After the Pink List, the social media deluge


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The Independent Online

We said when we published The IoS Pink List last week that we hoped it would surprise, amuse, inspire or challenge you. Well, it did that! Plunging into social media on Sunday was to overhear a huge debate about what was great and what was wrong with the list. You didn't hold back.

Some people were surprised that anyone could have beaten the glorious Clare Balding to number one. (Sorry, Clare. We love you, but you stopped just short of actually winning a gold medal.) Others were amused to see young reality TV stars on the list. (If one school bully is influenced by discovering that someone they've grown to know and admire is gay or transgender, we say that the list has succeeded.) At least one 10-year-old was inspired, I know: a friend told me, "My daughter is so excited to see her heroine, Nicola Adams, on the Pink List." It was great to see listees congratulating each other on Twitter – two even arranged to meet, we hear. Several people challenged the list, too.

Inevitably, not everyone will agree on "the most influential" lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of 2012. Like the Man Booker Prize, our list is based on judges' opinions. But, also like the Booker, our judges must make strong, factual arguments for each case.

"Influence" comes in many forms: doing something positive for LGBT experience (like charity workers and campaigners); having real power over everyone in Britain (members of the government …); being out and open and portraying a positive image of being LGBT (certain celebrities); being popular and inspiring and just happening to be gay (some Olympians). Some people may score highly on the "real power" axis, but pretty low on making life happier for LGBT people. But this is not a list of "gay people we like". There's an argument that perhaps it should be, and we'll take on board your opinions about that.

Some people wondered why we separated the categories "international", "lifetime achievement" and "journalists" from the main list. Simple, really: it's a compromise that helps to squeeze more new faces and unsung heroes in – and we're pretty sure that Sir Ian McKellen isn't too offended. Incidentally, the number of people who think the list should be longer is about equal to the number who think it should be shorter.

We don't make great claims for the Pink List – though, if it opens a few minds, that's great. My colleague Philip Hensher thinks that it might: on Sunday he tweeted, "I remember the Indy's first #pinklist in 2000 – [they] could only find 50 names willing to be on it. I was on it. V proud still to be there today," adding later that the list has "played a part in changing attitudes".

When people ask what the point of the Pink List is, I sometimes tell them about an email we received the year that the rugby player Gareth Thomas was number one. "Thank you for making it OK to come out to my dad," it said. If we've only inspired one dad and one daughter, then the list is worth doing.