As Stockholm gears up to host Eurovision 2016 next May, LGBTQ rights activists are busy making sure that everyone will feel welcome at the party. To that end RFSL Stockholm, the Swedish Federation for Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights, is calling on the city to create an LGBTQ safe zone during Eurovision. Julle Bergenholtz, the vice-president of the organization, explains why.
Eurovision is often described as the Gay Olympics. Similarly, Stockholm is considered a very gay-friendly city, and Sweden a very gay-friendly country. Why do fans need a devoted LGBTQ space?
Although Eurovision and Stockholm both are LGBTQ-friendly environments, there is a lot of hate and discrimination growing in many parts of Europe, Sweden included, due to the rise of xenophobic political parties. Many LGBTQ people are therefore not able to be open and safe with their sexuality or gender identity in their home town or country. We therefore want Stockholm to reach out to all the Eurovision fans that will be staying in the city for Eurovision, and clearly show them that during this week, they can be their fabulous selves and make use of a space designated for LGBTQ people. This initiative is not meant to make Eurovision a Pride festival, as it would be arranged by the host city and be just one activity out of many events during the week, but we think that standing up for human rights in this fashion would be a great addition to the Eurovision experience.
What type of space do you propose? Would this be a designated building, or something larger like an entire city block or park with tents?
When I envision the space, I see a space outside, maybe a park, maybe a field, with tents, stages and different kinds of interactive activities (perhaps quizzes, meet and greets, karaoke and so on). Here, people could meet up with old friends and hang out, or find new contacts within the LGBTQ community, all within the spirit of the Eurovision Song Contest.
What types of events will go on there?
Apart from the things mentioned above, my hope is that there would be performances by past and present Eurovision acts. I also think it would be great to have a big screen and show the different parts of the contest within the area, for those that haven’t gotten tickets. The space could also provide a way of contact with Swedish organizations and companies working with LGBTQ issues in some way.
The last time Sweden hosted Eurovision, we got this same-sex kiss
What would the benefits be for the city of Stockholm and for Eurovision?
For Stockholm, it would be a way of strengthening its image as a LGBTQ-friendly city. Depending on how this space is executed and marketed though, I think the biggest gain could be for the Eurovision community, as Stockholm has the opportunity to send a message to future host cities. Hopefully, it can set the standard for upcoming events and change attitudes against LGBTQ people in countries where discrimination and hate are more prevalent.
Have city officials expressed a willingness to cooperate with you?
Since about a month back, I have been in talks with the Liberal Party in Stockholm, where several local politicians has started to work within the Stockholm City Council to make this a reality. We have a great cooperation and are consulting each other on the next steps to take to ensure that Stockholm will make this happen. The next step will probably be within the Stockholm City Council, as the question about the LGBTQ space in Eurovision probably will be brought up in city hall in November. So we are hopeful!