Is the Eurovision fandom turning... straight?
Out of the 200 million people who watch the Eurovision Song Contest we can safely assume that, like the general population, the bulk of them are straight.
But when it comes to the pointy end of the fandom, we also know there’s a much larger portion of LGBTIQ members.
This was backed up in our recent Eurovision Fan Survey which saw 62% of respondents identify as LGBTIQ+, with a majority identifying as gay.
However… when we examined the data a little more closely, we made a shocking discovery…. the fandom is starting to turn more… straight!
We found this by looking at the portion of LGBTIQ v Heterosexual respondents by age.
For those aged 25-44, only 31% identified as heterosexual. This number rose to 43% of those aged 24-years-old and younger.
It is important to note that the fandom hasn’t always been so strongly LGBT orientated. Those 45-years-old and above have the highest percentage of straight people, with 47% identifying that way.
The biggest growth we've seen is among straight men. In the 35-44-year-old age group they made up just 7% of Eurovsion Fan Survey respondents, while in the 18-24-yead-old age group that triples to 21%.
It's still a minority in the fandom, so don't get out your straight pride flags just yet.
The 18-24-year-old category is also the first to have more straight men than straight women and most surprisingly 22% of straight men intend to go to the contest in 2020, the highest portion of any group (LGBTIQ community is at 21%).
So we wanted to find out what was going on here, and decided to talk to this minority in the fandom, straight men.
Now yes, we know they aren’t exactly a downtrodden minority group, however with these changing numbers, we needed to find out the stories behind the change.
(And in addition we will hear from female fans, in a similar, but different post to come).
Firstly we wanted to know, how exactly did they get into the contest? Our numbers showed they were more likely to have found it through general promotion, and their stories backed that up.
James aged 23 from Australia tells us, that he saw "'Eurovision Song Contest' while browsing the TV guide in 2010, it got me interested to try it and I never looked back!”.
He wasn’t the only one to mention ‘flicking channels and stumbling across it’, multiple guys said this was how they found it (it's also what I told my parents when I was watching "Tales of the City" back in the 90s).
However, it was a different promotion in 2010 that got Paul, aged 22, from Germany hooked,
“Prior to the Eurovision final in 2010 Germany seemed to be in Lena fever. Everyone talked about the phenomenon: on the radio, at school, everywhere! Infected by the hype, I watched this show I had never heard of before.”
While Junior Eurovision’s introduction also seems to be paying dividends by indoctrinating young fans,
“I first watched Junior Eurovision in 2008 and watched that up to 2011 then in 2012 I started watching adult Eurovision," Oscar, aged 18 from The Netherlands told us.
But what exactly about the contest, got them hooked?
Ben, aged 31 and host of the EuroWhat? podcast in America, told us,
"I like the kitsch of the contest and the whole coming-together-of-nations thing, since it feels Olympics-adjacent, but I think what else draws me to it are my interest in pop music as a craft and my general love of trivia."
His comparison to the Olympics is an interesting one as our Eurovision Fan Survey found that straight men are much more interested in the World Cup and the Olympics than other fans.
This is something backed up by Chris, a 32-year-old Australian living in the United States,
“It is just so over the top and as a sports fan I loved the idea of making music a nation on nation competition. Then of course some of the songs are good!"
Sakaria, 22 from Sweden, likens the contest to sport as well,
"I see Eurovision as the World cup tournament in music. We all have our favourite football teams, instead of cheering on one team, we are cheering on many countries and their songs."
And Louis pretty much agrees, “The logic of it all - countries perform on stage, and then give each other points. And the fact that there's so much good music.”
It's not just sport though, 20-year-old Giorgio form Italy, has a more noble cause, "I became fan because, for me, is the only week of the year when I really see the united Europe."
So have straight guys ‘come out’ to their friends and family as fans? The overwhelming answer was yes, with a couple of exceptions.
Tom, 44-years-old, from Australia says he is out but does suggest there were issues in the past,
“Obviously" (when referring to the question if he's out as a fan), "I've no problems telling new people I meet either. The stigma has definitely declined over the years. Although, secretly, most people still think it's crap. They just won't immediately jump and tell you that."
And another fan adds, "My parents and friends doesn’t know that I am a Eurovision fan. They see the contest as a ”gay event”. I watch the contest because i love it."
