Despite accusations of “pinkwashing”, Eurovision 2019 was perhaps the most LGBT-inclusive iteration in the longest-running international television contest’s 64 years. The final of this year’s Eurovision contest took place on 18 May.

A number of LGBTQI+ groups announced that they would be boycotting the event, with organisations in Copenhagen, Barcelona and Melbourne announcing that they would cancel planned Eurovision parties, accusing Eurovision organisers of aiming to appear as LGBTQ-friendly in order to be seen as progressive.

The boycott surrounds ongoing conflict in Israel, where the 64th annual Eurovision Song Contest was held, with activists citing human rights discrimination against Palestinians. Organisers have reiterated that the showcase is non-political, but participants as well as the guest performer Madonna snuck in subtle criticism by displaying Palestinian flags without the organisers’ permission.

Queerer than ever before

Pinkwashing accusations aside, Eurovision 2019 did have plenty of queer references this year.

France’s entrant, the openly gay Muslim performer, Bilal Hassani, brought a gender-bending performance of his gay anthem “Roi” (“King”), while Iceland’s entrant into the competition was Hatari, a group that describes itself as an “award-winning, anti-capitalist, BDSM, techno-dystopian performance art collective”.

Add guest performances by the 1998 Eurovision winner, Israeli transgender singer Dana International, 2014’s Austrian winner Conchita Wurst and queer icon Madonna, and this year’s Eurovision certainly looks like the most pro-LGBTI event in the competition’s history.

Eurovision is often referred to as the “gay Olympics”, and host Asi Azzar also got in on the pink action by referring to Grindr, a gay dating app, when talking about the voting app for Eurovision. Said Azzar, “As you know we have all kinds of apps on our phones – apps to get around, apps to order food, a certain app which is on fire right now because of all the handsome tourists in Tel Aviv.”

Eurovision 2019 was ultimately won by Duncan Laurence of the Netherlands with his song “Arcade”, followed by Italy’s Mahmood and Russia’s Sergey Lazarev in second and third place, respectively.