I cannot even begin to unravel the layers of meaning behind the success of Conchita Wurst at the Eurovision 2014 song contest. I confess to being if not entirely, then at least in great part ignorant of the trans culture that Conchita represents so openly on a big stage. Living in London, I have caught glimpses of it and have been trying to learn as fast as I can. (And before my critics can jump in and twist my words, can I just point out that most of us straight people, in spite of our assumed street cool, don’t know the first thing about a constituency that is still living under a huge veil of denial and oppression.)
Yet in all my ignorance, I cannot but be glad of the Eurovision result. Eurovision reflects a certain Zeitgeist across a certain section of the European population, and if a liberation-themed song can win it, then that Zeitgeist is moving in good directions.
Back to Conchita. I think she held up a mirror to us, having the audacity to be powerful and sublimely elegant on stage, but also thoroughly vulnerable and looking scared (in those moments after the big win) off stage. How many of the other artists could pull off such a feat of emotional eloquence? For me, the moment when the slick Danish presenter presumed that Conchita was far too overcome to speak was hugely poignant. Not only did Conchita speak, but she fought for her space on stage among the bustle and panic of those last moments and said what she obviously meant to say all along: that she was brought this far by a group of people (‘you know who you are’) and that ‘we are unstoppable’.
I suspect Conchita will have a hard time now, like all sudden celebs. She will have a harder time than most because coming out like she did is still massively dangerous in our day and age. Conchita says it herself in the song: ‘act like you’re free\no-one could have witnessed what you did to me’.
Already the attacks and jibes are coming fast on the internet. Can I suggest that those of us who watch her (the bystanding public) have a job to do here? We need to speak up and speak out in solidarity with Conchita. We can do this by deciding to stand up and be counted in as many ways as we can imagine – politically, socially and publicly.
One of my favourite ways of doing so is this, tweeted by my friend Amelia: .@YoungGreenParty Love #Eurovision #VoteGreen2014 – go watch!
PS. I won’t go into this now, but one way in which Conchita’s success is used in not such good ways is to do some Russian-bashing. Plus ca change…