It’s that time of year again… Eurovision is upon us! A time when a large proportion of European countries do their best to come up with the biggest gimmicks and catchiest hooks, all in the name of winning our votes and having the best song in Europe.
With all of the glitz, extravagant outfits and over-the-top-ness of the competition, it’s no wonder that it appeals to a large section of the LGBT community; but while you’re joining in and cheering on a country whose song you like, it is also worthwhile bearing in mind how life can be for the LGBT communities actually living in those countries you are cheering on.
We have taken the top five favourites according to the British bookmakers and given our verdict, as well as giving you the low down on how they score on ILGA Europe’s latest ‘Rainbow Index’ – a leader board, if you will, for LGBT rights.
And while we are nowhere near favourite to win, we've also reviewed the UK to see how we're faring with our LGBT rights...
A dramatic electronic pop track that manages to squeeze in every musical gimmick possible within the three-minute allowance. The dazzling staging for this performance is one to beat in this competition and singer Sergey Lazarev performs well.
Russia is ranked by ILGA Europe as 48 out of 49 European countries. In this race to the bottom, on the ILGA Europe Rainbow Map they’re ‘beaten’ only by Azerbaijan. LGBT people’s freedoms of expression, assembly and association are severely restricted – including under the widely talked-about anti-‘homosexual propaganda’ law, passed in 2012. In this wave of state-backed repression, some LGBT organisations have been forced to close their doors.
Malta has not had much luck in the Eurovision Song contest lately but this could change as Ira Losco’s gospel-sounding track, with a radio-friendly hook, is quickly gaining momentum across Europe.
If ILGA’s Index is our measure, Malta gets our 12 points! Malta came top of the index, with a host of new protections for LGBT people passed in recent years. As of 2014, Malta has some of the most comprehensive and accessible legal protections for trans and non-binary communities in the world. Together with their banning of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ in 2015, Malta has become a standard setter for the rest of the world – including the UK!
A very sombre ode to the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in 1944 could be a little too political for Eurovision. The song is low-key and purposefully basic, which helps get the meaning across.
Ukraine doesn’t fare much better than Russia on ILGA's Rainbow Map. Ranked just 44 on ILGA’s Index, Ukrainian LGBT communities are often targeted in hate crimes, and extremist groups continue to violently target LGBT events, such as Kyiv Pride in 2015. While the country passed a new law banning LGBT discrimination at work in 2016, it’s pretty much still a drop in the ocean, with LGBT communities having few other legal protections.
Amir’s song for France is a fun, up-beat foot tapper full of folky guitars hand claps and ‘ooo-ooo-oooooohs’. It should get lots of people bopping in the arena and at home.
While not quite the top of ILGA chart, the French LGBT rights record is certainly a tour de force. Coming in at nine in ILGA's Rainbow Index, the French have not only equal marriage, but a new law extending legal recognition to non-binary communities! Oooh la la!
Hosts Sweden must love Eurovision because this entry by Frans is another strong contender. Not Stonewall’s favourite song of the competition but this mid-tempo track has been well received and is climbing up Spotify’s viral charts across Europe.
Behind France, Sweden comes in at 11 on ILGA's Index. Equal marriage and gender identity recognition they might have, but Sweden falls down on the Rainbow Index on its poor hate crime legislation and incomplete protections for LGBT families.
It’s nice enough but it’s not going to set the world alight. It does get our (non-partisan, of course!) vote because it’s more in the style of Eurovision than some of our previous entries. We hope that before the big night Joe and Jake hire some outlandish go-go dancers or get some pyrotechnics or something. Their performance needs a sprinkle of magic to spice it up. This is Eurovision after all!
Unlike our Eurovision performances, our LGBT laws are often thought to be the best. But as the ILGA Rainbow Map shows there is far, far more we could be doing and, in fact, we’re trailing behind. We came third overall in ILGA’s Index (behind Malta and Belgium) – this is because the laws affecting trans equality are badly in need of revision. Examples like Malta could help the UK move forward in improving the legal and policy situation for all LGBT people.