Tom Neuwirth is heading to Copenhagen next year to represent his homeland of Austria at the Eurovision Song Contest. But he’ll be performing as Conchita Wurst, his larger-than-life drag persona—which has some folks bent out of shape: A Facebook page attempting to get Wurst chopped from the campy competition has garnered some 40,000 likes.
It’s not just bigotry in Austria Wurst is facing: Artsyom Kirashou of Belarus has gotten more than 2,000 people to sign his petition to keep Eurovision from airing in his homeland because the show is becoming “a hotbed of sodomy” and Wurst makes him physically ill.
“If we open the doors to everything that they’re trying to push on us, it’s hard to imagine what can happen,” Kirashou says. “So, first and foremost, I’m doing it for our children, who haven’t yet developed their personalities and who are very sensitive about the world around them. Secondly, [for] the Belarusian people who live in accordance with Orthodox Christian laws.”
Um, this is the Eurovision Song Contest—renowned for tacky outfits, kitschy lyrics and questionable talent. Why, in 2012 we even declared it the gayest music competition of all time.
Don’t believe us? Check out this photo of Irish twins Jedward, who competed that year.
In 1998, trans singer Dana International, representing Israel, won Eurovision with her hit “Diva, which went on to sell 500,000 copies. And last year, Finnish singer Krista Siegfrids declared her song “Marry Me,” was an ode to marriage equality. (She wrapped her live performance at the finals in Malmö, Sweden, by kissing a female backup singer.)
For her part, Conchita isn’t really fazed by the haters: “I don’t pay huge attention to it,” says the openly gay 25-year-old. “My stance is that I fight for something positive rather than against something negative.”
Neuwirth first hit the scene on the Austrian talent showcase Starmania in 2006, followed by a brief turn in a boy band. Wurst was born in 2011, debuting on Die Grosse Chance (The Big Chance).
With a look (and wardrobe) that suggests Kim Kardashian, Wurst received some ridicule at first, but her knockout performance landed her a standing ovation—and second place in the show. Wurst also came in second in the competition to represent Austria at Eurovision in 2012.
Below, check out Wurst’s rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” from Die Grosse Chance.