Eurovision and the Making of Queer (Counter-)Cultural Diplomacy

Irish drag artist Panti Bliss once joked that May 23, 2015 “has the potential to be so gay that the Earth’s orbit is affected,” since the Eurovision Song Contest and the Irish marriage equality referendum were scheduled to be held on the same day.[1] Indeed, many queer Irish fans found themselves in a dilemma as to whether they should travel to Vienna to watch the contest, or stay home to vote in the historic plebiscite. Yet the triumphalism of queer activists did not go unchallenged, with Sweden sending a singer who has called homosexuality an abnormality. This anecdote illustrates the extent to which Eurovision has become entangled in the transnational politics of sexuality. Although it is tempting to focus on contemporary controversies at Eurovision, any analysis of its queer character must be grounded in an examination of the contest’s longue durée.

Founded in 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest-running television programs in the world, with viewership figures that rival those of the FIFA World Cup. Consequently, many scholars have written about Eurovision in recent years. In the process, two major historiographical schools have emerged. The first strand of research approaches Eurovision as a conduit for the political and diplomatic history of the region, while the second strand views the contest through the lens of gender and sexuality. However, these interpretive frameworks are actually interconnected. While Eurovision has facilitated the enfranchisement of queers in the project of cultural diplomacy, nations have simultaneously exploited the queerness of Eurovision for their public diplomacy agendas. As such, this paper aims to address the strategic and ethical dilemmas raised by queer diplomacy.

Historical and Theoretical Context

Before we examine Eurovision’s role in queer enfranchisement, we must establish that Eurovision is, in fact, a form of cultural diplomacy. This assumption should not be taken for granted, since the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has always maintained that Eurovision is apolitical.[2] To begin with, the role of the state in Eurovision is indirect but not insignificant. The EBU, which organizes the contest, is made up of state-run and public-interest broadcasters from member states. Many governments directly fund these broadcasters. Although some countries select their Eurovision entry by popular vote, most conduct an internal selection process. For instance, producers unilaterally selected drag performer Conchita Wurst as the Austrian entry in 2014, after public votes yielded weak entries in previous years. While the state generally appears to be passive at Eurovision, it has intervened when performers transgress unspoken boundaries. For example, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) withdrew support and sponsorship from the 2000 Eurovision gay band PingPong, after the group waved the Syrian flag at a rehearsal.[3] “They will compete there, but not on behalf of the IBA or the Israeli people,” the IBA chairman said.

Critically, even if the state is not directly involved, Eurovision is still a platform of national self-representation – one of three core functions of diplomacy.[4] At Eurovision, contestants compete in the name of their countries, rather than as individuals, cementing the link between performer and nation. Moreover, over 180 million people watch Eurovision on television every year. According to musicologist Yossi Maurey, it is a “prime arena for nations” and “provides a popular authentication of European-ness that corresponds to, but is different from…legal authentication.”[5] The aim of this discussion is not to show that Eurovision conforms to traditional notions of diplomacy, but to suggest diplomacy has become increasingly similar to Eurovision: a confluence of state organs, media outlets, international bodies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and market forces working in tandem to produce corporeal embodiments of the nation in a mediatized post-modern environment.[6]

To understand how Eurovision has queered cultural diplomacy, it is necessary to set out a “straight” reading of international relations. As a historical problem, the diplomatic sphere has marginalized queers. For most of the Cold War, governments viewed queers as security risks and excluded them from sensitive diplomatic positions. Many officials believed that homosexuals were at risk of blackmail. Governments also questioned the loyalties of homosexuals, who were perceived to be part of a transnational cosmopolitan community.[7] The media linked homosexuality to Communist subversion, drawing upon anti-Semitic tropes from the pre-World War II era.  Hence, as late as 1989, the Security Department of the UK Foreign Office cautioned civil servants that homosexuals were “open to compromise if they indulged in unlawful activities, or mix with unsavory elements in louche bars.”[8] The first openly gay European ambassador was only appointed in 2004 by Britain, and many other European countries have yet to achieve this milestone.[9]

Within the context of cultural and public diplomacy, states have also portrayed themselves in heteronormative terms, using normative sexuality as a symbol of strength and colonial virility. Beginning in the 17th century, but escalating with the New Imperialism of the 19th century, European cultures orientalized homosexuality, seeing same-sex attraction as a sign of civilizational degeneracy and cognitive frailty.[10] Thus, there was little room for sexual subjectivity in portrayals of the nation. For example, when the Soviet Moiseyev Dance Company visited the United States in 1958 on a state-sponsored tour, its dancers “acted out ‘traditional’ relationships…displaying their bodies in heteronormative interactions,” according to historian Victorian Hallinan. Seen in this light, the queerness of Eurovision, which stretches from the 1960s, is remarkable.

