Q&A: Paris Lees on launching trans magazine META

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Paris Lees is editor of META magazine – a new digital publication devoted to gender and transgender news, discussion and entertainment.

She also campaigns for better representation of trans people in the media, specialising in television consultancy.

PinkNews.co.uk spoke to her about the new title.

Tell us, what prompted META magazine?

I’ve built up quite a good relationship with the people who publish DIVA and Gay Times over the past few years and it just seemed so obvious that trans people deserved their own magazine.

My friend Andy Potter was the head of marketing there last year and he approached me and said, Hey, why don’t we make this happen? There’s a new mood in the trans community and we wanted to capture that, to provide something celebratory and aspirational. Every day we see stories about trans people in the press, so clearly there’s an interest. Why the hell should we wait for other people to tell out stories? META is about grabbing ownership of our own narratives.

What do you want to achieve through the magazine and who do you want to reach?

Most of all, I just wanted something decent to read. I mean, where do you go to have a mature conversation about gender? You’re not going to find it in Marie Claire. I loved reading Cosmo when I was a child, because it spoke to me as though I was a woman, an adult woman, and that’s exactly what I wanted to grow up and be.

Now I’m grown, I need something more. I need something which speaks to the various nuances of my experience, the insights which we’re offered as trans people. I want something that appeals to that aspect of my identity that no one else bothers with. I think many people find traditionally-gendered media doesn’t quite sit right with them, and I hope that everyone who’s ever questioned the concept of gender will connect with what we’re doing at META. It’s not just for trans people!

Your first edition featured the iconic Justin Bond on the cover, and the current issue stars My Transsexual Summer’s Fox. Who can we expect to see on the cover soon?

Well, I certainly have a wish list, but I don’t always get what I want! There are several iconic trans people who I think would be great cover stars – Chaz Bono is hot at the moment, as is Jenna Talackova. Jenna looks great of course, which doesn’t hurt. Hercules and Love Affair would be so fun, too, and I’d really like to see April Ashley on the cover one day. We’re working on a “global” issue at the moment so, who knows, perhaps we’ll do a “Looking back” edition. The trans rights movement has such a fascinating history and April is a British legend. I’ve worked out how I’m going to get her to agree to an interview – it involves turning up at her house with champagne…

You worked on Channel 4’s acclaimed My Transsexual Summer, how do you see the role of trans people in the media developing?

I think we’re increasingly seeing a younger, louder, less apologetic generation of trans people in the media – and that’s great. There are infinite ways to be trans but we’ve been fed the same tired standard narratives for decades now. The only story that was being told, for about 40 years, was that of the “classic transsexual”, the male-to-female middle-aged misery narrative.

Of course, that’s a totally valid experience, which many trans people identify with, but it’s time for some fresh perspectives. Sadly, the media seem more interested in replacing the old standard narratives with new ones: so we get the “pregnant man” trope or the “child transitioner” repeated ad nauseum. These identities are almost always presented as freakish. What we really need now is for happy, healthy successful trans people to stand up and say, Hello world; I’m having a great life – what’s the problem?

You’ve launched exclusively as a digital publication. Tell us about that.

It just made sense that we would reach more people this way. The internet has been very important to trans community over the past 20 years, and you’d be hard pushed to find a trans person who doesn’t have some web access. We’re living in a culture where people still write in to DIVA or Gay Times and say they feel uncomfortable going in to their local news agents to buy them, so imagine how trans people might feel.

Significant proportions of us are either post-transition or pre-transition, and may not want the world to know about that aspect of our lives. Now there’s no excuse not to enjoy META – if you’ve got a computer, you’ve got access to the best magazine in the world!

The current issue of META features a filmed interview with radical feminist Julie Bindel, which you can preview on PinkNews.co.uk here, legal advice from David Allen Green and an exclusive feature on mothers who help their children access puberty delay drugs. You can buy META here.