When Dana International won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1998 for Israel with her disco-stormer Diva, it was unmistakeably a massive step toward trans-acceptance and their visibility in the media across the whole continent. That she was openly transsexual, competed and won not only showed acceptance and support of the trans community, but also educated people in both the East and West about trans people when their presence on mainstream media was still minimal and understanding of trans issues was low. Now, sixteen years later, the West is a much different place. Though not yet a fully assimilated utopia, society has changed its opinions and shifted toward acceptance and education, with people from across the whole range of the trans spectrum represented and depicted in the mainstream media, bringing visibility, understanding and challenging the conservatism of the past
Maybe Conchita did win because of who she is over what she sang, but that’s not to denigrate her talent as a singer and performer. Her song Rise Like A Phoenix would give any official Bond song a run for its money and its drama and passion made for a beautiful performance on Saturday night. Plus I’ve been singing it ever since, so it’s certainly catchy. While many in the UK will dismiss Conchita's victory as the gays voting for the gayest winner ever on the gayest show on TV, the contest’s high-campery isn’t automatically associated with the LGBT community the whole continent over. In the East, Eurovision is taken a lot more seriously as an opportunity to showcase their talents and their countries to a world who may not otherwise know they exist. And in the countries where prejudice, homophobia and transphobia is rampant and rife, the Europe-wide embracing of a gander-bent bearded drag queen is exactly the kind of message more liberal countries should be sending them: everyone is equal, everyone should be accepted and difference should always be celebrated. Vive la Conchita!