Yet the queer dimension to Eurovision is also unsurprising, since music has traditionally subverted the insularity of diplomatic circles and facilitated the inclusion of marginalized groups. As far back as the Congress of Vienna, music and festivity gave the illusion of eradicating class differences, allowing commoners to dance alongside aristocrats. In terms of gender, music historians Ahrendt et al. argue that “[music] empowered women to partake in the conduct of diplomacy, engaging both genders in transnational sociability.” Similarly, the use of Jazz Diplomats by the US State Department brought black music and musicians to the forefront of American consciousness.[11] That Eurovision should do the same for queers is not unexpected.

Queering Cultural Diplomacy

In line with this heritage, Eurovision has brought the queer cultural style of camp into the fold of cultural diplomacy. Beginning in the 1960s, Eurovision entries became increasingly camp in their appeal, often featuring a kitsch aesthetic. This self-conscious theatricality was encapsulated in the trope of the Eurovision diva, who often donned an audacious costume and basked in feminine affectation. The carnivalesque atmosphere at the contest enabled the suspension and subversion of the norms of the usually straight-laced realm of international relations, much like the festivities at the Congress of Vienna centuries before. Given that camp had been associated with gay men since the pre-World War II years as a subterranean identity signifier, its emergence at Eurovision represented a “coming out” of sorts on the international stage, even if respectability remained an elusive prospect.

Indeed, camp served as an important metaphor for the evolution of international relations, much like the 19th century idea of the “Concert of Nations.” Eurovision scholar Robert Tobin argues that “camp humor has proven to be one of the best tools to maintain a sense of cultural identity while critiquing essentialism,” providing a solution to the tension between national and global citizenship.[12] Camp mocks the idea of nationality, breaking down national boundaries in the process. For example, the 1979 West German Entry, Dschinghis Khan, sang about “bringing fear and despair to every land” to a campy dance tune. The site of the contest was Israel, and yet by confronting its Nazi past head-on with satire, West Germany was able to win over its audience, coming in a respectable fourth place.[13] The song shocked many Germany critics, and carried the risk of being offensive, but the links between camp music, sexual liberation, and pacifism had reconfigured old notions of threat and power in international politics, if only momentarily. Camp might not have enacted comprehensive change to world order, but it helped to subvert it.

Largely due to its camp appeal, Eurovision developed a substantial gay fan base. In 2009, a staggering one in four Irish queer respondents reported watching Eurovision on television.[14] As result, Eurovision fandom has served as an alternative kinship network through which queers can build a sense of community.[15] Consequently, Eurovision has alternately been called “a gay Christmas,” “the gay World Cup,” and “Passover for the homos.”[16]  In the context of this paper, this phenomenon has been significant, because it has rendered Eurovision one of few platforms on which queer audiences became a major constituency of cultural diplomacy.

As an exercise in cultural diplomacy, Eurovision has also aligned the national and sexual identities of queers, enabling them to celebrate both concurrently. The contest challenges the hetero-normativity of cultural citizenship, reconciling national allegiance with queer pride. Consequently, Eurovision has offered a platform for queers to engage in citizen diplomacy, defined by the Center for Citizen Diplomacy as a process “where individuals and communities benefit from person-to-person interactions that result in greater understanding between people and cultures” (2014). According to Singleton et al., many queer fans recall that Eurovision introduced them to other languages embedded in foreign entries, although this might have diminished following the abolition of the native-language requirement for entries. For a generation of European queers, however, it was their first experience of “transnational sociability.”[17]

Moreover, Eurovision has evoked a powerful sense of queer nationality, creating a gay consciousness that has subverted territorial markers.[18] This sense of community has been reinforced by the fact that queers have, according to Tobin, “increasingly found an ally in the new supranational Europe,” with its extensive protections for LGBTQ rights.  Such an alternative form of pan-European citizenship carries many manifestations, from travelling across the border-free Schengen Area to watch Eurovision performances, to meeting other queers at gay bars hosting Eurovision nights. Seen in this light, queer Eurovision raises pertinent questions about the parameters of diplomacy in today’s Europe, which simultaneously aspires towards federalism but is also a collection of sovereign nation-states. In a post-modern world, Eurovision blurs the distinction between diplomacy and nation-building, forcing queers to juggle their national and transnational loyalties.

