Paris Lees

Ria: Diary of a Teenage Transsexual

A one-off show will look at the life of a transgender teenager in Hull.

Ignore the silly title – tonight’s Channel 4 documentary is a gritty look at life in a Northern town when you’re young, transgender and desperate for something more. We’ll see 17 year-old Ria dating – and the potentially dangerous complications that involves when you’re trans – her relationship with her family, many of whom struggle with her new identity, and the simple, everyday issues of growing up in Hull. Its dark stuff, but there’s hope too.
I was invited to meet Ria as part of the show (that's me in the picture up there), in the hope that she would see there is light at the end of the tunnel. I recognised so much of my teenage self in her and I wanted her to know that, in just a few years, things really can get better. I know those bad moods, that depression, that hunger for a better life. My world has changed dramatically since 2008. Ria’s can too.
We may have different aims – Ria dreams of becoming a glamour model and cites Jordan as an inspiration – but we’re both evidence of a dramatic social shift. There was a time when most transsexual people didn’t transition until middle age. Like some gay people still do, many trans people feel huge pressure to hide their true identities. More and more are coming out in our teens and early twenties though. It’s an encouraging sign that Ria, living in a less-than-cosmopolitan area, felt able to transition at all. Wish her luck.
Paris Lees is editor of META, a new digital publication devoted to gender. Ria: Diary of a Teenage Transsexual airs tonight at 11pm on Channel 4.

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