Paris Lees

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Paris Lees
Paris Lees sitting (cropped).png
Born Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, England, UK
Nationality British
Occupation Journalist, presenter, LGBT activist/campaigner

Paris Lees is an English journalist, presenter, and transgender rights activist.[1] 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.[1][2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Lees was born in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire,[5] as a boy, and self-identified as gay in early adulthood. At the age of 16 she committed a robbery, for which she served eight months in prison when she was 18. She 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."[5] 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'."[5]

Lees moved to Brighton to study English at university, where she 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".[5] She was referred to Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic where she received hormone treatment to begin gender transition.[6]

Journalism and presenting[edit]

Lees founded the first British magazine aimed at the trans community, META,[3][5] and was the acting assistant editor of Gay Times.[7] She also has columns in both Gay Times and Diva,[8] and was the first trans cover girl for Diva.[1][5]

Lees has also written for mainstream newspapers and magazines, including The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun and Vice,[7][8][9][10][11] as well as for Channel 4 News.[12]

Lees has presented on both television and radio, being the first trans woman presenter on both BBC Radio 1 and Channel 4.[1][5] 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.[10] An excerpt from "The Hate Debate" was played on BBC Radio 4's Pick of the Week,[13] with 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."[14] 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.[15]

On 25 October 2013 Lees took part as a panellist in the BBC's 100 Women event.[16] 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.[17]


Lees, working with Trans Media Watch, challenged Channel 4 to remove transphobic material from its broadcasts,[2] and consulted with the channel for its documentary My Transsexual Summer.[18][19] 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."[1]

Lees currently works with All About Trans, a project that tries to bring together journalists and other media professionals with transgender people.[5][20]

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.[1][5]

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.[21]

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."[22]

In November 2014, Lees appeared in Hollyoaks, playing herself, and a friend of transgender character Blessing Chambers (Modupe Adeyeye).

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."[23]

In May 2016 Lees, alongside Brooke Magnanti, was called to give evidence about sex work condition in the UK to the Home Affairs Committee investigating prostitution laws in Britain.[24] The resulting recommendations by the committee headed by Keith Vaz, released in July 2016, implemented the pair's suggestions[25] to eliminate criminal records[26] of those arrested for prostitution-related crimes.[27] 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.”[28]

Personal life and identity[edit]

Lees has publicly identified herself as a bisexual trans woman and as a feminist.[10][29] Lees has written about how in the early days of her gender transition she received abuse for not passing.[21]

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.[30]

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."[5] She subsequently received a referral to Charing Cross Hospital's gender identity clinic, and met her boyfriend shortly after beginning hormone replacement therapy.[5]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "The Independent on Sunday's Pink List 2013". The Independent on Sunday. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Reuben, Matthew (17 January 2013). "Trans role models: Janet Mock, Paris Lees, CN Lester and Luke Anderson". New Statesman. Retrieved 15 October 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "Paris Lees". National Diversity Awards. The Diversity Group. Archived from the original on 14 May 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  4. ^ "Rainbow List 2014, 1 to 101". The Independent on Sunday. 9 November 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lowbridge, Caroline (27 October 2013). "Paris Lees: From prison to transgender role model". BBC News. Nottingham. Retrieved 28 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Lowbridge, Caroline (27 October 2013). "Paris Lees: From prison to transgender role model". BBC News. 
  7. ^ a b "Paris Lees". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Paris Lees". The Independent. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "Paris Lees on Vice". Vice. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  10. ^ a b c Lees, Paris (25 March 2013). "Radio 1's first trans woman presenter: hating is a national sport". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Lees, Paris. "Hollyoaks sex change girl is a-gender setting". The Sun. Retrieved 21 April 2015. (Subscription required (help)). 
  12. ^ Lees, Paris (29 October 2013). "Positively wild: Lou Reed and transgender visibility". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 29 October 2013. 
  13. ^ Barclay, Liz (31 March 2013). "31/03/2013". Pick of the Week. BBC. BBC Radio 4. 
  14. ^ Iqbal, Nosheen (29 March 2013). "Radio 1 Stories: The Hate Debate; Neverwhere – radio review". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  15. ^ "The Shooting Gallery". Episode Guides. Channel 4. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  16. ^ "100 Women: Who is taking part?". BBC News. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  17. ^ Roberts, Scott (1 November 2013). "Harriet Harman and John Prescott heap praise on Paris Lees in Question Time debut". Pink News. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 
  18. ^ Jacques, Juliet (18 November 2011). "My Transsexual Summer: The trouble with television". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  19. ^ Gray, Stephen (1 May 2012). "Q&A: Paris Lees on launching trans magazine META". Pink News. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  20. ^ "About". All About Trans. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  21. ^ a b Barkham, Patrick (22 January 2013). "Voices from the trans community: 'There will always be prejudice'". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  22. ^ McCormick, Joseph Patrick (16 August 2013). "Prominent trans campaigners condemn use of #fuckcispeople in Twitter argument". Pink News. Retrieved 27 October 2013. 
  23. ^ Paris Lees walks out on BBC interview,; accessed 9 December 2014.
  24. ^ Khomami, Nadia (10 May 2016). "Belle de Jour author cautions MPs over rethink of prostitution laws" – via The Guardian. 
  25. ^ "Top doctor calls for sex work to be legalised 'like other careers'". 11 May 2016. 
  26. ^ "". 
  27. ^ Khomami, Nadia (30 June 2016). "Decriminalisation of sex workers in England and Wales backed by MPs" – via The Guardian. 
  28. ^ Eastham, Janet (4 July 2016). "A radical moment for Britain’s sex workers" – via The Guardian. 
  29. ^ Lees, Paris; Fae, Jane; Minou, CL; Crawford, Stuart (18 January 2013). "Why I'm trans ... and a feminist". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2013. 
  30. ^ Lees, Paris (23 August 2013). "'I hope Chelsea Manning gets the help she needs': Paris Lees, transgender former prisoner, on life inside". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 October 2013.