However, it was only in the late 1990s that Eurovision truly “came out” as a queer event. In that period, openly queer performers started representing their countries at Eurovision, serving as de facto ambassadors for their nations, and engaging in what political Andrew Cooper terms celebrity diplomacy. In 1997, Paul Oscar became the first out gay man to participate in Eurovision, reinforcing Iceland’s national narrative as a forerunner in LGBTQ rights.[19] The following year, Dana International became not just the first transgender contestant, but also the first transgender winner of Eurovision. These milestones were fiercely contested – Dana had to be protected by armed guards in a bulletproof hotel room when she represented Israel in 1998.[20] Critically, however, this development proceeded and prefigured the eventual visibility of queer diplomats, transforming the unimaginable into a realistic possibility. In Eurovision, as elsewhere, celebrity diplomats served as mediators between the masses and the institutional apparatus of the nation-state.[21]

Incidentally, the “outing” of Eurovision coincided with the abolition of the requirement that an orchestra from the host country accompany every entry in 1999. Leading scholar Jessica Gienow-Hecht portrays the music director as a “hegemonic master of life and death” who asserts national dominance.  In the light of this interpretation, the demise of the orchestra could have signaled a repudiation of the state’s monopoly over national self-representation, which in turn facilitated the rise of liberal individualism exemplified by overtly queer performances at Eurovision. From a semiotic perspective, symphonic performance is also gendered: the conductor (almost invariably a man) wields a phallic object (the baton) to direct the orchestra towards an orgasmic climax.[22] Thus, the decline of the Eurovision orchestra also represents the diminishing of normative sexuality in the contest.  While it is impossible to establish a causal link, the removal of the symphony dramatizes the queering of Eurovision diplomacy.

Queerness as Public Diplomacy

Although queers initially exploited Eurovision for their own purposes, nations later re-appropriated the queerness of Eurovision in support of public diplomacy, defined by American diplomat Edmund Gullion as communication with foreign audiences to influence attitudes towards a country.[23] Queer acts and performers have become a powerful symbol of a nation’s liberalism and modernity, which positively affects its image and reputation abroad. In particular, embracing the queerness of Eurovision validates a country’s membership in the European community. Social scientist Eric Fassin argues that “sexual democracy” demarcates the borders of Europe, which have become increasingly contested following the collapse of the Iron Curtain.[24] Under this paradigm, tolerance of sexual subjectivities sets Europe apart from its neighbors. Indeed, the External Action Service of the European Union has made the promotion of LGBTQ rights a priority, demonstrating the centrality of the issue to its global image. For countries seeking to assert their European identity, the queerness of Eurovision is an attractive discursive device. Queer theorist Jasbir Paur terms “the instrumentalization of sexual freedom” homo-nationalism, through which nations legitimate their superiority by appealing to their apparent progressivity.[25] Its logical corollary is pink-washing, the use of an LGBTQ-friendly image to deflect attention from other human rights issues.

Participating countries have used both “homonationalism” and “pink-washing” as diplomatic tools at Eurovision.[26] In 1998, Dana International provided one of the earliest, but also one of the most striking examples of homonationalism in action. Despite opposition from ultra-orthodox elements, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (IBA) defended the decision to send Dana, asserting “we should be seen as a liberal, free country that chooses songs on their merits, not on the basis of the body of the man or woman.”[27] The word “seen” indicates the extent to which nation-branding is a priority in Israel’s participation in Eurovision. Given that the IBA is directly funded by the Israeli government, its statement is a proxy for Israel’s soft power strategy – to capitalize on its gay rights record, divert criticism of its militarism in Palestine, and contrast itself positively to the Arab states, which are comparatively less tolerant in this respect.[28] Paradoxically, Dana had to appear apolitical in order to achieve this goal. In the lead-up to the competition, she avoided discussing current affairs, thus distancing her from the state.[29] Her song, “Diva,” made pretensions of universality by celebrating a cross-cultural and trans-historical array of powerful women like Cleopatra, the Roman goddess Victoria, and the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Although she performed “Diva” in Hebrew, most of the lyrics were accessible in other languages, ensuring a broad-based appeal. Yet when Dana emerged victorious, she went on stage with the Israeli flag in a highly unusual move, demonstrating that national representation remained an integral part of the contest.[30]

This pink-washing strategy proved to be an attractive model for Serbia, another country on the fringes of Europe that sought to showcase its coming-of-age. In 2007, Marija Šerifović’s “performance of her song Molitva (Prayer) clearly steered viewers towards understanding it as queer,” even though she had not come out as bisexual at that point. Šerifović’s victory confirmed the vision of a post-Balkans Serbia in the eyes of a European audience. Šerifović was more a figure of national unity then a representative of sexual minorities in her country – she proclaimed that she was “proud to be Serbian” and that her victory was for “all Serbia.”[31] In this way, she asserted her role as an ambassador of Serbia.[32] That said, Šerifović’s was not just a passive performer of her country’s European-ness. Her bold act was also an exercise in Butlerian performativity, repudiating Serbia’s religious orthodoxy in favor of Western modernity. In the process, she transformed the iteration, and not just the image of her nation, bolstering its self-confidence on the global stage. From here, it is evident that queer diplomacy at Eurovision can be a compelling apparatus for public diplomacy.

