I didn’t get a chance to watch much Big Brother this summer and was abroad when Luke Anderson won the latest series on Channel 5 (that’s the yellow right-hand column in your mum’s TV guide). So on Saturday (well, Sunday morning) when Paris Lees took me to Adam Kelly’s party (that would be the former LA gang member who came second in the series!) I had no idea that Luke was born female-bodied.
Paris introduced me to Luke (pictured above with Paris) and his wife Becki (who was glistening away in an LBD topped with some serious diamonté) at the swank party venue 5 Cavendish Square (I’ve never heard so much Russian in a smoking area). While Paris was dancing on furniture and asking hot bar boys how many calories there were in soda water, I was left alone for a while with Luke and his crew. I remember thinking “Ok, I’m in the company of a straight bloke wearing a suit, I’ve had a lot to drink, just keep the camp dance moves under control, he likes Paris but she’s a hot girl, he doesn’t necessarily like gay people”. Of course these fears were dispelled immediately because Luke is a lovely down-to-earth chef from Wales! But it wasn’t until several hours later speeding across London in a taxi that someone mentioned Luke is trans.
I took the photo above of Luke and Paris at that party, and yes Paris may be wielding a two-litre bottle of Belvedere vodka like it’s just come out of a man’s flies, but this photo pleases me so much because it shows how far London (and Great Britain’s) trans community have come. This is a photograph of two people who have found themselves. They’ve made that journey, it wasn’t easy, but now they’ve arrived and it’s time to have fun.
Some critics have said that it’s bad to have trans celebrities who make a big song and dance out of being trans. Luke and Paris don’t do that though. It’s not like Candy Darling (as much as I love my Andy Warhol stars!) No – you can catch Paris talking about being trans in magazines and across the British media week-in week-out, but when she’s at a party she’s just Paris – a pretty girl having a lot of fun (OK admitedly, she’ll still put people in their place if it needs doing – Paris the trans media warrior never completely switches off!) But even if trans stars did want to wave their status around – why the fuck not? They’ve been on an incredible journey and it’s their choice if they want to flaunt it. Notable gay figures had to do that for decades and some still do.
Do we want LGBT Big Brother winners? Of course! We can have it all - Man Booker Prizes, Olympic gold medals, X Factor contests and reality TV shows. LGBT people have a role to play in all parts of the rich tapestry. Be it in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen at the Royal Opera House or a family of five watching telly in a council flat, there are LGBT people in every type of audience.
But Luke didn’t win Big Brother because of his LGBT status, nor did Julian Clary win Celebrity Big Brother because of his. They won because they’re popular and likeable individuals. Although the broadcasting industry and tabloids dealt Julian Clary a life-bludgeoning blow after his controversial comments at the 1993 Comedy Awards, effectively axing his fast-growing career, the public never left his side and have always enjoyed his delicious puns and knowing glances. Meanwhile Luke didn’t win Big Brother because of his past but because of his present. The fact that he was born female-bodied kept the papers interested initially, sure, but if he wasn’t such a lovely guy then he never would have won viewers’ votes.
As for Paris, people say her popularity comes from having her head screwed on, but I personally think it has more to do with how good her legs are.
Also, if Adam Kelly's friend Debbie is reading this - you're an AMAZING DANCER!
Paris is on Twitter @ParisLees. Follow Luke Anderson @LukeA_bb Find Adam Kelly on Twitter @adam_kellybb. And then I'm on Twitter too @jackcullenuk.
Above: Candy Darling