Paris Lees

What It Feels Like for a Girl

Paris Lees becomes Channel 4's first transsexual presenter tonight...

I remember, aged 18, being shocked and appalled at meeting someone who didn’t own a television. No television! Hovel-dwelling and potato-peeling I pictured her; rummaging around cold, dingy rooms, totally deranged and with tatty rags for clothes. What weirdo lacks a telly? What did she do? I regarded her with extreme suspicion.

I’ve become that woman. I don’t live in hovel, mind, but I am TV-free. I watched years of Cash in the Attic, the OC and Loose Women. I loved Eastenders. Newsnight and Question Time are defensible, and I respect Channel 4 News. Most of it, though, was crap and I needed a good series catch-up on “life”. Dire transgender representation also helped me turn off TV for good.

Got any comedy box sets? If so, they’ll almost certainly contain jokes about “trannies” or “shemales” or “women-that-used-to-be-blokes”. For real trans people, try factual. Film-makers love trans folk because it’s easy to get documentaries commissioned if you have a strong idea like “Let’s follow a tranny around with a camera and watch them have a sex change!”. Innovative, no? Trans people may sometimes appear on Come Dine With Me, or Deal Or No Deal, or local news, but these incidental portrayals are vanishingly rare.

I was invited onto morning TV last week to promote the DVD release of Sky’s trans drama Hit and Miss. They wanted “before” photos. As did Closer magazine. Never mind that I’m lucky enough to have many interesting projects in my life, and an inspiring backstory, and passionate things to say about the world: a cheap before-and-after shot was clearly the thing, as though I’m merely a magical transformation, forever trapped beside a former version of myself. How reductive.

Well, watch this space. By the time GT hits the shelves, I should be hitting your screens via my Channel 4 presenting debut. It’s for a late-night slot called the Shooting Gallery and, though it’s not live, I still won’t be watching. How can I?

No, I’m with Noel on this one (Coward, not Edmonds): “Television is for appearing on, not looking at”.
I’m trying, couch potatoes.

The Shooting Gallery trans special airs 12.30am tonight on Channel 4 and will be repeated on 4oD.

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