Nonetheless, queer diplomacy has taken place at a more superficial level as well, illustrating the diversity of ways in which queer acts can be used and abused. A case in point is Russia’s t.A.T.u entry, which participated in Eurovision in 2003. The singers publicly admitted that their faux lesbian performance was intended as a commercial gimmick to maximize their chances of winning Eurovision, which was an issue of prestige and reputation for Russia in the midst of social and political upheaval.[33]  The homoeroticism of t.A.T.u was instrumentalized as a pathway to success by way of appeal to male heterosexual “girl-on-girl” fantasies.  Yet, the artifice of t.A.T.u also made a deeper point. By presenting an alternative modality of queerness, it critiqued the homogenizing effect of Western sexual identities and provided what Heller calls a “stylized performance of post-Soviet Russianness as disobedient, disdainfully proud, and infinitely powerful.”[34] From here, it is clear that irony and self-reflexivity can unravel multiple layers of meaning in public diplomacy, especially as it relates to gender and sexuality.

Although queer diplomacy has been especially popular amongst countries on the European periphery, “Old Europe” occasionally finds it necessary to market and export its progressivness as well.  This impetus is particularly true amongst the Nordic and Scandinavian countries, for whom tolerance has long been part of their national identities. In 2013, Krista Siegfrieds of Finland performed “Ding Dong,” which was themed around marriage equality and featured two women kissing on stage. During an interval, a Swedish comedian put up a cabaret featuring images of Swedish life like elks, meatballs, and a minister marrying two grooms, followed by the lines “follow our example.” The intent of these performances was clear: Finland and Sweden were posturing themselves as models of European diversity for other nations to follow.

The replication of queer diplomacy by such a broad range of nations proves that there is a generic template for a successful queer act at Eurovision. Campy Europop dance music, inspirational lyrics, flamboyant costumes, and pyrotechnic extravaganzas, combine to appeal to the sensibilities of the Eurovision queer male fandom. As Šerifović’s performance and the Russian t.A.T.u case show, however, there is still room for parochial expressions of queerness, although such particularism tends to emerge in the subtext rather than the text of the performance. Another paradox of queer Eurovision diplomacy is that it generally features lesbians and trans acts, even though, and perhaps precisely because, the bulk of the queer Eurovision fandom comprises cisgender men. This imbalance could be due to the fact that lesbian culture is rich with tropes and role-play that can be dramatized on stage, like the butch-femme dynamic. Hence, lesbian and trans acts possess widespread appeal amongst heterosexual audiences. In any case, they can fall back on a storied history on the lyric stage. Conversely, the t.A.T.u performance would probably have fallen flat if it had been enacted by two pubescent teenage boys, or if Dana had undergone female-to-male (rather than male-to-female) sex reassignment surgery. The viscerally transgressive nature of lesbian and trans acts makes it a useful tool of queer public diplomacy.

Although staging a queer performance at Eurovision is an effective act of public diplomacy, hosting Eurovision is arguably an even more significant tactic. Given the large number of LGBTQ fans who travel to Eurovision, as well as the queer reputation of the event, organizing the contest reinforces a nation’s reputation for being open-minded. For instance, when Serbia hosted Eurovision in 2008, its President promised to keep LGBTQ visitors safe, and arrested homophobic rioters. The Ministry of Culture even funded a website on LGBTQ issues.[35]  The absence of hate crimes, despite initial fears, conveyed the impression that Belgrade was a welcoming European capital.[36] As with most assessments of public diplomacy, it is difficult to establish the chain of causation: did international scrutiny bring about such changes, or did Serbia host Eurovision to vindicate itself? Decoupling bidirectional causality is an impossible task, but either way, the queerness of Eurovision presents a unique international public relations platform for the host. The same is true for ostensibly more inclusive countries. When Copenhagen hosted Eurovision in 2014, Copenhagen Pride was a significant fixture. The city held same-sex wedding ceremonies for overseas couples during the week of Eurovision to showcase Denmark’s attainment of marriage equality, confirming the importance of LGBTQ acceptance in its nation-branding efforts.[37]

Although governments have capitalized on Eurovision, non-state actors like LGBTQ groups arguably have more to gain from the contest. When a country hosts Eurovision, queer activists, both domestic and foreign, have a unique opportunity to bring the world’s attention to LGBTQ issues in the nation. For instance, activists held the first Slavic Pride Parade during Eurovision in Moscow in 2009, despite the mayor’s attempt to suppress the movement.[38] The event received heavy coverage by a number of news outlets like the BBC, and EU missions from the British, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish embassies served as observers to monitor the events. A more light-hearted example can be found in the example of Stonewall, a British LGBTQ charity. In the lead-up to the 2015 edition of Eurovision, it has urged schools, companies and individuals to hold Eurovision parties, providing recipes for snacks and cocktails, and other peripherals.  The purpose of its efforts is to raise funds, as well as to draw attention to the LGBTQ situation in different European countries. Indeed, teachers are encouraged to use Eurovision to explore the issue of global LGBTQ rights with their students. On its website, Stonewall also links Eurovision to the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, which takes place the week before Eurovision.[39] Consequently, Eurovision can be a platform for international activists to lobby governments for change while raising awareness of LGBTQ issues amongst global audiences.

