"When I was growing up you rarely saw trans people in the media and only then as objects of pity, ridicule or disgust"
By Varsha Saraogi
LONDON, Jan 5 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Paris Lees became the first openly transgender woman to feature in British Vogue fashion magazine on Friday, marking a step towards a "more tolerant society", said the broadcaster and model.
Lees dons a sleek, black dress designed by Yang Li and strikes a pose among a group of women ranging from politicians to online bloggers, hailed by the magazine as a new kind of suffragist.
"When I was growing up you rarely saw trans people in the media and only then as objects of pity, ridicule or disgust," Lees told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"We are in the middle of a global movement where trans people are asking to be treated with the same respect as everyone else in society," she said.
Inside the avant-garde magazine's February issue, Lees is profiled in a story entitled "Meet the New Suffragettes," celebrating 100 years since women in Britain gained the right to vote.
Britain granted women aged over 30 who met a property qualification the right to vote in 1918, but it wasn't until 1928 that all women had the same voting rights as men.
This is not the first time transgender women have featured in international fashion magazines.
In November, men's magazine Playboy had its first transgender 'playmate' centerfold, while in March the French edition of Vogue featured a transgender model on its cover, as did Marie Claire Spain in 2016.
The February edition of Vogue is the third by Edward Enniful, who promised to celebrate diversity when he was appointed the magazine's first black and male editor in the publication's 100-year history in April last year.
Lees, who was subjected to bullying in childhood and has faced criticism and backlash on social media, said she hoped her inclusion would offer inspiration to others.
"I know that there are many trans women who are still, in our supposedly tolerant society, too scared to come out and live their lives freely," said Lees.
"To those people I would say, if and when you feel ready to come out we'll be here to support you."
(Reporting by Varsha Saraogi; editing by Adela Suliman and Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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