|Occupation||Journalist, presenter, LGBT activist/campaigner|
Paris Lees is an English journalist, presenter, and transgender rights activist. She topped the Independent on Sunday's 2013 Pink List, came second in the 2014 Rainbow List, and was awarded the Positive Role Model Award for LGBT in the 2012 National Diversity Awards. Lees is the first trans columnist at Vogue and was the first trans woman to present shows on BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4.
Lees was born in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. In early adulthood, she identified as a gay man. At the age of 16, Lees committed a robbery, for which she served eight months in prison, beginning at the age of 18. Lees later said, "I had dropped out of college. Basically, I had gone off the rails because I was terrified of going to prison. I ended up taking lots of drugs". While in prison Lees decided to change: "I just thought, 'I'm this silly teenage boy in a prison cell who has made a huge mistake and I want to be this happy person'".
Lees moved to Brighton to study English at university and started to identify as female. "In the space of six weeks I went from living in Nottingham as a boy with my grandma still alive, to living in Brighton as a girl". She was referred to Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic where she received hormone treatment to begin gender transition.
Journalism and presenting
Lees founded the first British magazine aimed at the trans community, META, and was the acting assistant editor of Gay Times. She also has columns in both Gay Times and Diva, and was the first trans cover girl for Diva.
Lees has worked as a presenter for television and radio, being the first trans woman presenter on both BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4. On Radio 1, she produced a documentary entitled "The Hate Debate" for BBC Radio 1's Stories in which the attitudes people have to minority groups were considered, along with racism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia. Critics praising Lees for doing "a fine job of provoking her listeners" and for seeming "genuinely interested in the opinions of the young people she interviewed". "The Hate Debate" was followed up with a second documentary in the same slot, "My Transgender Punk Rock Story", interviewing transgender rock star Laura Jane Grace and introducing the teenage audience to trans concepts of identity both within and outside of the binary. She also presented the episode "Trans" of Channel 4's The Shooting Gallery.
On 25 October 2013, Lees took part as a panellist in the BBC's 100 Women event. On 31 October 2013 Lees became the first openly transgender panellist to appear on the BBC's Question Time programme, drawing praise from commentators who included former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and the Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman.
In 2018, Lees was appointed as Vogue Magazine's first transgender columnist.
Lees, working with Trans Media Watch, challenged Channel 4 to remove transphobic material from its broadcasts, and consulted with the channel for its documentary My Transsexual Summer. She has worked with a number of media outlets to provide guidance on covering transgender people; in its 2013 Pink List award coverage, The Independent on Sunday said "It was noted by our judges that the Daily Mail's coverage of trans issues has improved noticeably since she had lunch with its managing editor".
In 2013, Lees topped The Independent on Sunday's Pink List, naming her as the most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender figure in the UK; she was a judge for that award in 2011 and 2012.
Lees has said that social media is a key tool for transgender people to improve their societal recognition:
People have been taking the piss out of trans people for 60 years. The narrative on trans issues has been controlled by people who have no understanding of them. Social media is about us grabbing the narrative back and telling our own stories – this is our reality, this is what we go through and this is what matters to us. We're here, we're in your face, we definitely exist. That's the most important thing – realising we exist.
Lees also expressed objections to "#fuckcispeople", a controversial trending hashtag on the social networking site Twitter referring to cisgender people, which she thought was counterproductive: "It is much better to engage in a positive dialogue than through angry abuse".
On 11 August 2014, Lees was supposed to be on air with BBC Newsnight recording to talk about the impact of Kellie Maloney coming out as a trans woman. However Lees refused to be a part of the show as she tweeted that "I've turned down BBC Newsnight as I'm not prepared to enter into a fabricated debate about trans people's right to exist/express themselves".
In May 2016 Lees, alongside Brooke Magnanti, was called to give evidence about conditions for sex workers in the UK to the Home Affairs Select Committee investigating prostitution laws in Britain. The resulting recommendations by the committee headed by Keith Vaz, released in July 2016, implemented Lees and Magnanti's suggestions. to eliminate criminal records of those arrested for prostitution-related crimes. Sex worker nonprofits called the apparent U-turn decision “a stunning victory for sex workers and our demands for decriminalisation” and “a giant step forward for sex workers’ rights in the UK”.
Lees has publicly identified herself as a bisexual trans woman and as a feminist. Lees has written about how in the early days of her gender transition she received abuse for not passing as female.