There is, however, a more insidious way in which politicians of “Old Europe” exploit LGBTQ issues at Eurovision to apply coercive pressure on other countries, implicitly asserting their own primacy. In 2002, a Slovenian jury chose the transvestite act, Sestre, to represent the country at Eurovision, offending the predominantly Catholic population. Street protests ensued, and Members of the European Parliament who opposed EU expansion used the incident to cast aspersions on Slovenia’s readiness to join the EU (Jordon 57). Queer diplomacy is thus a multi-faceted dynamic, and does not possess static messaging.

Queer Diplomacy and its Discontents

Although queer diplomacy at Eurovision can be a powerful instrument, it has its drawbacks. The perception that the state is endorsing sexual liberalism can invite backlash from conservative nations, straining relations and deepening a sense of civilizational clash. In particular, countries on the margins of Europe face a double whammy, because they are simultaneously accused of being illiberal, and of not being orthodox enough.

For example, when Azerbaijan hosted Eurovision in 2012, Iranian clerics accused the country of holding a “gay parade,” even though there were no plans for such an event. Consequently, Iran recalled its ambassador from Baku, claiming that Azerbaijan had engaged in anti-Islamic behavior. In the words of cultural studies scholar Katrin Sieg, “overt homophobia became a privileged vehicle for expressing patriotism.” At the same time, LGBTQ activists called for a boycott of the contest, on the grounds that Azerbaijan had a poor track record on LGBTQ rights. Thus, Azerbaijan’s attempt to harness cultural diplomacy for foreign policy objectives backfired.[40]

Another paradigmatic example of conservative backlash is the Russian reaction to the victory of Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst in 2014. The popularity of the performer was seen as a repudiation of Putin’s new anti-gay law; indeed, the British magazine New Statesmen commented before the contest that “a vote for Wurst is another vote against Russian homophobia and transphobia, and a win would send out a strong message of defiance eastwards.”[41] When Wurst won Eurovision, Russian politicians launched an invective against Europe; the Deputy Prime Minister posted on Twitter that the result “showed supporters of European integration their European future: a bearded girl.” While Europe’s support for Wurst is laudable in principle, one wonders if it merely antagonized Russia further, contributing to the growing East-West divide, and making Putin even more determined to press on with its crackdown on queers.

The animosity generated by Wurst’s victory is reflected in a 2014 New Year’s Eve broadcast on Russian television. A singer parodied Wurst belting the gay anthem “I Will Survive,” giving a Nazi salute to evoke Wurst’s homeland, Austria, and repeatedly yelling “Russia, I love you” at the end of the song. New York Times columnist Gary Shteyngart interpreted the performance in the following way:

The message is clear: Europe may have rejected homophobia, a value it once shared with Russia, by giving a musical prize to a drag queen, but Russia, like Gloria Gaynor herself, will survive, never to succumb to the rest of the world’s wimpy notions of tolerance.

Far from being transcendental, queer musical diplomacy can fan the flames of nationalism and worsen existing fractures. Even if we reject Shteyngart’s interpretation of the parody as an over-reading, the fact that it appeared in a leading national publication is likely to lead to deterioration in goodwill between the Russian and American people.

Surprisingly, the queerness of Eurovision has at times been received with as much hostility in the West as in the East. If the eastern bloc presents queer visibility as evidence of moral degeneration in the west, far-right western commenters have projected Eurovision’s queerness onto the East, conflating the sexual other with a geographical one.[42] For instance, German Eurovision personality Stefan Raab and former BBC Eurovision host Terry Wogan have both denounced the queerness of Eurovision as being antithetical to the ethos of their own nations. Even liberal Finland has experienced a degree of backlash against Eurovision.[43]

Crucially, the appropriation of queerness at Eurovision has elicited mixed reactions from the LGBTQ community itself. Queer left critics argue that this phenomenon has made queerness a tool of cultural imperialism, causing it to lose its radical subversive potential.  For instance, the British Marxist libertarian periodical, Spiked, lamented in an editorial that Wurst had been “weaponised by establishment voices looking for a way to say ‘the West is best.’” To be sure, this critique is largely an elite discourse; the majority of queer Eurovision viewers were thrilled by Wurst’s triumph. However, as queer theorist Mikko Tuhkanen has established, there is also a “narrative of decline” amongst an older generation of queer fans, who resent the assimilation of queerness into the mainstream of Eurovision. Although much of this sentiment is probably nostalgia for a romanticized past, it raises important questions about the ethics of cultural appropriation in cultural diplomacy. The left-wing attack on Eurovision is well-documented as part of a broader discourse on celebrity diplomacy.[44]

A final criticism of queer diplomacy at Eurovision is that it appeals to the sensibilities of a gay, white, male, middle-class fandom, creating a new homo-normativity which marginalizes lesbians and trans and bisexual people, and which ignores the intersections of sexuality with race, gender, and socio-economic status. Even when lesbian and trans acts like t.A.T.u and Šerifović appear on Eurovision, their performances are frequently refracted through discourses of cisgender heterosexist desire. Queerness has transformed diplomacy at Eurovision, but diplomacy has similarly transfigured the modalities of queerness in the process.


