After 66 years of high camp and cheeky queerness, you might think there isn’t much left for performers in the Eurovision Song Contest that hasn’t already been done before.
You would be wrong.
Even ahead of Saturday’s Eurovision 2022 Grand Final in Turin, Italy, two strange milestones have already been marked this week. On Tuesday, when Icelandic trio Systur learned they had made it through the first semi-final, they proudly waved the transgender flag alongside that of their country.
Then in the second semi-final on Thursday, San Marino singer Achille Lauro planted the first male-male mid-Eurovision kiss on his guitarist’s lips.
And that’s nothing to talk about the wacky stage gimmick that is the hallmark of Eurovision, which has already this year featured unexpected premieres like monk-supervised handwashing (Serbia), mask-wearing wolf (Norway) and driving a mechanical bull (again, San Marino).
From Dana International from Israel to Conchita Wurst from Austria to Duncan Laurence from the Netherlands, LGBTQ artists have always been warmly welcomed at Eurovision. Last year, a record five acts in the grand finale were made up entirely or in part of queer artists – including winners Måneskin from Italy, with bisexual member Victoria De Angelis and “sexually free” member Ethan Torchio .
This year’s Eurovision grand final on Saturday will feature two queer acts – the aforementioned Icelandic Systur and Australian Sheldon Riley – and performances from several other contestants will telegraph strong endorsements of queer sexuality.
Hosting the extravaganza will also be two beloved gay stars: singer Mika, who will be live from Turin as on-site host for global audiences, and Olympian turned NBC commentator Johnny Weir, who will host the show’s exclusive US feed. on Peacock. (NBC News and Peacock are owned by Comcast-NBCUniversal.)
Systur will mark another big Eurovision final on Saturday, as a group that counts both a lesbian and the mother of a transgender child among its members. The group of sisters have been strong advocates for trans children in their home country.
“I didn’t realize until my child became a trans individual that not everyone was open to it, because I accepted it and was actually happy that my child was able to free from the chains under which he lived.” Sigga Eyþórsdóttir told Australian podcast JOYEurovision. “I realized how many trans kids and trans people suffer from not being able to express their gender, and it really broke my heart.
She added: “I reached out to the trans community in Iceland and asked, ‘How can I be your voice?’ And they said, “Just tell the parents to do what you did: accept your children and love them unconditionally.”
Systur’s Eurovision-featured folk ballad ‘Með hækkandi sól’ (‘With the Rising Sun’) is an ode to the promise of warmth and sunlight overcoming the cold darkness of winter .
The lyrics to Australian contestant Sheldon Riley’s song “Not the Same” also celebrate the light that shines through broken darkness – and have resonated so strongly with some LGBTQ fans that the song is hailed as a gay anthem.
“I never really wanted it to be an anthem,” Riley told OUTtv in the Netherlands. “For me, it was just a song I wrote when I was 15.
“I was first diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 6 years old, but I also grew up in a very religious and reserved family,” he explained. “So the idea of being gay and being all those things that Eurovision is so proud of being was not acceptable to me, it was just this thing that was constantly prayed for. “We pray for Sheldon to be a real man we pray that Sheldon is not gay, that he is straight, that he has a wife, that he has children We will constantly continue to pray to fix something about you .'”