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Tuesday 23 September 2014

'Not since Dana International’s triumph in 1998 has Eurovision displayed so vividly its importance to the LGBT community'

Orla Tinsley

Published 12/05/2014 | 12:33

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It’s that time of year where rebirth, discovery and being true to who you are allow some of Europe’s best, and some of it’s most bonkers, to take to the stage.

Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision win on Saturday night was a triumph for tolerance and acceptance across Europe.

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Despite the predictably disapproving comments from some Eastern European countries the Rise Like A Phoenix singer brought the Eurovision message of tolerance home with a glittering bang.

By accounts of all things sparkling and sequined the 25-year-old drag queen, the onstage creation of Thomas Neuwirth, was a polarizing figure from before the competition even began. Attempts by the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia to have Wurst and Austria banned or edited were unsuccessful and fuelled the support that helped Conchita rise to victory.`

The Bearded Lady, as she has been affectionately dubbed, only served to solidify the long held and not so secret confirmation that Eurovision is in fact the epitome of importance on the calendar for many people across Europe who strive for a more inclusive and equal society; It’s that time of year where rebirth, discovery and being true to who you are allow some of Europe’s best, and some of it’s most bonkers, to take to the stage. And the political elements were no exception.

As Russia’s 17-year-old Tolmachevy twins took the stage to perform, Russia’s anti-gay propaganda laws, and it’s dealings in the Ukraine, fuelled boos from inside the dome. The reading of the votes further rattled the crowd on TV and in the pubs watching. Some commented this was unfair to the teenage performers, and it can’t have been easy, but the argument that this was merely a song competition was clearly no longer a viable one. Some 180 million viewers in 45 countries tuning in had never before witness quite so timely and universally significant a win.

Not since Dana International’s triumph in 1998 has Eurovision displayed so vividly its importance to the LGBT community. While the contest is a marker on the calendar for many adults the outlet of escape and acceptance the it provides to younger viewers is also important. The value of that outlet was clear as the winner was announced and the long lashed bearded lady’s eyes gleamed with pride. ‘This is a family I always wanted to join because this project is based on tolerance, acceptance, love and so it really felt like coming home actually’, she told reporters in the press room after the final.  ‘And I know there is a different world besides Eurovision Song Contest but I believe that also the people outside the Eurovision think hopefully in the way I do’.

The non gender conforming symbol of tolerance drew support from her other contestants too with Britain’s Molly Smitten-Downes rushing to plant a kiss on the drag queen’s cheek as she made her way to the victory podium.

Soon after Russian Politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky declared the event ‘the end of Europe’. Similar comments followed from other Russian politicians. By then Austria was celebrating it’s first win since 1966. ‘I rise up to the sky, you threw me down, but I’m gonna fly, And rise like a Phoenix’, as the winning song goes.

Irish Independent

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