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Who are the LGBTQ artists at Eurovision 2022?

The Eurovision Song Contest is often seen as a safe space for LGBTQ performers. Here, we highlight this year’s artists representing the rainbow family.

By Matt Baker

Words: Matt Baker; pictures: EBU/Andres Putting and Corinne Cumming

It’s no secret that the Eurovision Song Contest attracts LGBTQ fans from across the globe. Every year you see rainbow flags being waved in front of the TV camera as it pans across the arena.

The community has had many a poignant moment on stage whether it be trans superstar Dana International’s win in 1998 or Conchita Wurst telling us we are unstoppable as she lifted the trophy in 2014.

To all the LGBTQ singers, songwriters, and dancers that are in front of the camera, Eurovision can mean just as much as it does to queer fans. So, who’s flying the flag for the community over in Turin this year?

Sheldon Riley – Australia

Sheldon Riley (Photo: EBU/Andres Putting)

Australia has had no problem sending LGBTQ entries to Eurovision, having selected queer singer Montaigne in 2021. Sheldon Riley will follow in Montaigne’s footsteps in 2022 and the former X Factor and The Voice contestant has a story to tell.

Married to partner Zachery Tomlinson since 2018, Riley knows a thing or two about feeling different. Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as a boy and bullied for being gay through school, Riley’s Australian entry to Eurovision, ‘Not The Same’, is all about that difference and feeling excluded.

In the Eurovision performance, the Sydney-born singer will wear a gold-plated mask decorated with Swarovski crystals. Towards the end of the song, Riley removes the mask in an act that he describes as being in control of how happy you feel about your own appearance.

Speaking to Australian TV channel, SBS, Riley says: “The mask is everything that I would have loved to have owned as a little kid. I just love anything that sparkles. I kind of call it my ‘beautiful distraction’.

“I’ve always wanted to be a performer for a really long time, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, but I have never really loved the idea of being photographed and videoed. Without getting too deep, I don’t really love myself or like the way I look in the mirror.”

When the opportunity came up for Riley to perform with the mask at Australia’s national selection for Eurovision, he saw it as a chance to do what he’s always wanted to do without people having to see him.

But as Riley explains, he started to change his mind the more time passed by. “I realised this whole beautiful distraction isn’t something I want to be an advocate for. I don’t want to be the one saying ‘Oh, you hate the way you look? You should hide it and that will be the only way you get happiness’.”

For Riley’s Eurovision performance, he will be taking the mask off. “I also don’t want to put it down because I want to be the person that’s in control of it.”

Systur – Iceland

Systur (Photo: EBU Corinne Cumming)

As the name suggests, Systur is a trio of sisters: Sigga, Beta, and Elín. Their song ‘Með Hækkandi Sól (With The Rising Sun)’ is about the light that comes after the dark. Elín is openly gay and has even performed with her sisters at Pride events. The group have also been advocates for those that are marginalised in society.

This advocacy includes support for trans children. “I have a trans child,” says bandmember Sigga Eyþórsdóttir, who talked to me during some downtime from Eurovision rehearsals.

“When my child came out as trans, I didn’t realise how difficult it was because I was open to it and accepting. It was a new world and reality for me. It showed me how we are suppressed and the injustice of not being able to express your own gender freely.”

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A post shared by Sigga Eyþórsdóttir (@sigga.ey)

But Eyþórsdóttir stresses that she doesn’t want to get political.

“I just want to ask parents to support their child. Love them unconditionally and be there with them because 82 percent of trans people think about taking their own life. And 40 percent will try to. That is such a scary thing for me to think about my child taking their own life because they weren’t accepted. So, for me, I want to give this minority group of people a platform.”

Even though this contest is very friendly towards the LGBTQ community, Eyþórsdóttir says not all countries watching are so open and accepting. “I’m not here to judge but I’m just bringing this message with kindness. Love your child and support them. It’s so important.”

Michael Ben David – Israel

Michael Ben David – centre (Photo: EBU Corinne Cumming)

Firstly, it’s great that we can mention Michael Ben David as it looked like his Eurovision journey was ending before it even began. With all that put aside, let’s jump in!

David was the winner of the most recent X Factor Israel, where one of the judges was none other than Netta – the Eurovision 2018 champion. With a song that wouldn’t look out of place as a RuPaul’s Drag Race ensemble piece, David delivers a camp and uber confident performance with ‘I.M.’

The 25-year-old is yet another artist who knows only too well the struggles of being bullied at school for being gay. His musical repertoire is vast, having covered songs during his time on the X Factor from the likes of Lizzo, Pet Shop Boys, Abba, and Billie Eilish.

So, now you know where to put your votes if you’re looking to support LGBTQ artists on Saturday night.

The Eurovision Song Contest is live on the BBC on 14 May.