Paris Lees’ memoir What It Feels Like For A Girl inspires ‘anarchic, Y2K’ new BBC drama

On the left, a photo of author Paris Lees. On the right, the cover of her book What It Feels Like For A Girl.

Paris Lees’ hilarious and heart-breaking trans coming-of-age memoir is being turned into a new BBC drama.

Based on Lees’ life growing up as a teenager in the East Midlands, What It Feels Like For a Girl uses the fictional protagonist Byron to explore what life was like for a young, working-class trans person in the early Noughties.

Thirteen-year-old Byron endures a world of being attacked in the streets for being a “poof” and a strained relationship with their parents, before finding their chosen family in Nottingham’s chaotic and queer underworld.

What It Feels Like For a Girl met with rave reviews when published in 2021, with many critics praising the novel’s ability to “rip your heart out” on one page, and make you “shake with laughter” on the next.

What It Feels Like for a Girl Paris Lees
What It Feels Like for a Girl by Paris Lees.

Now, the BBC has announced that it will turn the book into an eight-part “wild, anarchic Y2K spin on a coming-of-age drama”, with Lees herself as writer and executive producer.

“I’m excited, hysterical, thrown and overblown with bliss, but most of all I’m just having so much fun bringing this universe to life in a visual medium,” Lees said.

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“It’s a primal scream – from the depths of a council estate – against a world that would prefer people who don’t fit the norm didn’t exist. But we do and we’re not going away, we’re not apologising and we’re not shutting up.”

Paris Lees
Paris Lees’ novel is being adapted for a BBC Three series. (Pantene)

The Tourist’s Chris Sweeney will sit in the director’s chair, with filming due to commence next year.

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According to the BBC, the new series will be “packed with memorable characters” and will follow the novel closely as “a journey of love and danger, self-discovery and self-destruction”.

Little is known about casting as yet, although those who’ve read the novel will be acutely aware of the huge character shoes that need to be filled.

Of course, there’s teenage Byron, based on Lees herself. Then there’s Byron’s mum who did a Shirley Valentine and left for Turkey with a man she’d just met, and Byron’s father Gaz, the epitome of toxic masculinity

On top of that, there are “The Fallen Divas”, the circle of queer people Byron finds themself getting involved with after making their escape, which includes the hilarious hell-raisers and drag performers Lady Die, Sticky Nikki and Fag Ash.

“Anyone who’s read What It Feels Like For A Girl will know what a hugely distinctive, surprising and moving work it is,” said Lindsay Salt, the BBC’s director of drama. “Its journey to the BBC – adapted by Paris herself – sees the arrival of an exciting new voice in UK television.”

While trans and non-binary character and actor representation on TV has seemingly improved in recent years, journalist and author Lees will join a very small list of trans TV producers.

“This is a deeply personal project and I’m thrilled to be working with the BBC and the team at Hera who have been so supportive of both me and my creative vision,” she said. “I can’t wait for everyone to see what we’re cooking up.”

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