Prisoner to journalist, activist and presenter.
1st March 2017 — Beverly Tillery (executive director at the New York City Anti-Violence Project) issued a statement saying how the “NCAVP (The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs) has already responded to seven homicides of transgender women of colour within the first two months of the year.” The most recent three homicides occurred within a week of each other during late February in Louisiana, USA.
These incidents might have taken place in America but Minister Nicky Morgan said that 650,000 people in the UK are “gender incongruent to some degree” in which they face transphobia inequalities every day.
Paris Lees committed a robbery at the age of 16 and served her time for eight months when she was 18 (at the time a male.) It was in prison that she decided to stop her drug use and change. She studied at Brighton University and identified as female. “Prisoner to journalist, activist and presenter.” Lees has an incredible story and her activism journey hasn’t gone unnoticed. She’s won copious amounts of awards for her efforts to fight for equality within the trans community; you can find those successes here:
Paris Lees Activism, a timeline made with Timetoast's free interactive timeline making software.www.timetoast.com
An eminent figure in the media, Paris Lees has engaged in countless journalism activism, more specifically in that the transgender community is brought together with journalists and the media. The Independent on Sunday said that “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.” Her activism is a huge positive impact in the media; nevertheless there is still a long way to go before trans issues are reflected in the media regularly. For instance: did you know that roughly a third of transgender adults attempt suicide? No, possibly not because the public aren’t made aware about the inequalities that they face. Whether that’s relating to mental health issues, family rejection, bullying or suicide, no one should experience trauma like this. According to the Huffington Post, 97% experience provocation or discrimination because of their sexual category. Speak up with these issues; show other communities to be more understanding of trans.
Lees has carried out her activism in many forms as a journalist — published articles for various companies through the power of words, bringing the media one step closer to the transgender society. Despite how some people may not agree with her opinion.
Her documentary work has been very influential in terms of activism movement, however I’m here to argue for more accurate information to be dispersed.
Trans Media Watch is a non-profit organization that recognized an absence in transgender storylines and characters on British television. Within March 2011 a memorandum was published for media companies to increase educational representations of transgender people. Channel 4 was the first to sign the document as “it is part of our remit to reflect the diversity of the UK,” admitted Stuart Cosgrove. Urging Paris Lees to work with the organization, she defied Channel 4 to eradicate transphobic material from their programs and actually conferred with ‘My Transsexual Summer’. The show received mixed responses, some of which prove just how people don’t take the topic seriously.
Lees starred in Hollyoaks in November 2014 as herself to fulfill Channel 4’s agreement to the memorandum. This activism method is just as impacting on the younger population as they’ll take notice of TV in comparison to a political stand.
Conversely both Brooke Magnanti and Paris Lees were “called to give evidence about sex work condition in the UK to the Home Affairs Committee investigating prostitution laws in Britain” — Wikipedia. It’s a positive light that activists are working directly with politicians for better equality. Now, the passport debate, should our passports show ‘M’ or ‘F’? Lees’ own article in the Guardian mentions Maria Miller’s work alongside transgender activists around the subject of “gender-neutral passports”. Australia has adopted to de-gender their passports, should Britain follow? The trans movement has targeted areas to de-gender within society, such as: gender-neutral toilets at universities around the country: Warwick, Oxford, Northampton and UCL. Miller states the forgotten in that “we need to understand that gender stereotyping can be as damaging for men as it can be women”, an area that is not as heavily focused on within the media.
Activism simply cannot function without the help of social media, building the momentum and life behind the campaign, spreading the word to others around the globe. Lees once said herself that “the narrative on trans issues has been controlled by people who have no understanding of them. Social media is about grabbing the narrative back and telling our own stories.” Every individual is allowed freedom of expression, their own voice, the freedom of speech, are they not? Why do people stay quiet over their issues? I’m calling for people to speak up and to work together in harmony to diminish these inequalities. Controversially, Lees did criticize the trend on Twitter ‘#f*ckcispeople’ because she believes in positively speaking, rather than giving abuse. Let’s get real, we live in the UK — there will always be abusive language and comments (unfortunately!)
Throughout this piece I’ve been stressing how important it is to inform people with correct statistics but it is just as crucial to focus on the ill-informed speculation. An 11 year-old trans girl was shot by a BB gun by pupils in Manchester, left distressed by this incident she is just one example of trans-bullying. The young girl, left unnamed said, “If adults cant understand and accept me, how are other kids going to?” and this scares me. This could raise the statistics on young children at risk, committing suicide and it is down to erroneous representations of transgender issues, despite the media finally covering the topic more.
Take the time to listen to others and their stories, become active and fight for equality; just like Paris Lees.