It took nine judges more than seven hours to decide who would appear on this year’s Rainbow List. Thousands of public nominations came in by email and by post, in the way of drawings, letters and even in the form of a hand-made photo album delivered to our editor’s desk. It’s fair to say, the competition has never been tighter.
But our judges – activists, politicians, actors, performers, artists and the co-director of a queer hairdressing salon – all agreed about one thing. This list, in its 16th year, would be about pioneers. It would recognise and celebrate those who had paved the way for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality, but it would also actively celebrate those who, in 2015, fought for recognition from the intersection of different cultures, religions, and identities. It would celebrate those fighting adversity. It would celebrate those actively working to raise visibility and change lives.
When this list began at the start of the millennium it was known as the Pink List. It highlighted those who were then brave enough to be public about their sexuality. There were only 50 people in that first list. Now, at a time of unrivalled equality legislation for LGBT people (unfortunately we still have a long fight to entrench intersex rights legally), being “influential” is no longer synonymous with being famous and out.
This is still important, but we also need those who put their heads above the parapet in overlooked communities and in more hostile settings, in an effort to change hearts and minds. For this reason, you will notice that there are fewer of the Rainbow List stalwarts – politicians, entertainers and many of the brilliant journalists making up the traditional LGBTI press. This is not because we consider them less important, but because our judges did not think these sectors were necessarily where the biggest obstacles now lie. As new Rainbow List judge Phyll Opoku-Gyimah said: “I know that we had an eye for inclusion and fair heart while looking at equality, influence and grassroots activism.”
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We have five new entries in the top 10 alone. Three intersex activists now occupy two of our top five spots, demonstrating just how important we think the fight for intersex rights is. Many famous names have been moved into our long-time champions list, which we celebrate heartily. We also use our international influencers list to celebrate those fighting for LGBTI equality from outside Britain. We have a brilliant list of up-and-coming people – whom we cannot wait to see more of in the years ahead.
But, for now, have a read and enjoy. We hope you’ll be surprised and inspired by our list. We hope you will appreciate the diversity of names – from an international supermodel confronting gender and sexuality norms to asylum-seekers fighting for equality in the face of entrenched resistance.
Congratulations to all who made the list and all the nominees who did not. You all make Britain better.