First things first, Eurovision is not a ‘guilty pleasure’. There is absolutely no guilt to be felt when enjoying the high camp, sometimes excellent music and production values produced by Europe’s finest. I just felt like that needed to be cleared up.
In recent years, underground areas of the LGBTQ+ community have risen into the mainstream (drag, for example) and it has become apparent just how much influence these areas of the LGBTQ+ community have had on Eurovision. The final is basically a two and half hour-long lip sync for your life. You’ve got huge production numbers, insane costumes and the tightest choreography since Britney’s Me Against The Music video in ‘03.
This year’s contest will be held in Lisbon, Portugal – a pretty liberal country when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. However, 19 of the 42 countries competing still have limited LGBTQ+ rights and legislation. Many of them do not recognise marriage or same-sex joint adoption and a handful still require trans people to undergo sterilisation to legally be recognised as their true selves.
In stark contrast to this, Eurovision is often seen as celebration of diversity, peace, and unity. It is a massive party that applauds people from all walks of life and the wonderfully unique people of this world.
Ukraine’s Verka Serduchka (2007) gave us a silver, Dame Edna executive realness, while Israel’s Dana International (1998) was the first openly trans person to take part in the contest, who went on to win the competition. She later returned to represent her country for a second time.
More recently, Finland’s Krista Siegfrids performance of ‘Marry Me’ included a same-sex kiss to protest the country’s then-ban on same-sex marriage, which was later legalised in 2017.
Representing Lithuania in 2015, Monika Linkyte and Vaidas Baumila’s performance included backing dancers who embraced one another in same-sex kisses. Another one of the show’s most renowned contestants is drag artist Conchita Wurst, who became a queer icon after winning the competition in 2014. Earlier this month, Conchita spoke to the media for the first time as living with HIV, as an ex partner of hers had been threatening to ‘out’ her.
People living with HIV, in the UK and all over the world, still experience bullying, discrimination and stigma. There are also so many myths surrounding the virus that we must work together to debust.
This year, leading HIV and sexual health organisation Terrence Higgins Trust is using the Eurovision Song Contest to raise vital funds to support its work.
You can get involved here and show your support for the organisation and, just like so many of our favourite past Eurovision performers, use your role in the contest (as a fan) to help impact positive change.