In 2018, the world was transfixed as a relatively small country beat the odds to face a footballing-mammoth at the World Cup Finals in Russia. While the world gets its fix every four years, we queers are luckier that we get ours every May; it is therefore time to examine the phenomenon that is Eurovision and how the LGBTQ+ community embraced it – to the point where even academia took notice.
Following Eurovision tradition, this year 2018 winners Israel will host the competition. There have been protests, there have been (proposed) boycotts and there has been drama. Certainly, Israel’s hosting of the competition has inherently made the (supposedly) non-political event political. For the record, this blog post will not dwell on the political except to say this: I understand the BDS movement’s desire to boycott this competition, but doing so would personally feel wrong. I did not boycott when Russia voted and I probably will not boycott if Russia wins, and this is a nation that is actively targeting (or supporting the targeting) of my fellow siblings in the LGBTQ community, to the point of murdering them – more on that in a later blogpost.
SO that being said, let’s look at Queerovision.
LGBTQ through the Ages
The most recently memorable LGBTQ+ aspect of Eurovision is definitely Conchita Wurst’s win in 2014. Singing for Austria, the Drag Queen of Eurovision was placed as low as 15th to win in betting odds and was mid-table reviewed across the board. Then she won – out of nowhere she rose like a phoenix and won over the hearts and minds of Europe. Her message of determination, perseverance and unity and inclusivity was European, Eurovision and LGBTQ+ to the core.
“This night is dedicated to all those who believe in a future of peace and freedom. You know who you are. We are united and we are unstoppable.” – Conchita Wurst, 2014, Acceptance Speech
But she was by no means the first LGBTQ+ individual to sing on Europe’s biggest stage – and not even the first LGBTQ+ person to win it!
sources claim that Eurovision’s LGBTQ+ appeal started
as far back as the 1980’s, it was only in 1997 that Icelandic singer Paul
Oscar became Eurovision’s first openly gay singer. This was followed in 1998
with Israel’s Dana International becoming the first (and only so far)
transgender woman to win the competition
This remarkable feat set Eurovision up in LGBTQ+ circles to be claimed in the name of unity, diversity and being different and yet the same. It only took 4 years for Slovenia (of all places) to send Eurovision’s first drag act – this in and of itself was considered problematic by Slovenes and the topic even reached parliament but Sestre was allowed to perform and reached 13th place in Tallinn that year.
More LGBTQ+, More Queerovision
2007 saw Denmark send DQ with her song Drama Queen. An explosive show of feathers, glitters and a massive crown could not see this drama queen on through to the final in Helsinki.
But wait, there’s more.
2007 was also the year that Serbia won. Marija Serifovic sang Molitva, and captivated Europe’s ears and hearts enough to win. This performance marked a first for many reasons. It was the first entry by Serbia as a solo country (they had previously competed as Serbia and Montenegro). It was the first winner to be entirely non-English and the first ballad (in the 100% televoting system). However, most importantly, Marija was the first openly lesbian woman to win the contest.
Her song, song entirely in Serbian and with an all-female backing group wearing suits, barreled through outdated gender norms and showed that love knows no boundary.
Unlike our own first kisses which are generally awkward, ill-timed or driven by teenage angst/ lust, Eurovision’s first LGBTQ+ kisses were on point!
2013 saw the first lesbian kiss from Finland’s Krista Siegfrids in her song, Marry Me. While she wasn’t singing exclusively abour gay marriage, she wanted to show her country that marriage equality was a worthwhile endeavor and proceeded to kiss a female backup dancer on stage in front of Europe. Some countries were of course miffed, but Finland finally recognized same-sex marriage in 2017 so here’s a win to Krista.
The first gay kiss on Eurovision was two years later in 2015 – in a blink or you’ll miss it moment – proudly brought to European (and global) audiences by Lithuania’s Vaidas & Monika and their song ‘This Time’. While the focus was on the straight couple on stage singing, two of the male backup singers briefly kissed in the background. Eh, we’ll take what we can get I suppose. Interestingly enough, this year’s entry from Lithuania is one of the back-up singers who performed the kiss.
Ireland breaks hearts
Fast forward to 2018 and Ireland brings us a beautiful entry that touched hearts across Europe. Again, Ryan O’Shaughnessy was not singing exclusively about same-sex love, but in choosing to visually represent that love with a same sex-couple was ingenious and sent a powerful message about what love really is. Despite being censored in China, the entry was well received and put Ireland in the final for the first time in years.
In the same year, Sara Aalto, an openly lesbian performer sang ‘Monsters’ in Lisbon – a dark, but catchy tune on empowering the marginalized. We dig it.
And here we are
With about two weeks left before the final of Eurovision 2019 in Tel Aviv, we are again presented with a plethora of LGBTQ+ representation.
France is sending Bilal Hassani, a gender non-conforming gay muslim performer (talk about intersectionality!).
The Netherlands is sending Duncan Laurence, a bisexual man in a same-sex relationship singing about an ex-girlfriend (The Netherlands also sent Douwe Bob, another openly bisexual man, to the competition in 2016).
Portugal is sending Conan Osirisi, a pansexual man.
Norway is sending Keiino, a three-person group in which at least one performer is openly gay.
Then there are the performers who are rumoured to be queer but not out. They wont be named because it is up to them to choose how, when and if they do want to come out and in some cases, it may be dangerous for them to do so. But there are already several LGBTQ+ individuals to root for in this edition of Eurovision.
So roll on Eurovision 2019 and may the best queer, uhm, I mean, country win!
Have I missed an LGBTQ+ artist that you feel I should mention? Did you know about these artists? Who do you want to win in Tel Aviv? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook!