The most shocking thing about the winning Eurovision entry this evening was the fact that the contest suddenly became relevant and, bizarrely, important. I doubt this will be a regular occurrence, so we shouldn’t get too excited.
Prior to tonight’s final there were calls from at least three countries for the Austrian entry to be withdrawn. Why? Well, because it was sung by a transvestite with a beard. The Russian politician behind the anti-gay propaganda law called her a “pervert” and said the performance showed that the competition was a “hotbed of sodomy.” A little odd, then, that he didn’t withdraw the Russian entry consisting of two 17 year old girls to protect them. Conchita Wurst, the singer in question, responded by saying that she was just “a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.” Well, her beard’s better than mine. I only get a five o’clock shadow after 7 days.
However, she was much more than that – and it’s clear that she was well aware of it. The song was clearly calculated to be a universal (well, European) “fuck you” to those behind the anti-gay laws in Russia and those supporting them. Entering such an artist was a risk, but a calculated one. Eurovision has a huge gay following to start with, so support was always going to be there. However, the risk turned into triumph thanks to the fact that the song was not only sending out a message, but because it was actually extremely good. Shirley Bassey must be seething that she didn’t get her hands on it first.
It’s interesting that many people tell us how things were much better when they were growing up. I don’t believe them. Equality and acceptance of race, gender, and sexuality is greater now than it ever was (at least in the Western world). Many reading this will wonder what the fuss is about, but it’s yet another important rung on the ladder. We’ve had LGBT winners of popularity contests in the UK for fifteen years or so (Pop Idol, Big Brother etc), so for Brits to vote for the Austrian entry was no big surprise. For the people of 37 countries in Europe to do the same and finally show solidarity to the LGBT people of Russia in a very public way is a huge step. The boos for Russia at the show were unfortunate – the Russians in the audience were probably rebelling against the State, not supporting them.
The thing that will get lost here is that, even if the song wasn’t sung by a transvestite, it still would have won in all probability – and maybe by a bigger margin – but, in the end it’s the voting (and the political voting at that) which was important.
And America has a lot to learn.
Twitter has been afire tonight over two stories. in America, gay NFL player Michael Sam was photographed kissing his boyfriend and was met on twitter with a barrage of abuse. In Europe, a bearded transvestite wins a contest watched by 125million people and the tweets are 95% positive. One that wasn’t came from the Sunday people tweeted this:
Unsurprisingly, the tweet quickly got deleted. Ironically, the only other negative tweet I found asked “why vote for a freak?” And this from someone who is a campaigner against abuse of women and children!
In around 75% of the countries that voted, civil partnerships and same-sex weddings are still banned. In others, well, we know the situation in some other countries. Let’s hope that, finally, the message of the people kickstarts some change. But, in all likelihood, the hubbub will be forgotten in a matter of days, but just for tonight people spoke with their hearts.