Celebrate Diversity: LGBTI+ Representation in Eurovision Song Contest
by Didem ÖZÇAKIR
Everybody loves Eurovision! Every year in may each one of us, even the ones who have never watched the contest before, definitely hear about that year’s winner. We all remember the excitement of waiting if our country would win or not. It is an event that unites people and different cultures. ESC 2020 is the first contest in Eurovision’s history to get canceled (unfortunately due to COVID19), a pretty remarkable event keeping in mind that the first ESC took place in 1956.
The idea with ESC was to create an international platform in which different cultures would be celebrated and a sense of peace would be dominant-a very important step in post-World War 2 Europe, which had a goal of creating a common ground for different countries to prevent another world war. It was an opportunity to see different lifestyles when it was created, in a world without social media or powerful communication technologies the event gave the chance of seeing different lifestyles. The first contest had only 7 participants, and most of the audience experienced it through radio, bands were not allowed as well. The contest has changed so much since 1956, there are now more than 40 participants and the chance of seeing colorful stage shows is one of the greatest parts of the month of May. Nevertheless, the values it represents are still the same: celebrating differences and promoting peace.
Eurovision Song Contest has also become a major platform for LGBTI+ representation. With songs about this theme and its embracing atmosphere, there have been numerous acts to empower LGBTI+ or often underrepresented groups in general. Having its roots in the 1960s the LGBTI+ representation definitely saw its peak in 2014 with the Austrian winner Conchita Wurst and the song Rise Like A Phoenix.
Even the people who can only name Alexander Rybak of 2009 (Fairytale, Norway) as a song from ESC, definitely heard or saw Conchita. It got controversial reactions, but Conchita showed the world that the LGBTI+ movement had the support of millions behind it in the biggest televised music event of the world. Conchita, and all the following acts, showed the world that it was impossible to prevent the liberation of the LGBTI+ community: ”You know I will rise like a phoenix/But you're my flame”
My favorite was definitely Ireland of 2018, a love ballad with two men as sides of the relationship, its light theme was perfectly suitable for spring and warm weather during the contest.
Eurovision has at least one song representing the LGBTI+ community every year. Among all the flags of these different countries you can also always see the pride flag with its rainbow colors as well. The question that comes to our minds, why is this the case? Why is Eurovision a platform that is a home for the LGBTI+ community? Thinking about it, the situation is not very surprising. The contest’s main idea behind its creation was to celebrate different cultures, show different lifestyles, and diffuse the feeling that we are all human beings regardless of our differences. The LGBTI+ community of Europe, growing up in the rather strict environment of the 20th century had the chance of seeing that there was tolerance for differences in ESC, and what was expected from them was not the only truth. At a time in which there was no Instagram, it is no surprise that these people loved what they were seeing on TV -with all of its color and vividness. Eurovision Song Contest represents all the values that LGBTI+ wants: tolerance, peace, love, differences, and many more.
Millions of Eurovision fans throughout the globe give their utmost support to LGBTI+, and no one can deny that the future is going to give the freedom and equality to all the groups with differences, not just LGBTI+.