What Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst demonstrated at this year's Eurosong has definitely not been seen for years on the stage of the most dominant European music contests. Based on the compliments that Elton John and Cher lavished on him/her, it seems that Eurosong gave birth to a new international star, many years after ABBA and Celion Dion were launched from the stage. However, Conchita's eccentric figure triggered not only an international media whirlwind, but an onslaught of international homophobia as well.
Despite being welcomed as a hero in Austria, more than 37,000 of his compatriots joined the Facebook group "NEIN zu Conchita Wurst beim Song Contest", demonstrating their animosity toward the Eurosong winner. The most pathological hatred toward the "bearded-woman" originated in Eastern Europe, where leading politicians consider Conchita as embodying"sickness, deviation, a sign of Apocalypse and the devil". On the other hand, traditional Slavic homophobia actually served to rally his supporters, and render his presence a triumph. Countries opposing Russia's anti-gay attitude voted overwhelmingly in favor of the "Bearded Lady." It is clear that Eastern Europeans, mired in their own decades-long political morasses (not to mention social conservatism) did not understand the lessons that the Austrian performer gave to them in just four minutes.
Minding your own affairs More than 15,000 Russians and Belarusians signed a petition -- with unsuccessful results -- in an attempt to prohibit Eurosong's broadcast in their countries. They were more worried about Conchita than the violent actions of their own governments at home and abroad. While Putin's army dreams of conquering an independent Ukraine, edging the international community closer to the next World War, Belarusians continue to suffer under the dictatorship of their " beloved" president Alexander Lukashenko, who has been abusing his countrymen's human rights for nearly two decades. It would be far more logical for those same 15,000 people to be interested in their own futures and sign a petition against their nations' despots, than wasting time on a matter that has no effect on their daily lives.
You see the splinter in your brother's eye, and fail to see the plank in your own . While Eastern Europeans aggressively criticize Austria's eccentric singer, they turn a blind eye to their own representatives who have appeared on Eurosong over the last few years. In 2007 Ukraine sent its own drag-queen, Verka Serduchka, while the Russians still believe that they did a good job sending six grannies, whose meaningless performance was the subject of international media sarcasm. Even this year's Russian representative, the Tolmachevy sisters, offered nothing more than a physical onstage presence. Unlike this year's winner, who gifted the world with an excellent Gloria Gaynor-style song ("I am what I am") or in the manner of Shirley Bassey, the songs originating in some of Eurasia's regions were more reminiscent of Monty Python sketches.
TV presenters need lessons in tolerance. Some of the TV presenters hailing from homophobic countries did not even attempt to hide their personal animosity toward the Austrian performer. Thus,the Serbian Gay and Lesbian Info Center accused national television station RTS of discriminatory statements. It stressed that the Serbian TV commentator verbally insulted the trans population during the Eurosong contest. According to Gay Center, Serbian National Television decried Wurst's show as "bizarre; a circus and freak-show". "The Serbian commentator was also horrified every time Conchita received maximum scores."
Learning from Israel and Austria. Defending their homophobic culture, Eastern European countries continue to accentuate the Biblical vision of human sexuality, frequently misinterpreted by fanatical clergy and ultra right-wing groups. However, "God's promoters" forget that both Eurosong winners, Dana International and Conchita Wurst also hail from countries with strong religious backgrounds. Dana International outraged Israeli Orthodox Jews and rabbis following her selection to represent Isreal in Eurosong 1998. Although Rabbi Shlomo Ben Izri, then Israel's Deputy Health Minister was "ashamed of this choice", considering it "an offense to all of us Jews", Israel's High Court of Justice supported the decision made by the Israeli festival commission. Dana was categorical: " I sing for all of my country. If the Orthodox want to live by the laws of 2000 years ago, well, that's tough for them". Taking a win in Eurovision song contests, Dana brought Eurosong 1999 to politically isolated Israel; a development then welcomed by the official government. Subsequently, outraged Jewish homophobes lost the battle. Today, Israel is one of the most popular gay-friendly destinations in the Mideast region, if not the world. Conchita comes from Austria, a country where before 1971, same sex-relations could result in incarceration. However, today "Queen of Austria" is celebrated in an atmosphere of general reconciliation between the Catholic church and the LGBT population.
Conchita continues a tradition of androgynous celebrities. It is clear that Conchita follows in Boy George's footsteps, becoming in a way his show business-launched descendent. Consequently, Eastern Europeans may or not may accept "The Bearded Lady", but they must concede that Boy George laid the groundwork, and in his day, was one of the West's biggest stars.
Don't discriminate against bearded women. Conchita's beard is not only an artist's expression, but also represents hope and support for all truly bearded ladies who suffer from hormonal disorders. In many non-Western countries, such individuals are often still shamefully treated as side-show attractions. It may be that Conchita's victory could promote a positive image for the former, mitigating discrimination for those dealing with any kind of facial uniqueness.
The singer's victory constitutes much more than a mere musical competition, but indicates inexorable global maturation. It is a test to determine whether our planet is finally ready to accept those identifying as third-gender people. Yes, they exist, and in fact are all around us. Contrary to Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, which name such citizens as a constitutional part of their societies,the Old Continent is in dire need of a mental reform, in order to better understand those who have never adapted (or who have been discouraged from adapting) to their own bodies. This is especially true of boys who have always seen the world through the eyes and the senses of females.
Unlike Marija Serifovic, a masculinized Serbian female singer (who won Eurosong 2007 and although a lesbian, has always has been respected even in homophobic Eastern Europe), Conchita Wurst faces discrimination, rejection, hatred and ignorance. Why? Where is the difference? It seems that Madonna demystified it in "What It Feels Like for a Girl ". "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots, because it's okay to be a boy. However, for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading...."