Last year I was No 10 on The Independent on Sunday's Pink List and my mum and dad were delighted. My mum was thrilled that I had jumped 30 places in one year but my dad was slightly perturbed that I wasn't No 1, quite rightly pointing out that the winner, Elly Barnes, has never been in Lip Service. I was proud to be there alongside many wonderful writers, activists, musicians, actors and, of course, incredible teachers such as Elly Barnes. I was also proud to have parents who are excited to see their daughter on a public LGBT list.
When I was asked to write this column, I spent a flight from Glasgow to London thinking about the necessity of the Pink List in 2012 because, of course, we now live in a tolerant, forward-thinking society. Don't we? I live in Brighton and I have a supportive family and group of friends. I'm a working actress, with a successful music career and none of these things feel hindered by my sexuality. So I wonder if we shouldn't just be celebrating our gay sisters and brothers who throughout history took the kicks, the hatred and the violence to make life better for us.
As my flight nears London, I think of my girlfriend. The love of my life, who will pick me up from the airport and listen to me rant about my week. I think about how I would like to marry her, yet I cannot. And the fact that just last week a woman, who is now best known for being dragged around a dance floor like a stuffed canary on Strictly Come Dancing, led a call against granting me this basic human right – and that she has support from the very church that educated me and ignited my love of music.
I think of Michael Black and John Morgan, who went to court for recognition that it was wrong for them to be turned away by a bigoted B&B owner. And I think of the messages I receive every day from young (and not so young) LGBT people who say that they cannot come out because they do not think their families, friends, schools will be supportive. And I think of the ones that say they have come out because of shows such as Lip Service or by coming to my gigs to find that they are not so alone after all.
I do remember these fears. Growing up in Bradford, my world was very narrow. At my girls-only school, the word "lesbian" was an insult used to describe the least attractive, angriest of teachers. I had a ringlet perm and a boyfriend who owned a VW Beetle. This was the norm and I never considered that there were other options. There were no real positive representations of gay people anywhere in my world.
The Pink List is not the solution, but it is important, because although progression has been made legislatively and perception has shifted in a more positive direction, not enough has really changed. There are still too few examples of happy, successful fulfilled gay people in the public eye – on television, radio, in sport, or even covered in broadsheet newspapers – that people can identify with to help to frame their feelings. But at least every year, there is this list of smart, successful, ambitious, creative, talented people who might make a teenage girl with a perm and Catholic guilt feel just a little bit better about who she is and what she can become.
Heather Peace stars in BBC3's Lip Service and BBC1's Waterloo Road. Her debut album is FairytalesReuse content