In spite of these sobering qualifications, Eurovision illuminates the potential for musical diplomacy to serve as a platform for inclusion, as well as the role of queerness in public diplomacy. If music does not always have Apollonian effects, it can at least serve a Dionysian function, opening the field for the contestation of hegemonic sexuality in the realm of international relations and foreign policy. Nonetheless, more research into the intersectionality of nationality, diplomacy, and sexuality is needed to determine whether the trajectory of queer Eurovision is an exception or a rule.

Despite this, the story of Eurovision offers three lessons for practitioners and scholars in the newly-emergent study of music and diplomacy. First, musical diplomacy is not confined to the linear transmission of high culture or mainstream popular culture, which dominate most state-sponsored efforts. Eurovision demonstrates that sub-culture, and counter-culture all play a role, especially in the way queerness permeates the competition.[45] Second, this diversity, irony, and self-reflexivity is an opportunity rather than a threat, for it offers nations the platform to burnish their pluralistic credentials. In some senses, artistes like Dana International and Conchita Wursts were “extreme antidiplomats – impervious to the pull of socialization.”[46] However, this resistance was what made them so attractive as diplomatic tools. Third, in the Darwinist world of diplomacy, Newton’s law still holds true: every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Queer diplomacy will always face contestation, drawing cultural diplomacy into the culture wars. The alternative to acknowledging these realities would be to live in blissful ignorance, and trust the EBU rules which state that “no lyrics, speeches, or gestures of a political or similar nature shall be permitted.”[47] For better or for worse, this utopian ideal is neither enforced, not enforceable.


J. Y. Chua (’18) is a sophomore in Saybrook College.


Works Cited

Ahrendt, Rebekah, Mahiet, Damien, and Ferraguto, Mark. “Introduction.” Music and Diplomacy

from the Early Modern Era to the Present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print.

Aston, Elaine. “Competing Femininities: A ‘Girl’ for Eurovision.” Fricker and Gluhovic 163-77.

Baker, Catherine. “The Gay World Cup?: the Eurovision Song Contest, LGBTQ Equality, and

Human Rights after the Cold War.” Catherine Baker. Feb 2014. Web. 15 Feb 2015.

Bolognese, Joe. “Of Sequins and Suppression.” The Yale Globalist. 22 Oct 2010. Web. 5

Apr 2015.

“Britain Sends out First Gay Ambassador with Partner.” The Scotsman. 2 April 2004.  Web. 24

Nov 2015.

Calvocoressi, Thomas. “Can a bearded Austrian drag queen give Putin birds?” The New

Statesman 28 Apr 2015. Web. 5 Apr 2015.

Center for Citizen Diplomacy. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, 2014. Web. 21 Apr 2015.

Chauncey, George. Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate on Gay Equality. New

York: Basic Books, 2005. Print.

Cooper, Andrew Fenton. Celebrity diplomacy. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2008. Print.

Crawford, Charles. “The Love That Dared not Speak its Name in the Foreign Office.” The

Independent 30 Mar 2010. Web. 31 Mar 2015.

Cull, Nicholas J. “Public Diplomacy before Gullion: The Evolution of a Phrase.” Routledge

Handbook of Public Diplomacy. Ed. Nancy Snow and Philip M. Taylor. New York:

Routledge, 2009: 19-23. Print.

Davenport, Lisa. Jazz Diplomacy. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009. Print.

Duffy, Nick. “Could May 23 be the gayest day ever?” Pink News 21 Feb. 2015. Web. 27 Apr.


Fricker, Karen, and Gluhovic, Milija. “Introduction: Eurovision and the ‘New’ Europe.” Fricker

and Gluhovic 1-30. Print.

Fricker, Karen, and Gluhovic, Milija, eds. Performing the ‘New’ Europe: Identities, Feelings,

and Politics in the Eurovision Song Contest. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Print.

Gienow-Hecht, Jessica. “The World Is Ready to Listen: Symphony Orchestras and the Global

Performance of America.” Musical Diplomacy: Strategies, Agendas, Relationships. Spec.

issue of Diplomatic History 36/1 (2012): 17-28. Print.

Gluhovic, Milija. “Sing for Democracy: Human Rights and Sexuality Discourse in the

Eurovision Song Contest.” Fricker and Gluhovic 194-217.

Heller, Dana. “’Russian body and soul’: t.A.T.u performs at Eurovision 2003.” Raykoff and

Tobin 111-22.

Heller, Dana. “t.a.T.u. You! Russia, the Global Politics of Eurovision, and Lesbian Pop” Popular

            Music. 26.2 (2007): 195-210. Web. 15 Feb 2015.