In response to the announced gender transition of Chelsea Manning, Lees revealed that as a teenager and before her transition, she had gone to prison for robbery. Lees—who then was living as an effeminate gay male—said of the experience that "looking like a girly boy in an institute full of rough lads wasn't a barrel of laughs", but that prison was less violent than school was because other prisoners were more disposed to harming themselves than others.
After her release from prison and being turned down for a part-time job answering phones, Lees described having an epiphany: "When I realised I would like to change society, not myself, all these good things have come into my life". She subsequently received a referral to Charing Cross Hospital's gender identity clinic, and met her boyfriend shortly after beginning hormone replacement therapy.
- "The Independent on Sunday's Pink List 2013". The Independent on Sunday. 13 October 2013. Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- Reuben, Matthew (17 January 2013). "Trans role models: Janet Mock, Paris Lees, CN Lester and Luke Anderson". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2013.
- "Paris Lees". National Diversity Awards. The Diversity Group. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014.
- "Rainbow List 2014, 1 to 101". The Independent on Sunday. 9 November 2014. Archived from the original on 3 May 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
- "Paris Lees is Vogue's first trans columnist". 30 November 2018. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
- Lowbridge, Caroline (27 October 2013). "Paris Lees: From prison to transgender role model". BBC News. Nottingham. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
- Lowbridge, Caroline (27 October 2013). "Paris Lees: From prison to transgender role model". BBC News. Archived from the original on 1 May 2017.
- "Paris Lees". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "Paris Lees". The Independent. Archived from the original on 14 December 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "Paris Lees on Vice". Vice. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- Lees, Paris (25 March 2013). "Radio 1's first trans woman presenter: hating is a national sport". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 23 July 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- Lees, Paris. "Hollyoaks sex change girl is a-gender setting". The Sun. Archived from the original on 16 May 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
- Lees, Paris (29 October 2013). "Positively wild: Lou Reed and transgender visibility". Channel 4 News. Archived from the original on 30 October 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
- "Radio 1 Stories: The Hate Debate;". The Guardian. 29 March 2013. Archived from the original on 12 August 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
- Iqbal, Nosheen (29 March 2013). "Radio 1 Stories: The Hate Debate; Neverwhere – radio review". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "The Shooting Gallery". Episode Guides. Channel 4. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "100 Women: Who is taking part?". BBC News. 24 October 2013. Archived from the original on 7 November 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Roberts, Scott (1 November 2013). "Harriet Harman and John Prescott heap praise on Paris Lees in Question Time debut". Pink News. Archived from the original on 4 November 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- Jacques, Juliet (18 November 2011). "My Transsexual Summer: The trouble with television". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- Gray, Stephen (1 May 2012). "Q&A: Paris Lees on launching trans magazine META". Pink News. Archived from the original on 16 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- "About". All About Trans. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Barkham, Patrick (22 January 2013). "Voices from the trans community: 'There will always be prejudice'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- McCormick, Joseph Patrick (16 August 2013). "Prominent trans campaigners condemn use of #fuckcispeople in Twitter argument". Pink News. Archived from the original on 28 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- Paris Lees walks out on BBC interview Archived 29 November 2014 at the Wayback Machine, gaystarnews.com; accessed 9 December 2014.
- Khomami, Nadia (10 May 2016). "Belle de Jour author cautions MPs over rethink of prostitution laws". Archived from the original on 13 June 2016 – via The Guardian.
- "Top doctor calls for sex work to be legalised 'like other careers'". 11 May 2016.
- "Parliamentlive.tv". Archived from the original on 17 July 2016.
- Khomami, Nadia (30 June 2016). "Decriminalisation of sex workers in England and Wales backed by MPs". Archived from the original on 2 July 2016 – via The Guardian.
- Eastham, Janet (4 July 2016). "A radical moment for Britain's sex workers". Archived from the original on 11 July 2016 – via The Guardian.
- Lees, Paris; Fae, Jane; Minou, CL; Crawford, Stuart (18 January 2013). "Why I'm trans ... and a feminist". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
- Lees, Paris (23 August 2013). "'I hope Chelsea Manning gets the help she needs': Paris Lees, transgender former prisoner, on life inside". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2013.
- "First openly trans woman in British Vogue". 24 January 2018 – via www.bbc.com.
- "The Life-Changing Power Of Going Blonde". 29 November 2018.
- "Tea and Biscuits With Paris Lees, The First Openly Trans Woman In British 'Vogue'".