How to get 20/20 Eurovision

The winner of Eurovision 2014 is Conchita Wurst, who identifies as gender neutral. Her triumph has had some mixed reactions around the world. Shona breaks it down and decides that there are more important things to think about, and that intolerance really is the Wurst.

Crowd at a concert with colourful lights
It all started with a woman standing in the middle of a stage, looking glamorous with perfectly coiffed hair and a gown that seemed to glisten more than the crown jewels themselves. This is a pretty common scene, and anyone who’s ever been to a Beyoncé concert can vouch for this. The song she’s singing is one of those powerful tunes that take your breath away. Only this time, when you look closely, the woman has a beard.

This was the moment that threw the world into a frenzy.   

Public reactions to private decisions

I’m of course talking about the Eurovision 2014 winner Conchita Wurst from Austria, who identifies as gender neutral, using female pronouns like 'she' and 'her' where necessary. Her song ‘Rise like a Phoenix’ has currently got around 12 million views on YouTube and has triggered thousands of debates which, sadly, focus more on her facial hair than her awe-inspiring abilities as a singer and performer. 

The Internet, and social media more specifically, has made it possible for people all over the world to publish their opinions about Conchita Wurst. As expected, comments ranged from declarations of praise and admiration to distasteful remarks about her sexuality and gender, and everything in between. There was one Facebook page encouraging people to oppose Conchita’s involvement in the competition which had accumulated over 37, 000 likes. Not to mention the political figures who took a very public stance in opposition to her very private decisions concerning her appearance. In fact, some European countries tried to ban her performance from the competition altogether. I am so glad that they did not succeed; not only would it have been one giant loss for gender diverse communities everywhere, but I wouldn’t have been able to listen to ‘Rise like a Phoenix’ on repeat all morning. That would have been a tragedy in itself.

Exploring unfamiliar territory

I can understand that most people have’t come across someone who looks like a woman and has a beard (including myself), and Conchita’s performance may have been something completely new and unfamiliar. At the same time, however, this doesn’t change the fact that even something completely new and unfamiliar deserves respect, tolerance and acceptance. If there’s something or someone that we don’t understand, it’s best to keep an open mind, ask questions and show the same respect we would anyone else. 

From facial hair to my love affair

Everyone has the right to present themselves however they want and to identify as whatever sexuality or gender feels right to them. How about, instead of getting caught up on things that don’t really concern us at all, we try not to lose sight of the fact that Conchita Wurst seems like a lovely person who has incredible musical talents. I mean, of the 12 million YouTube views she’s accrued, I know I’ve contributed at least 37. Conchita Wurst? More like Conchita Best.

Last reviewed: 20 May, 2014
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