Hume, Tim. “Eurovision: It’s soft politics, but it’s politics.” CNN 24 May 2012. Web. 21 Apr

Ismayilov, Murad. “State, identity, and the Politics of Music: Eurovision and Nation-Building in

Azerbaijan.” Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity 40:6 (2012):

833-51. Web. 5 Apr 2015.

Jordon, Paul. The Modern Fairy Tale: Nation Branding, National Identity and the Eurovision

 Song Contest in Estonia. Tartu: University of Tartu Press, 2014. Web. 15 Feb 2015.

Kershaw, Angela, and Kimyongür, Angela. Women in Europe Between the Wars: Politics,

Culture and Society. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Print.

Lampropoulos, Apostolos. “Delimiting the Eurobody: Historicity, Politicization, Queerness.”

Tragaki 151-72.

Lemish, Dafna. “Gay brotherhood: Israeli gay men and the Eurovision Song Contest.” Raykoff

and Tobin 123-34.

Maurey, Yossi. “Dana International and the Politics of Nostalgia.” Popular Music. 28.1 (2009):                 85-103. Web. 15 Feb 2015.

Mitrović, Marijana. “Colours of the New Face of Serbia: National Symbols and Popular Music.”

Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnography SASA LVI I (2): 7-17. Web. 5 Apr 2015.

O’Connor, John. The Eurovision Song Contest: 50 years: The Official History. London: Carlton,               2005. Print.

Out Now Consulting. Just How Gay is Eurovision?, 8 May 2011. Out Now Global. Web. 15 Feb              2015.

Pajala, Mari. “Closeting Eurovision. Heternormativity in the Finnish national television.” Queer

Eurovision. Spec. issue of Journal of Queer Studies in Finland (2007): 25-42. Web. 31

Mar 2015.

Raykoff, Ivan. and Tobin, Robert, eds. A Song for Europe: Popular Music and Politics in the

Eurovision Song Contest. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. Print.

Raykoff, Ivan. “Camping on the Borders of Europe.” Raykoff and Tobin 1-12.

Rehberg, Peter. “Taken by a Stranger: How Queerness Haunts Germany at Eurovision.” Fricker

and Gluhovic 178-93.

Rehberg, Peter. “Winning failure. Queer nationality at the Eurovision Song Contest.” Queer

Eurovision. Spec. issue of Journal of Queer Studies in Finland (2007): 60-65. Web. 31 Mar 2015.

Shteyngart, Gary. “‘Out of My Mouth Comes Unimpeachable Manly Truth.’” New York Times

22 Feb 2015. Web. 5 Apr 2015.

Sieg, Katrin. “Conundrums of Post-Socialist Belonging at the Eurovision Song Contest.” Fricker

and Gluhovic 218-37.

Stonewall. Eurovision Song Contest, 2015. Web. 21 Apr 2015.

Singleton, Brian, Fricker, Karen, and Elena, Moreo. “Performing the queer network. Fans and

families at the Eurovision Song Contest.” Queer Eurovision. Spec. issue of Journal of

Queer Studies in Finland (2007): 12-24. Web. 31 Mar 2015.

Shibusawa, Naoko. “The Lavender Scare and Empire: Rethinking Cold War Anti-Gay Politics.”

Diplomatic History (2012) 36.4: 723-53. Web. 31 Mar 2015.

Tobin, Robert. “Eurovision at 50: Post-Wall and Post-Stonewall.” Raykoff and Tobin 25-36.

Tragaki, Dafni, ed. Empire of Song: Europe and Nation in the Eurovision Song Contest. London:

Scarecrow Press Inc., 2013. Print.

Tragaki, Dafni, “Introduction.” Tragaki 1-34.

Tuhkanen, Mikko. “Introduction. Queer Eurovision, post-closet.” Queer Eurovision. Spec. issue

of Journal of Queer Studies in Finland (2007): 8-11. Web. 31 Mar 2015.


[1] Nick Duffy, “Could May 23 be the gayest day ever?” Pink News 21 Feb. 2015, Web. 27 Apr. 2015.

[2] Tim Hume, “Eurovision: It’s soft politics, but it’s politics,” CNN 24 May 2012, Web. 21 Apr

[3] Apostolos Lampropoulos, “Delimiting the Eurobody: Historicity, Politicization, Queerness,”

Tragaki 151-72.

[4] Rebekah Ahrendt, Damien Mahiet, and Mark Ferraguto, “Introduction.” Music and Diplomacy from the Early Modern Era to the Present, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, Print.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Andrew Fenton Cooper, Celebrity diplomacy, Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2008, Print, 11.

[7] George Chauncey, Why Marriage? The History Shaping Today’s Debate on Gay Equality, New

York: Basic Books, 2005, Print, 19.

