot but obviously there are massive ethical issues around that, and it’s easy to exploit older people. It is very delicate.”
“Maybe we need to sign something now, when we are fit and healthy, rather than when we’re old but even then it’s complex. When is the right time? I want to be able to say my goodbyes properly, so I think it’s something that needs to be talked about.”