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Eurovision holds a strange place in the hearts of British people. Most people see it as a bit of harmless fun, an excuse for a party. A hardcore group of super fans are obsessed with it and from the point the songs start being announced it dominates their lives. And another group love nothing more to moan about it and how they don’t like it, we never win and the UK should pull out. Ironically, the latter group who ‘don’t even like it’ seem to really care how well the UK do whilst the super fans are less bothered. Last night though the UK had its worse result in years…. 18 years to be specific, as although we came last at the last competition (2019 due to COVID) with Michael Rice and ‘Bigger Than Us’, James Newman and ‘Embers’ managed to bag a grand total of… nul points, the first time this has happened since 2015 when Germany & Austria had joint honour of finishing with nothing, and the first time the UK has done so since 2003 and ‘Cry Baby’ from Jemini, which was the first time ever the UK had received such an accolade.
However you feel about the contest though, its not going anyway. As the UK is a member of the ‘Big 5’ - i.e. the 5 countries with the biggest economies that provide the majority of funding for the contest (along with France, Italy, Germany and Spain) we are guaranteed a place in the final and as such don’t have to suffer the indignity of potentially falling out in the semi finals, which were introduced just under 20 years ago as the number of countries participating grew to unmanageable levels. This in itself though angers the critics, who see us as paying lots of money for a dead albatross. However, when looking at figures that were made public by the BBC several years ago, despite the money we pay it is still a good deal, and cheaper than anything else the BBC could produce home grown for 3 and a half hours of Saturday night prime time entertainment. Yes, 3 hours of Casualty, a game show and a one off drama would cost more. It aint going anywhere guys. It’s also consistently one of the highest rated programmes not just of the week, but of the year.
Also, for the critics who say everyone hates us… seriously. More hated countries do better (Russia always do well) and people in Azerbaijan etc really do not give a shit about Brexit. ‘Bloc voting’ while something that does save countries the embarrassment of a nul point, does not propel a rubbish song to the winners position. Then there are those that say none of the Big 5 will win because everyone else resents our automatic qualification for the final…. and yet this year Italy won with France coming second place. We really just need to try harder.
The LGBTQ+++ connection
OK, look, lets get on to it. Its why you’re all here anyway. Yes, Eurovision also has a long standing association with ‘the LGBTQ community’ - although actually, primarily gay men - it was notable in 1998 when Israel won the completion with their entry, the transsexual singer Dana International. Dana International is the stage name of Sharon Cohen (Cohen was named Yaron at birth and changed their name to Sharon in the early 90s). While Cohen has claimed they knew they wanted to be a girl from age 13, they did not start transition until their early 20s. It is also notable that Cohen has supported JK Rowling and the concerns she raised in her ‘TERF Wars’ essay, this ostracising themself from most of the ‘community’. More recently in 2014 Austria won with drag artist Conchita Wurst, stage name of performer Thomas Neuwirth. The Conchita character includes a full beard as part of his look, and Neuwirth is quick to correct anyone who alleges he has a trans identity that he is just a gay man.
The 2021 contest saw a huge array of ‘LGBTQ+++’ representation.
With the contestants, one is an out lesbian - Lesley Roy who represented Ireland (although she did not make it past the semi finals) who is married to an American. Three contestants were gay men - Jeangroo Macrooy representing host country and previous winners The Netherlands, Jendrik Sigwart representing Germany, and Vasil Garvanliev representing North Macedonia (who like Ireland did not qualify past the semi-finals). It was disappointing for many that Garvanliev did not make it into the final, as they believed it would of been empowering for LGB citizens of North Macedonia to see a gay man representing their country on an international stage. Whilst homosexuality was decriminalised in the country in 1996, gay men and lesbians still have limited rights, no legal recognition of their relationships, and homophobic attacks are common. At the first Semi-Final this year, BBC presenter Scott Mills used the meaningless phrase ‘North Macedonia isn’t great for LGBTQ rights’, but I would imagine heterosexual cross dressers probably don’t have any restriction of their rights. Moving in to the more nebulous and ill defined parts of the alphabet soup, Australian contestant Montaigne ‘identifies’ as queer, and one or more of the band supporting Icelandic entry Daði Freyr identifies as ‘pansexual’.
The UK Eurovision commentary team has over the last few years morphed to be exclusively led by gay men - Graham Norton, Scott Mills, and Rylan Clark-Neal. The Dutch presenting team as the host country this year consisted of a team of 4 - Chantal Janzen, Edsilia Rombley, Jan Smit and Nikkie de Jager.
De Jager is notable as also being a transexual male. Like Cohen, they also claim they knew they were really a girl from a young age, but unlike Cohen, de Jager started powerful hormone blockers from age 12. De Jager’s story is interesting, I heard of them before but didn’t know much about them, and believe it or not, I was keeping an open mind when learning about them. I was hoping to be presented with some kind of astounding revelation about how a male child can know that they are in fact ‘born in the wrong body’ (a phrase de Jager themselves uses) and should be female. Alas, I was disappointed. The usual story involving clothes, hair, make-up, and sexist and homophobic stereotypes. Interestingly, but maybe not surprisingly, de Jager’s mother was a key factor in their transition. They describe their mother as a ‘Queen’ and happily relays how ‘supportive’ she was. So supportive, that even when Doctors were unsure that the young de Jager should go onto hormone blockers and suggested more watchful waiting before starting to transition, their mother was insistent that her son was ready and start as soon as possible. De Jager sees this as a positive thing. I can’t know what de Jager’s mother was thinking or what her motivations were, or if she were genuinely doing the best for her son. But it certainly sets off alarm bells we’ve seen so often before - Susie Green, Kimberly Shappley etc - so similar to the stories we’ve heard of extremely homophobic parents terrified they may have a gay son and needing to fix them. I genuinely hope de Jager is happy in their life, they are certainly successful enough, but I do worry about the amount of media coverage they are getting and being presented as ‘success’ story that other young effeminate and/or gay boys may want to emulate, or may be pushed to emulate. Though notably after de Jager was pushed to ‘come out’ as trans just over a year ago, it was rumoured their fiancee did not know, which is extremely dishonest if true. Although if it is true it at least supports de Jager’s claims that despite being very tall and large, they ‘pass’ as a cis (sic) woman.
Flying the Flag
Back to Eurovision - for reasons discussed earlier, if you hate the contest and wish it would burn, the UK is unlikely to be pulling out anytime soon. But I’ll certainly be watching with interest, will the contest see even more increased LGB and QT representation? Will it lead to certain countries - Russia for example - deciding they are finally going to pull out because all their attempts to sanitise the LGB and QT aspects are thwarted (they had planned on showing three minutes of dead air when Austria entered Conchita Wurst, though the EBU told them if they do that they can’t broadcast the contest at all). We’ll see, and we’ll be watching.