Our hopes for Sex and the City 3 may have officially been dashed, but it looks like there’s a new Carrie Bradshaw in town — albeit, a different town entirely.
“I’m basically Carrie Bradshaw now,” noted activist and writer Paris Lees told OUT about the news of her debut column for British Vogue. “It’s like ‘How did I do that?” The new project will be called “The Life Changing Power Of…”
The announcement marks the first time in Vogue history that an openly trans person will hold a recurring column at the title. It puts Lees in a lineage of trans women that have worked with the brand — one that is thought to have begun when model April Ashley shot with British Vogue in 1960. Lees first appeared in a shoot for the magazine’s February issue that celebrated the 100th anniversary of white women securing the right to vote (black women came two years later in 1920,) but has since evolved her relationship with the editors to deliver her dispatches as a “millenial woman living in London” to vogue.co.uk.
“For me, this is what happens when we have people from diverse backgrounds in decision-making positions,” she said, referring to Edward Enninful becoming the first black editor-in-chief of British Vogue last year. Since his appointment, the editor has trumpeted diversity as a hallmark of the glossy. “Here in the UK there’s a very small, very privileged group of people who all went to Oxford or Cambridge and are in a rarefied social class. They are all white, heterosexual, and cisgender, and they basically control the public discourse here in the UK. That’s changing.”
Lees rose to prominence as a leading voice in Britain on a scope of issues, particularly surrounding topics related to trans and minority communities. “I became a journalist because I was so completely disgusted by how trans people were being discussed in the media,” she said. She now has published bylines in almost every British newspaper, and became the first openly transgender presenter on Britain’s Channel 4 and Radio 1, as well as the first openly transgender panelist on BBC’s Question Time. In 2019, she will release a memoir with Penguin about her experiences growing up in Nottingham in the noughties, which will focus on a “very tumultuous, quite dramatic two- or three-year period” involving bullying, drugs, sex work, and ultimately, going to prison.
“Looking back on everything I’ve written so far, I think that people respect my insights on things,” she explained. “It’s just so happened that I’ve mainly focused on activism over the past few years, as that’s something I’m passionate about, but I thought it would be really interesting to explore what life is like for a woman in 2018, living in London, trying to find her way in the world like everyone else.”
In that way, the column will be “deeply personal,” but also undoubtedly a bit glamorous, since it’s appearing in Vogue. For her debut, Lees looks back at how transitioning (to being a blonde) has affected her life over the past year. This all comes at an fraught moment for trans visibility in the UK, and at a larger scope, the world.
“Things are pretty bad in the UK,” she explains. “It’s just relentless; trans people are scapegoated and blamed for everything.” The transphobia that’s ever present in British media is well documented.
“It’s all this misinformation that’s about cis people’s concerns,” she said. “More kids are going to gender identity clinics so they say ‘oh no, it’s the new anorexia’ or ‘kid’s minds are being warped.’ They are not reporting that the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry put out a report that [found] when trans kids are supported to socially transition—i.e. expressing themselves however they want,—they are much happier. Trans people are always presented as the problem and we are not the problem; society is the problem.” But now, she is shifting her focus.
“I’m sick of reacting to other people’s nonsense about trans people,” she said. “I just can’t do it anymore. I’ll try to use my voice where I can, but I’d rather set the agenda.
“In the world I was born into, trans people didn’t flourish,” Lees continued. “We didn’t appear on magazines, we didn’t win awards, we didn’t write best-selling autobiographies and memoirs like Janet Mock, we didn’t write for Vogue. But this is the world we live in now; things have fundamentally changed and I think that trans people succeeding in whatever they want to do is a form of activism. It just so happened that I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw….The whole point of activism is for people to be able to live their lives to the full and that’s what I’m trying to do.”