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Why the Independent's Pink List Makes Me See Red

Posted: 04/11/2012 19:36

It's the event which has every self-respecting gay rushing for the newsstands. Not since Cheryl Cole's first Vogue cover has there been a moment so era-defining as this. Yes, guys and girls, it is finally time for the homosexual arena's millisecond in the sun: the Independent has bunged out its Pink List once again.

You may already have heard of this baffling, uninspiring collection of names compiled by Britain's most-unloved national newspaper, but just in case you're nodding off at the back with your copy of Heat magazine, let the paper itself fill in the gaps for you. The Pink List, according to its esteemed publishers, is a compendium of "influential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who, you feel, make Britain safer, fairer, better and more entertaining". No complicated formulae accompany any piece about the list to tell you how this influence is calculated. The rule of thumb seems to be 'if it's a homo you've heard of, they're probably in this list'. Partly voted for by readers of the paper, along with a panel of judges, the list does little other than serve to tick some boxes. The editorial team can rest on its laurels (specially spray-painted pink today to show solidarity with their gay brethren) and say that they did a gay-focused piece and created some space for gay-targeted online banner ads to appear on.

The list itself, which inspired a whopping 1,500 readers to vote, would probably be harmless enough if it didn't take itself so seriously. Despite only capturing the imagination of a mere two or three commuter trains' worth of readers, the list presents itself as an important document, a snapshot of current gay attitudes and influences. But it is nothing more than an inventory of names, some of which you might have heard of, many you haven't, of people who lick their lips at the thought of going to bed with someone of the same gender as them. There aren't any other characteristics to bond them, nothing else they have in common - except that they may occupy the same branch on somebody's shag tree. Topping the 'Chart of Gay People 1,500 Readers and Some Random Judges Could Recall When They Thought About Who Was Gay in the Public Eye' (not as snappy as 'The Pink List'; you can see their thinking, can't you?) was Olympic gold medallist Nicola Adams, the first female to win an Olympic medal in boxing. Inspiring, influential stuff, of course. I don't want to take anything away from Nicola - her Olympic victory was a fantastic achievement for her and I'm sure she's inspired lots of other girls to knock seven shades of shit out of each other in the hope of one day having a bit of medal dangle from their necks - but any influence she wields over the universe is not because of her sexuality. The rest of the list is drearily predictable. Many of the finalists have been picked out of a hat marked 'OMG London 2012 was totes amazeballs!!' with the rest a mixture of gay people who have been on telly over the last year and others apparently voting for themselves. Last year's judges also manage to muscle their way in: Greg Barker, the Conservative MP who campaigns on green issues, is parked at number six; Gareth Thomas, the first 'out' rugby player, weighs in at number 19; and two other former judges pop up and say "Hiya!" at 45 and 87.

The Pink List was created by the paper's editor-at-large Janet Street-Porter over a decade ago. As if pre-empting the collective eyeroll the list would receive, Janet has kindly provided an accompanying editorial, quick to point out how important The Pink List is - despite wrapping this opinion in other assertions that lists are pointless and rarely make sense. She often appears on lists herself, she says, yet since stepping down as a newspaper editor her ranking on them has "slumped, which is bizarre, as I now appear on television and produce two newspaper columns every week". Thank goodness Janet's 'Top 100 Best Gays of the Year' list is a much more trustworthy barometer. Oh, hang on, it seems 'Top of the Pink Pops' is equally flawed; let's see who's tumbling down the rankings.

Sue Perkins, who appears on TV so much these days she leaves a Perkinator-shaped imprint on your plasma screen, somehow falls eight places from 13 to five - presumably to make room for Heather Peace, the actress who "acquired a cult following after appearing in the BBC drama Lip Service as a lesbian police officer" and "received more public nominations than anyone else on this list". They also forget to mention she wrote a column in the Independent two weeks ago reminding everyone to nominate their favourite gay. Oh, if only I'd done that; perhaps I'd have snuck my way into the top 80. Maybe this is why the list is not left solely to the public vote. This isn't the Smash Hits Poll Winners' Party - this is serious, influential, inspiring!

Also freefalling down the list are Charlie Condou (on Coronation Street five times a week), Jessie J (lives inside your television and radio and will turn up to sing wherever there is a spare pair of ears to hear her) Will Young, John Barrowman and Scott Mills, who takes such a nasty fall down the pink-carpeted stairs, I can only assume he's in a full body cast. And all this despite his daily radio show and high profile. So which intricate metric caused Mills to slide from number nine on the list to a lowly 62? Well, it's very complicated, so do make sure you're paying attention while I explain the exact science: errr, he just didn't come to mind when they were compiling the list. Maybe somebody nipped to the canteen for tea while they were drawing it up and heard him on the radio and rushed back to the newsroom, excitedly squealing: "Shit, we forgot Scott Mills - is he still bent?"

Peter Tatchell's entry at number three is so preposterous it feels like some bizarre meta in-joke: "Last year the Pink List committed the unforgivable error of forgetting the veteran campaigner. He forgave us with typical good grace. Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, he has tackled neo-Nazis, President Mugabe and the British parliament. Indefatigable, brave and unforgettable." Yes, unforgettable. The judging panel were probably sent an email in 72-point, flashing neon Arial Black, reading only 'FFS don't forget to shoehorn Peter Tatchell in somewhere; you left him out last year'. Tatchell's myriad achievements are only validated, of course, by him being included in a line-up of like-minded celebrities.

Janet Street-Porter claims "The Pink List has a role to play in promoting the freedom to express your sexuality". While she may be preaching to the choir when it comes to the Independent's readership, I half agree with her. It definitely has played its role in allowing me the freedom to express what a patronising, self-aggrandising load of drivel it is, the content a Wikipedia's Greatest Hits with all the gravitas of two pensioners in a bus queue playing 'Guess who's gay?' and reeling off whoever they saw on ITV1 the previous evening.

If this meaningless list is a victory for equality, it's certainly a hollow one.

 

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