The Eurovision Song Contest is in full swing, with the first live semi-final televised tonight (9 May). There are 31 acts in total competing across the two shows, with six extra acts guaranteed their final place.
One person buzzing to take to the stage is Belgium’s act Gustaph, with song ‘Because Of You’, which he describes as a queer anthem inspired by acceptance and chosen family.
He chats to Attitude in Liverpool about his sexuality, working closely alongside his husband on the Song Contest and being inspired by Eurovision’s first publicly trans contestant – and winner – Dana International.
“The song was really talking about the perspective of someone who realises where they are in life, and they’re happy to have people around them who can help them out,” he begins.
“Some people have told me that they had come out to their parents because of my song” – Gustaph
“A lot of queer people like myself, find like-minded individuals who feel the same way about certain things and have dealt with the same things as you have dealt with.
“Through those similarities, you bond, you find solace, and you lift each other up. It’s something we have been doing as queer people for generations. I think that’s something that just comes natural to our group of people,” he tells Attitude.
‘Because Of You’ was written by a fellow queer artist called Jaouad Alloul. Fans will see it for the first time on Thursday (11 May).
Gustaph also shared how he will be supported by his chosen family throughout the performance.
His best friends will be on stage, and his beloved husband Jeroen Lommelen, who is also his visual director, in the wings.
“The vision of Because Of You, is the chosen family. I get to take them on stage with me because my three best friends are on stage performing with me. I’ve been performing with these people for over 20 years.
“They are my family in that sense, and my husband is right next to me by the stage. All the visuals, he directed all those, and my music video as well.
“Until those shadows disappear, anything I do will be political, even if I don’t want it to be political”
“It’s a real a testimony of the song on stage, which I think is great,” Gustaph tells us.
He has been married to his husband for five years, and the poignant reasons why he wanted to tie the knot in the first place.
“I’m absolutely happy with my husband and I wanted to marry him first and foremost, because I love him to bits. But I also knew when I was growing up, there was no gay marriage in Belgium.
“I knew by doing that, I would support and carry on a tradition that’s been installed by law. Even though in Belgium, we’re at a point where there’s a lot of stuff in favour of us, there’s a lot of shadows, there’s still people shouting, there’s still people who don’t want me to marry my husband.
“Until those shadows disappear, anything I do will be political, even if I don’t want it to be political. So, I might as well use that political stance for good,” he explains.
The song itself wasn’t originally intended for Eurovision specifically either, much to our surprise.
“Eurovision has been quite punk in a lot of ways”
Gustaph says ‘Because Of You’ was written he wanted his own material for Pride events Belgium and Holland and Luxembourg.
He continues: “Eurovision has a very obvious queer following, and has always been connected to LGBTQIA personalities and subjects.
“If you look at what happened with Dana International in 1998, I was a young, gay, boy. I was 17 years old. That really felt like someone gave me a huge pat on the back, saying, ‘we are seen and we are loved, and we can actually win this competition!’
“There was a lot of hoo hah at the time. She was the first trans performer to actually do something like that. In that way, Eurovision has been quite punk in a lot of ways by including these kinds of moments.”
The singer is no stranger to Eurovision either. He’s provided backing vocals for two previous Belgian entries: Hooverphonic in 2021 and Sennek in 2018.
So how does he feel about going it alone?
“I now get to really delegate my own vision and get to work with people that I’ve chosen. Obviously, that’s different.
“I would have never done this without having those two experiences, because I really felt a tremendous pride when I was doing those, and especially when we had to perform, it really felt like you were doing it for your country. I never had that feeling before.
He said this made him more “ambitious” and he knew he wanted to “do this by myself”.
Gustaph finishes by sharing the incredible way in which his song has helped others within the community.
On the love he’s received from queer people, Gustaph says: “It’s been quite amazing to see how people respond to the song.
“Some people have told me that they had come out to their parents because they felt they were strong enough to do that [because of my song], for example.
“It’s really touching.”