Rainbow List will feature intersex people for first time as we celebrate UK’s diversity of gender and sexual identity

This year, for the first time, the Rainbow List will include intersex people in our line-up of 101 influential LGBTI Britons who have made this country a better place

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The Independent Online

The Rainbow List is back and this year we want it to be the biggest, most inclusive and best yet.

The year 2015 will be remembered for many things: the world’s first referendum to bring about same-sex marriage was held in Ireland; the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide and, here in Britain, we reportedly elected more out lesbian and gay MPs than anywhere else in the world.

There was that Caitlyn Jenner Vogue cover; UK Black Pride celebrated 10 years and Stonewall made the historic announcement that it was going to start lobbying on trans issues. A welcome conversation around what being lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender means in Britain today ensued.

Here at The Independent on Sunday, we very much want to be part of that discussion. But 15 years after the inception of what was then known as the Pink List, we know things have changed. That’s why this year, for the first time, the Rainbow List will include intersex people in our line-up of 101 influential LGBTI Britons who have made this country a better place (we also welcome those who don’t necessarily fit within these specific boxes but fall within the wider rainbow spectrum).

Why are we doing this? Well, for one, our readers asked us to. Many felt that it was unfair that intersex people – who are born with a chromosomal, reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not fit the typical definitions of female or male – were omitted from last year’s list. But secondly, intersex people can fall outside mainstream “norms”, just like lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people can, and their rights must be equally advocated for and celebrated.

“I’m really proud to be a judge this year because I think it’s going to be the most inclusive Rainbow List in its history by finally recognising intersex people,” said Ela Xora, an artist, trans and intersex-rights campaigner, and a new judge on this year’s list.

“By recognising the existence of intersex people, we acknowledge at last the biological scale of sex and gender identity that really exists. Let’s make 2015 the year of change and of equal human rights for LGBTI people across the UK.” Xora will be joined this year by the largest cohort of judges yet.

There are Rainbow List stalwarts: award-winning journalist and campaigner Paris Lees, who topped the Pink List in 2013; writer, actor and activist Charlie Condou; Labour MP Ben Bradshaw; Conservative MP Margot James; and author, retired activist and equalities specialist Christine Burns MBE.

Then there are new recruits, such as UK Black Pride co-founder and Executive Director Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah; Asif Quraishi – whose alter-ego, Asifa Lahore, is Britain’s first out Muslim drag queen; Paralympian Claire Harvey; and Felix Lane of Open Barbers, a hairdressing salon for all genders and sexualities. 

Year after year, there are some who question whether the Rainbow List still needs to exist. We say it does. We know too many people who still fear coming out to their parents and peers; others face attacks for simply holding the hand of a loved one in public. Evidence suggests that some 35,000 hate crimes based on sexual orientation go unreported each year.

Then there’s the future generation: 75,000 young people a year are bullied for being gay, according to Stonewall. Around 86 per cent of secondary teachers said pupils in their schools had experienced homophobic bullying. This must be surmounted with a serious dose of pride and an awareness that, as Condou said, “role models really make a difference”.

This brings us to what it means to appear on the list. “Influential” is not synonymous with “famous”. You do not have to be well known to appear on our list but you do have to be making Britain a better place. There is space for everyone – from actors and activists to politicians, artists and schoolteachers. But we’ll need your help. 

If you know someone who deserves a place, just email:  rainbowlist@independent.co.uk or write to Lisa Markwell,  Editor, The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF before 20 October and tell us why (please put your nominee’s name in the subject line).

Next week: We profile our brilliant judges