I’m told I can be aggressive. Intimidating. A bitch. Of course, as I frequently point out, there’s plenty to be angry about. Does that get you anywhere though?
I was pretty pissed off when my local newspaper ran a story on my victory at at the National Diversity Awards. I was described on the front cover yesterday as: “Hucknall’s Paris Lees, who was born a man but who now lives as a woman, has won a top diversity award”. Yes, picture my frown.
I wrote an angry and deliciously belittling email to the editor. It made me feel better. Rather than sending it, though, I went back and removed any unnecessary sections and needlessly aggressive language. After all, what was I trying to achieve – open a dialogue with him or simply make him mad too? I wanted dialogue. I added cooperative language. I offered him a solution.
I won’t say my email was completely passive. I still expressed my complaints firmly (and perhaps I could have been even more tactful) but, overall, it was considerably more calm than the original. I didn’t attack or accuse… I simply expressed my family’s anger and my disappointment.
The result? I am now going to be writing a regular column for the newspaper, which is widely read in my hometown and provides a real opportunity to educate the local community. The paper will also print an apology in the next issue.
The email is below…
Dear Martin and Jackie
I hope you are well.
It was really nice of you to do a story on me this week but, though it’s positive overall, there were some bits my family and I found upsetting. My mum is unhappy with your use of “born a man” on the cover because, as she says, she gave birth to a baby! She would also like a correction printed please as she would never use transgender as a noun, as she was quoted. In addition, I do not “live as a woman” – I am a woman, as my passport confirms.
Also, in kind spirit, could I also ask you to imagine a headline that read: “Black Paris lands award as positive role model”. Transgender (like disabled and gay) is an adjective. I’m not “transgender Paris” in the same way that my mixed race sister is not “Black Natalie”. My entire family is very angry that I have been described this way not only in the headline, but on posters in shop windows.
I appreciate you have to make sure news is locally relevant but we are disappointed that the article focuses heavily on me being trans. My win was (rather ironically) for my work to improve representation of trans people in the media. Campaigning to avoid coverage like this is precisely why I won the award. For contrast, I believe this Nottingham Post article, which describes me as: “A woman from Hucknall who won a national award”, strikes the right balance.
I prefer to resolve things positively and constructively. If you would like me to write something in more detail about the work I do and my life growing up in Hucknall, I would be happy to do so. I’m also very happy to help if you cover trans stories in future. You can find a relevant style guide here, which I helped draft for Trans Media Watch. It is backed by the PCC.