You have to see Question Time panellist Paris Lees taking on anti-trans bigotry

Transgender columnist Paris Lees, who is the first out trans woman to appear on the BBC’s flagship debate show Question Time, put every second to good use in an appearance last night.

The panellist spoke on a number of issues including Brexit and the Cambridge Analytica scandal and captivated the audience with an impassioned speech on transgender rights.

An audience member had asked about a campaign to ban trans women from standing on all women shortlists in the Labour Party.

In response, Paris Lees hit out at the consistent negative media coverage of trans people.

She said: “Trans people are less than one percent of the population, but it seems like we’re in the headlines every single day. You’d be forgiven for thinking we’re responsible for all of the world’s ills.

Related: Paris Lees’ brilliant post about appearing on Vogue UK reminds us how far trans activism has come

“Constantly, trans people are framed as the problem: we’re causing these huge problems for the rest of society and the sky is going to fall in. But all of the evidence suggests the complete opposite is true.

“Trans people suffer horrific suicide. 45 percent of young trans people in this country have attempted suicide.

“We need an urgent public debate on who and what is causing these kids to feel so desperate and alone, and what we can do about it to protect them. Anything that a trans person does that is ‘bad’, we hear about it in the headlines.

“Schools say they’re going to relax their policy for school uniforms and it’s the end of the world. But kids sitting there trying to kill themselves, nobody talks about it.”

Lees also called out fellow panellist Peter Hitchens of the Mail on Sunday, who demurred from answering the question on trans rights to her face, when he has done so in his newspaper column frequently.

She said: “You’ll notice that I’m a transgender person. I’m the only transgender person who has ever been on Question Time, because the conversation about us is conducted over our heads, and doesn’t actually include the people who this conversation affects directly.

“It’s really interesting because Peter doesn’t believe trans people’s identities should be respected.

“You wrote a piece for the Mail on Sunday criticising a school because they supported a child.

“Referring to me with female pronouns, you said that was an attack on truth itself. It’s just simple, basic manners. I think that’s what a lot of this comes down to.”

Tackling anti-transgender campaigners who describe themselves as feminists, she added: “In my everyday life, I’m respected as a woman. My boyfriends’ families have accepted me, my friends accept me, my colleagues accept me.

“I go online and see these awful people purporting to be feminists – you would literally think I was Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator.

“Bigotry is bigotry, whether it’s dressed up as religion or dressed up as feminism.

“I think some people do have legitimate concerns, but there’s a very loud vocal minority who are manipulating people’s concerns, in the same way people did about the fear about gay teachers and linking it with paedophilia in the 1980s, and it’s disgusting.

Related: The Chase’s Anne Hegerty shocks by saying Paris Lees ‘used to be a boy’ on live TV

“We do need to get more women into politics, but the solution is not bashing trans women. There’s some really mean bullying being carried out under the name of feminism… wouldn’t it be wonderful if instead, we all pulled together?

“Equality is not a pie where trans rights are at the expense of women’s rights. That’s not how equality works.”

Asked whether she supported trans women standing on All Women Shortlists, Labour’s Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti simply said “yes.”

She added: “I am a feminist and I’m a member of a feminist party, but I am not the sex or gender police. Maybe I’m not woman enough for some people’s taste but I call myself a woman.

“Maybe I’m not British enough for some people’s taste but I am British. I am not going to be policing the boundaries between sex and gender or telling any woman that she is not welcome.

“The Labour Party is an inclusive party where hundreds of thousands of people come together to stand up against discrimination and oppression, and that’s why I think we’ve got it right on this.”

Tory Chair James Cleverly also expressed his support for trans equality.

He said: “I’m very proud of the fact my party does not have all women shortlists but has our second female Prime Minister.

“My view is that because I’m a conservative, I believe very strongly in people’s right to live the life they want to live, to pursue happiness in whichever way gives them the best chance.

Related: Paris Lees clashes with Nick Robinson over stoking people’s fears about trans people

“I think at some point in the not-very-distant future, we will look back at this debate with the same bemusement as about the debate that was had about homosexuality in the 50s, 60s and 70s. I look forward to that point in time.

“There are trans boys and girls at the school that my 15-year-old son goes to and it causes no hassle whatsoever. The generations coming along behind us just don’t get why we are getting so very het up about a particular issue.”

The SNP’s Stewart McDonald added: “It’s a self-evident truth that trans women are women.

“We brought in women shortlists a few years ago, and trans women are women. I’m an openly gay man, and the trans community have stood with gay and bisexual men and lesbians for decades.

“It’s about time we get out there and show them some of the same solidarity they’ve shown us. Trans people face some of the most poisonous discrimination imaginable across the country.

“I think the conversation around is very familiar to the conversation that was had around gay liberation, and the comparison of gay men to paedophiles in schools. We need to learn from this history.

“It is a real privilege and honour to sit next to Paris tonight who has done immense work to this.”