February is LGBT History Month and with this in mind we have chosen Paris Lees as our Inspirational Diversity Champion of the Month.
Paris is a British journalist, presenter and transgender rights activist. Paris was brought up as a boy, and self-identified as gay in early adulthood. At the age of 18 she committed a robbery, for which she served eight months in prison. While in prison she 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’.” She 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”. She was referred to Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic where she received hormone treatment to begin gender transition.
Paris 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. She has also written for many mainstream newspapers and magazines, as well as for Channel 4 News.
She has presented on both 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” which covered the attitudes people have to minority groups and covered issues related to racism, homophobia, transphobia and Islamophobia. 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 Paris took part as a panelist in the BBC’s 100 Women event and in October 2013 she became the first openly transgender panelist to appear on the BBC’s Question Time programme.
Paris has worked with Trans Media Watch which challenged Channel 4 to remove transphobic material from its broadcasts, and consulted with the channel for its documentary My Transsexual Summer.
She currently works with All About Trans, a project that tries to bring together journalists and other media professionals with transgender people.
In 2013, she topped The Independent on Sunday’s Pink List, naming her as the most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender figure in the UK; and was awarded the Positive Role Model Award for LGBT in the 2012.