Austrian performer Conchita Wurst will represent her otherwise so conservative country Austria tonight at the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest. It’s been a surprise to find a bearded lady being hand picked by a state broadcaster for such an honour.
In October, the Ministry of Information in Belarus received a petition calling on BTRC, Belarus’ state broadcaster, to edit Wurst’s performance out of its Eurovision broadcast. The petition claimed that the performance would turn Eurovision “into a hotbed of sodomy.” In December, a similar petition surfaced in Russia.
The Contest has a huge gay following but it is also a matter of national pride for many participating nations and we have found some countries dropping out of the competition for example once because a Finnish performer kissed her female background dancer on stage in symbolic support of gay marriage. Conchita’s warm reception in the hall and her professional performance in the semi-final on Thursday have made the previous outsider now second favourite to win the entire thing.
You’ll be wanting to know what this has to do with me, my books or even books in general.
Admittedly – not that much. Only that I strongly support her – and anyone’s – right to be herself in life and on stage. As she says: her look hurts nobody unless they chose to kiss her. In a very understated, quiet and unprovocative way Conchita asks for the equality and respect we all deserve in all our shapes and forms.
When ridiculed by a fellow performer she was not insulted but graciously offered to meet him and answer all of his questions, so that he could learn what she was about.
I feel inspired by people like her. I have tried in all of my books to create characters and stories that help to break down differences, stereotypes, prejudices and promote understanding and tolerance. I have straight, gay, Christian, Jewish, European and American characters, some of whom are nice while others are not. They are all human and represent those five letters in humanity.
Conchita is a beautiful testiment to the fact that there is not just Black & White out there and besides her talent she wins over hearts and minds everywhere with her lovable and kind persona. Her look and stage persona have not developed over night but grew slowly and organically. I support her tonight on the strength of her song and her talent, not because of her chosen look or her identity. And that is all she really wants, too. But I am still delighted to see her being able to wave the flag of the country I grew up so close to.
Let’s hope people will get her simple message of tolerance and show that we have come out of the dark ages.
In the words of her own song “Rise like a Phoenix”
“I’ll rise up to the sky
You threw me down but
I’m gonna fly!”