Ben from EuroWhat? podcast shared his ‘coming out’ experience when he began dating this year,
“I met my girlfriend in January of this year and in one of our early dates, told her about the podcast I co-hosted and then, since she seemed interested, told her in more detail what Eurovision was, why I loved it, and what we were going to be talking about on the next episode (Hatari, amongst other things). She got totally into it along with me, ended up watching the semi-finals AND finals with me, and has also joined me as I've done other prep for the show It's nice having found someone that finds it as interesting as I do, or at least finds my interest in it interesting."
They may be out but the majority said they do encounter some gentle teasing
"People would sometimes joke about my relationship with Eurovision but it’s always light hearted and not at all got to do with being straight or gay. Which I totally play along with anyways" - James.
"Me and my Italian friends in the fandom always joke about me being straight and I'm ok with it, I feel 100% confident about being a straight in the fandom" - Giorgio.
"I was with OGAE Rest of the World on a trip in Lisbon and was called the “gayest straight man of all time” not that they were questioning my sexuality at all but I they definitely found it interesting." - Chris.
"Absolutely! Daily hahahah, I don’t mind though it’s really funny most of the time. People assumed that I was either gay or a female when I first joined the Eurovision fandom, and when I told them I was straight their reactions were priceless! “But... straight male Eurovision fans don’t exist?! Are you the first one?!” – @esterpeony from Twitter.
"Yeah a lot, but I go along with the joke and it doesn't really bother me all that much." - Oscar
And overall they feel the Eurovision fandom is super welcoming, regardless of who you are.
"In a way I feel like, because I'm kinda different than most people, I fit in more, the fandom needs diversity and it's important that everyone feels welcome" – Oscar.
" It’s literally never even crossed my mind that I could be UNwelcome" - James.
Ben and Chris feel it gives them a useful perspective not being in the majority,
"My sexuality has never been an issue. As a straight white man it’s not often I’m a “minority” so it’s a useful perspective," - Chris.
"This is a chance to better understand other areas of the world that don't match my own worldview. My view on Eurovision fandom is the same as for other spaces I'm a member of where the demographics are largely-LQBTQ affiliated - I've somehow gotten on the invite list for this party, so I want to be a good guest so I keep getting invited back. That generally means listening more than I speak and making sure I'm not the loudest voice in the room," - Ben.
While a couple of people did find that occasionally issues may come up, with Oliver saying that for the most part he feels welcome but not always, and Tom says that at times he ‘senses some unease’.
Most didn’t really associate the contest with a ‘gay’ or ‘camp’ stereotype.
“This is a very western way of viewing the fandom and it ignores basically all other countries where Eurovision is a mainstream thing for all people to enjoy no matter their sexuality” – Oscar.
“Given homosexuality is still taboo in a number of countries that compete I’m not so sure about that. I guess there’s always going to be the countries going for the Gay Vote (how else do you explain San Marino doing so well this year?!) but it’s never a strong enough block to win on its own and there’s still way more songs about heterosexual love than gay love” – Chris
(Editor note: Don’t blame us for Eurodaddy’s success!)
While Paul says he does see more LGBTIQ people in the fandom, than in the contest as a whole,
"If you look at the Eurovision parties I've been to, however, you immediately see where this stereotype comes from: estimatedly 90-95% non-straight male fans" - Paul.
And why do they think the fandom is becoming ‘straighter’?
"Looking back I think the association with LGBT peaked after Conchita won and it's starting to go away now but it's definitely associated with liberalism/progressivism" – Oliver, 16 from New Zealand.
“I think the majority of that audience (fandom) will still be more LGBTQ-associated (especially since the generations after mine are delightfully realizing that things we've largely assumed are binaries like sex and gender can actually be way more complex than that, in a good way), but I figure there are at least a few other weird straight dudes like me, curious about what this whole big music competition thing is, that will find this, like it, and come back" - Ben.
While Chris takes the view that much of the numbers back up,
"The fandom is definitely changing, it’s becoming younger but I don’t know about LGBT being bigger. It’s hard, those of us that are this deep in this world are on Twitter and going to the contest see this one type of fan. But I think that’s actually the minority of the Eurovision fandom. If anything the reign of Jon Ola Sand has moved it to be more mainstream on the whole, but the straight fans may not be as engaged. Let’s face it the great majority of Eurovision fans only watch the final," - Chris
Overall, most Eurovision viewers are straight, as are the contestants and most things about Eurovision. At the pointy end, we do get a healthy LGBTIQ population and that's fantastic. The openness and progressiveness of the contest and it's unifying approach is what makes it special for everyone, and the more fans the better, no matter who they are.
As Conchita said, "we are unity, we are unstoppable" and I think that can apply to us all.