Editorial: Why ORF Must Stand By Conchita Wurst

More than 31,000 people have liked the “Anti-Wurst” Facebook page, protesting ORF’s selection of Conchita Wurst for Eurovision 2013. That’s 12,000 more than like the official Conchita Wurst fan page at the moment. Another 3,100 have signed a petition calling on ORF to rethink its decision. Looking at those numbers, it seems that hate is winning the day.

Fans of the page have described the selection of Conchita—born Tom Neuwirth—as “trashy”, “a joke”, “foolish”, “embarrassing” and “disgusting”. The most repeated gag, which has been circulating on Twitter and Facebook, is that Austria has made the “wurst” decision possible. A minority of readers on our site have thrown wood into the fire. “Omg. I won’t be able to sleep after I saw this photo…Where is this world going?” one user wrote. Another suggested that sensationalism drove ORF’s thinking. “So this is how Eurovision 2014 begins…with a very ‘musical-oriented’ choice…Well I only have one comment to state: Österreich? Desperate much?”

Conchita WurstOthers have protested ORF’s decision to select their Eurovision candidate internally. “It is unacceptable that a public broadcaster, that lives off the fees its charges Austrians, completely and arbitrarily makes decisions over the heads of those who finance it,” one critic wrote on the anti-sausage Facebook page. But would this reader be crying foul if ORF had chosen a woman in a dress instead? We’re pretty sure he wouldn’t. In this instance, complaining about the selection process is a roundabout way of saying he doesn’t like a bearded lady.

The uproar over Conchita has nothing to do with the selection process and everything to do with transphobia. It’s the same narrow-minded thinking that encourages people to harass effeminite men and masculine women. It’s fed by ignorance, and an inability to see any gray between all the black and white. It also goes against the values of Eurovision — to bring nations and people together regardless of their background.

Conchita understands all of this and she’s taking the high road. Writing on her Facebook page, she made it clear she doesn’t want to be pitied. “I can live well beause tastes are different today,” she wrote. Miss Wurst doesn’t have time for hate and has pledged to stay true to her values.

I will continue to fight against discrimination and for tolerance. I am convinced that in the 21st Century really EVERY person has the right to live as he wants, as long as no one else is injured or limited in his freedom. And as far as I know I did not hurt anyone.

XOXO Conchy … oh and i love you all

The majority of our readers share that love. As a user named Alex wrote:

Kudos to Austria for this bold and brave choice! ESC has always been more than just a song contest. Political messages and statements for tolerance, love and peace amongst the people of Europe have always played a role in this contest in some way or the other. In times where barbaric laws are being enforced in Russia and people are persecuted and beaten up because of their sexuality, Conchita Wurst acts as a wonderful ambassador, fighting for a little more love around the world.

And that’s why it’s so important that ORF sticks by its decision and stands by Conchita. Her selection sends a powerful message of inclusion.

As we’ve seen in the past, the outrage is often much less memorable than the outcome. In 1998 some Orthodox Jews were aghast when transsexual Dana International (born Yaron Cohen) won the right to represent Israel at Eurovision. Members of Parliament even sought to have her Eurovision opportunity revoked. The message of her single “Diva” scared them because it conveyed the hope that the transgender community could find strength through struggle: “She is all you’ll ever dream to find/ On her stage she sings her story/ Pain and hurt will set her heart alight/ Like a queen in all her glory.” Europe was moved at the final and crowned her the winner. “My victory proves God is on my side,” she said afterward. “I want to send my critics a message of forgiveness … I am part of the Jewish nation.” “Diva” went on to sell more than 400,000 copies worldwide and made the Top 10 in five European countries.

It’s too early to know if Conchita can replicate Dana’s success. We have not yet heard her song, and Austria does not have the best track record at Eurovision. But it doesn’t matter. By appearing at Eurovision Conchita is creating a space for herself — and other gender-variant people — on Europe’s biggest stage. The lyrics to her 2012 song “That’s What I Am” seem even more stirring two years on.

That’s what I am, that’s what I’ll always be
I don’t wanna be silent ’cause this is my destiny
That’s what I was, that’s what feels good to me
And nothing will change me, that’s what I’m meant to be.

You can read our 2012 interview with Conchita Wurst by clicking here. Then keep up-to-date on the latest Eurovision news and gossip by following the team on Twitter @wiwibloggs and by liking our Facebook page.

Photo: Conchita Wurst