Sometimes you come across a Eurovision article that makes you stop and think about the wider impact that our Song Contest can have. One such article was Garrett Mulhall’s editorial on Eurovision Ireland today, “How Conchita Wurst At Eurovision 2014 is Life Saving“. We felt it deserved a wider audience, so with Mulhall’s permission, we’re reprinting it here for ESC Insight readers.
The selection of Conchita Wurst for Eurovision 2014 by Austria is more than just another singer at the contest. An act like Conchita at Eurovision 2014 will be life saving for hundreds if not thousands of lives by just being seen on a Global platform for 3 minutes singing a song.
I make that statement from personal experience and an overwhelming sense of loss. Please indulge me for 5 minutes and let me tell you of a man I knew called “Pat”. Pat was a very dear friend of mine back in the 1990′s when we became neighbours in our Dublin Townhouses. Pat was the first person to land on my doorstep with a freshly made Black Forest Gateaux – and he insisted on calling it a “Gateaux” – and a “larger than life” welcome to the neighbourhood.
As the years past, Pat and I shared many a laugh, and as friends do, the more trusting you become the more you reveal of yourself. For me it was my undying love of all things Eurovision and for Pat it was so much more. He confided in me that he wanted to dress in women’s clothes but had never had the courage to do so. This was all discussed over many a Black Forest Gateaux.
For Pat it was not a sexual fetish. It was him just feeling comfortable in women’s clothes. Back then in Ireland – and I am sure across many parts of the world – this was just not discussed. Pat felt tortured and conflicted in his feelings. There were no role models for him to look up to for courage and inspiration in the mass media. So we went on many a covert shopping spree for Pat over the years. You have no imagination how terrified we were shopping for his ladies clothing. Trying to deduce which sales assistant would be the most accepting – and nearly all the time we went for the more mature sales assistant who had the motherly quality to her appearance.
Only once were we asked to leave a store but the rest of the time it was secret excitement for Pat and the Motherly sales assistant. As the years went by Pat so desperately wanted to go out in Public as his alter ego “Patricia”, but society was not ready for that and Pat was confined to the 4 walls of his apartment to be Patricia. It was clear to me that not having his freedom to fully express himself and the person that he was – and that person would lay down their life for you, give you his last penny and always put out the hand of friendship to anyone who needed it – was key to him leading a happy life.
No matter how much I went on covert shopping trips with Pat or ate countless slices of Black Forest Gateaux – it was never ever going to be enough for Pat as he wanted to share “Patricia” with the world and just live his life in the skin that he was comfortable in. On a sad day in 1997 this struggle for Pat became a battle that had worn him down and in a dark moment the loving, friendly and brightest star I have ever known, could not take the confinement of his life any mare, and sadly took his own life. I will always remember that day and that feeling of “What if” – What if I had said this, What if I had walked down the street with him as Patricia, “what if” will ring in my mind for ever and that hopeless feeling that I wish I had done more! That hopeless feeling of wishing there were role models for Pat and Patricia to look up to.
1998 saw the explosion of Dana International onto the Eurovision Stage which certainly would have been a help to Pat. However he did always like to make it obvious that he was a man. Just like Conchita Wurst.
Since the announcement that Conchita Wurst would be appearing at Eurovision 2014, I have not stopped thinking of how this single act would have been a momentous event in Pat’s life and had it come in 1997 it could have been life saving for him. Through my work on Eurovision Ireland, I have read thousands of fan posts out there across the world. What truly saddens me is that there are so many people, who in this modern age, still feel it necessary to ridicule anyone who is different or breaks the mold of what is deemed as “Normal”. I truly think that the word “normal” should be removed from the dictionary as it is the most decisive word in any language. There is no such thing as normal which makes us all unique and life so enjoying!
Conchita on her official website refers to herself as a “woman”. Why do people feel it necessary to dispute that? Why do they feel it necessary to write posts with such hatred and defiance that they will call Conchita “Him” and urge other people that they do the same? I have seen Facebook Pages and Websites created to deny Conchita her moment to be whom she is and wants to be. Others use the time old excuse for their attitudes on Conchita as – it is all just a “gimmick to make money”. Let me tell you that all the money in the world is not enough to counteract the comments and threats that Conchita has received on-line or to give someone like my friend Pat the courage to walk down the street as the person they wanted to be.
For me, the performance of Conchita in Copenhagen at Eurovision 2014, will be one of the most socially pivotal moments in the contest’s and tv’s history. With several hundred million people looking at the show, there will be millions of children asking their parents questions on Conchita, her appearance and why she is acting like that? This is a social awakening that will spark many a household, pub, party and mass media debate. It is good to get people’s prejudices and lack of understanding out in the open so we can discuss them and show people that they are not a threat to anyone.
There will be people of all ages watching Conchita’s performance at Eurovision and feel that they are no longer alone. They are no longer the only person with these feelings and forms of expression locked up inside of them. They will no longer feel isolated and feel that the only way to escape these feelings and negative words from others is through taking their lives. I for one would have loved to have had Conchita Wurst at Eurovision 1997 and my dear friend Pat could still be here enjoying Eurovision with me.
All I ask is that before anyone feels the need to write a derogatory comment on Conchita and people like her – just take a minute and really think if it is necessary and how you might be harming someone? You don’t have to vote for her – you just have to judge her on her song and performance. You have the power to save a life too by not joining the mob mentality and joining the Witch Hunt.
Maybe just sharing this post might save a life too.
One final word for my dearly departed friend Pat, “Anyone for Black Forest Gateaux?”
Garrett Mulhall (Eurovision Ireland).