LGBTIQ+ artists at Eurovision 2022
Over the years Eurovision has been synonymous with queer representation and has seen real moments of hope and progress.
From transgender performer Dana International winning the contest in 1998, to Conchita Wurst's famous victory in 2014, as well as Dutch 2019 winner Duncan Laurence getting engaged to his same-sex partner, the Contest has always been about visibility.
After a bumper year of eight artists openly identifying among the LGBTIQ+ rainbow in 2021, who has 2022 served up for us?
Sheldon Riley - Australia
For the second year running, Australia will have a queer performer at Eurovision. Sheldon Riley came out as gay at an early age and unfortunately suffered bullying during his school years.
He told The Star Observer about his experience:
“No-one got me, I didn’t fit in anywhere. When you’re going to school and asking teachers why boys can’t wear skirts, you know you’re different," he said.
“At one stage I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I thought, if this is what being gay is, I don’t want to be that person anymore.”
He has been with his partner Zachery Tomlinson since 2018 and, talking to DNA Magazine about the relationship, said:
"I’m so deeply in love with him. I’m not someone who goes out and looks for love; this kinda happened and I’m very grateful. He’s a very beautiful looking human … and a very beautiful soul too."
He also told Aussievision early this year that Conchita's performance at Eurovision had a significant impact on him.
"[It] completely changed my life. I come from a very, very religious family background and I remember watching it for the first time … and even back then I was unsure if it was ok to love this performer. I tell people Conchita changed my life because it was the first daredevil move that I felt in myself where I went "oh my gosh that is so cool and it is so different," that adrenaline rush. I only have ever felt that when I watched Conchita for the first time."
Michael Ben David - Israel
Michael Ben David is openly gay and is performing the unashamedly flamboyant song 'I.M' at Eurovision this year for Israel.
He has spoken about his struggles as a child and the difficulties he faced both at school and at home.
In a 2018 interview he said:
"For years I locked myself away scared in a locked room. I listened to music, taught myself to dance and sing and did whatever they did not want me to do, in secret."
"Even when I behaved 'normal', my voice betrayed me and I was a clear target. I kept trying to speak quietly, lower. I also stopped singing in the corridors, and when the teacher asked me questions I did not answer."
But it is his voice that set him on the path to shine. He studied at the Beit Zvi School of Performing Arts, where his dance teacher gave him the courage to pursue his talent.
"He told me I could either start specialising in the field or continue to sit at home and cry about being gay."
He clearly succeeded, winning The X Factor Israel and earning his spot at Eurovision, but it was not the only special moment of the talent show series for him.
He performed the song 'Mother' by Miri Mesika, which is about the singer wanting to have a closer connection with their mum. As he performed his mother, who had struggled to accept his sexuality, watched backstage with Michael's partner before coming on stage to embrace him.
"When I sang this song, I sang my pain. It was a crazy closing circle. She hears it and understands. That’s why she also took to the stage and hugged me.”
Elín Eyþórsdóttir - Iceland
Elín, sometimes known professionally as Elín Ey, is one of three sisters who make up the Icelandic act Systur at Eurovision.
Elín has been openly gay for many years, performing together with her sisters at many Pride events.
Although she is very comfortable with her sexuality, there are few interviews with her about the topic. An interview from 2015 with Gay Iceland shows that being gay has not been too much of an issue for her:
“Now, you’re openly gay. What is that like in Iceland?”
“Just very basic.”
“So…do you have a girlfriend?”
“Experienced any prejudice since coming out?”
“No, nothing serious.”
The Systur are also all very supportive of the trans community, with the official Eurovision biography mentioning their activism.
They alluded to their supportive stance in this quote given to ESC Bubble earlier this year:
We are all human, so let’s treat each other with kindness, love and respect"