[8] Charles Crawford, “The Love That Dared not Speak its Name in the Foreign Office,” The

Independent, 30 Mar 2010, Web. 31 Mar 2015.

[9] “Britain Sends out First Gay Ambassador with Partner.” The Scotsman. 2 April 2004.  Web. 24

Nov 2015.

[10] Naoko Shibusawa, “The Lavender Scare and Empire: Rethinking Cold War Anti-Gay Politics,” Diplomatic History (2012) 36.4: 723-53, Web. 31 Mar 2015.

[11] Lisa Davenport, Jazz Diplomacy, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2009, Print, 8.

[12] Robert Tobin, “Eurovision at 50: Post-Wall and Post-Stonewall,” Raykoff and Tobin, 34.

[13] Peter Rehberg, “Winning failure. Queer nationality at the Eurovision Song Contest,” Queer Eurovision. Spec. issue of Journal of Queer Studies in Finland (2007), Web. 31 Mar 2015, 64.

[14] Out Now Consulting, Just How Gay is Eurovision?, 8 May 2011, Out Now Global, Web, 15 Feb 2015.

[15] Brian Singleton, Karen Fricker, and Moreo Elena, “Performing the queer network. Fans and

families at the Eurovision Song Contest.” Queer Eurovision. Spec. issue of Journal of

Queer Studies in Finland (2007): 12-24. Web. 31 Mar 2015, 14.

[16] Catherine Baker, “The Gay World Cup?: the Eurovision Song Contest, LGBTQ Equality, and

Human Rights after the Cold War,” Catherine Baker, Feb 2014, Web, 15 Feb 2015.


eller, Dana. , ed. e permitted”nts

iod  endotes 75- and 50uld be a space between ” Ahrendt et al, 8.

[18] Dafna Lemish, “Gay brotherhood: Israeli gay men and the Eurovision Song Contest,” Raykoff

and Tobin 128.

[19] Baker.

[20] John O’Connor, The Eurovision Song Contest: 50 years: The Official History, London: Carlton, 2005, Print, 153.

[21] Cooper, 126.

[22] Angela Kershaw and Angela Kimyongür, Women in Europe Between the Wars: Politics,

Culture and Society, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007, Print, 197.

[23] Nicholas J. Cull, “Public Diplomacy before Gullion: The Evolution of a Phrase,” Routledge

Handbook of Public Diplomacy, Ed. Nancy Snow and Philip M. Taylor, New York:

Routledge, 2009: 19-23, Print.

[24] Milija Gluhovic, “Sing for Democracy: Human Rights and Sexuality Discourse in the

Eurovision Song Contest,” Fricker and Gluhovic, 195.

[25] Karen Fricker, and Milija Gluhovic, “Introduction: Eurovision and the ‘New’ Europe,” Fricker

and Gluhovic, 22.

[26] Gluhovic, 195.

[27] Ivan Raykoff, “Camping on the Borders of Europe,” Raykoff and Tobin, 11.

[28] Gluhovic, 203.

[29] Yossi Maurey, “Dana International and the Politics of Nostalgia,” Popular Music, 28.1 (2009): 15 Feb 2015, 86.

[30] Ibid., 98.

[31] Marijana Mitrović, “Colours of the New Face of Serbia: National Symbols and Popular Music,” Bulletin of the Institute of Ethnography SASA LVI I (2): 7-1, Web, 5 Apr 2015.

[32] Elaine Aston, “Competing Femininities: A ‘Girl’ for Eurovision,” Fricker and Gluhovic, 174.

[33] Dana Heller, “’Russian body and soul’: t.A.T.u performs at Eurovision 2003,” Raykoff and

Tobin, 197.

[34] Ibid., 117.

[35] Joe Bolognese, “Of Sequins and Suppression,” The Yale Globalist, 22 Oct 2010, Web, 5

Apr 2015.

[36] Gluhovic, 194.

[37] Baker.

[38] Bolognese.

[39] Stonewall, Eurovision Song Contest, 2015, Web, 21 Apr 2015.

[40] Murad Ismayilov, “State, identity, and the Politics of Music: Eurovision and Nation-Building in Azerbaijan,” Nationalities Papers: The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity 40:6 (2012):

844, Web, 5 Apr 2015.

[41] Thomas Calvocoressi, “Can a bearded Austrian drag queen give Putin birds?” The New

Statesman 28 Apr 2015, Web, 5 Apr 2015.

[42] Peter Rehberg, “Taken by a Stranger: How Queerness Haunts Germany at Eurovision,” Fricker

and Gluhovic, 179.

[43] Mari Pajala. “Closeting Eurovision. Heternormativity in the Finnish national television,” Queer Eurovision, Spec. issue of Journal of Queer Studies in Finland (2007): 25-42, Web, 31

Mar 2015.

[44] Cooper, 13.

[45] Tragaki, 5-6.

[46] Cooper, 4.

[47] Hume.


Leave a Comment