As the dust settles on the 2022 contest and Eurovision fans stare down the barrel of a long off-season, here at ESCXTRA, we wanted to spend the summer highlighting our moments of appreciation for Eurovision 2022. Up next, we discuss the importance of Iceland’s Systur using the platform of the contest to speak about transgender rights.
The role of politics in the Eurovision ‘bubble’ has long been a point of contention. Ahead of the 2018 contest, the EBU issued modified rules, which explicitly denounces the use of political messaging in all forms:
No messages promoting any organization, institution, political cause or other, company, brand, products or services shall be allowed in the Shows and within any official ESC premises (i.e. at the venue, during the Opening Ceremony, the Eurovision village, the Press Centre, etc.).Excerpt from the EBU’s rules for the contest, circa 2018
However, the definition of what is a ‘political cause’ is murky when it concerns issues of identity; the mere presence of artists from marginalised communities on the Eurovision stage is political in itself.
Loud and proud
This year, Iceland’s Systur decided to weave support and advocacy for trans youth into their entire run at the contest, which was not only allowed, but supported by the official communications of the contest. A quick glance at their official artist profile on Eurovision.tv demonstrates this; In their official photo, Sigga and Beta are wearing outfits that feature the trans flag and Elín has a T-shirt with “Trans rights are human rights” written on it.
In recent years, they have focused their activism on trans children’s rights, and are deeply involved with the local community.Systur’s participant profile on Eurovision.tv
It’s also worth noting that since the 2018 rules were issued, the official website now includes the preferred pronouns of each participating artist for both Eurovision and Junior Eurovision – a gesture that promotes inclusivity in the coverage of the contest regarding gender identity.
Their decision to intertwine Sigga’s message as a supportive parent of a transgender child is all-the-more touching in the contest of their Eurovision journey. Systur defied the odds of both Söngvakeppnin and Eurovision itself to make it all the way to the Grand Final.
In the Icelandic national final, they were very much an outside bet to win, especially competing alongside Reykjavíkurdætur (The Daughters of Reykjavík) – who came into Söngvakeppnin with a considerably higher profile. Nevertheless, Systur managed to sneak into the Superfinal and ultimately come out on top by over 8,000 votes.
With their surprise win, which came towards the end of the national final season, “Með hækkandi sól” never really received much hype or traction within ‘the bubble’, even after their gorgeous staging was revealed during second rehearsals.
Despite being a mere 14th in the odds to qualify ahead of semi-final one, Systur placed in the top 10 of the semi-final with both the televote and the juries, ranking 10th overall with 103 points, almost 30 points clear of 11th place Croatia.
Immediately after their triumphant qualification, they arrived at the qualifiers press conference donning both the trans and Ukrainian flags, continuing to keep their messages connected to their participation in the contest.
When asked by a journalist who identifies as trans why the message of trans rights was so important to them, Sigga gave the following response:
The reason why we are talking about this is [because] my son is transgender, and I didn’t realise until he came out how narrow-minded a lot of people are, and we decided to go the way with spreading the message to parents because, you know, some people are just ignorant about it. And we don’t wanna judge them, we just wanna spread love and ask parents to love their children unconditionally, and let them be free to express whatever gender they feel the need to express.Sigga at the First Semi-Final Qualifiers Press Conference (7:55)
This wonderfully eloquent response captures why it is important that Systur were not silenced by rigid rules, and instead allowed to come to the contest as their whole selves and championing a cause that impacts their lives directly as they so wish.
I hope to see more artists in the coming years take this route if they have a story to share with the world.
Stay tuned for the next instalment of our Moments of Appreciation series next week! Be sure to stay updated by following @ESCXTRA on Twitter, @escxtra on Instagram, @escxtra on TikTok and liking our Facebook page for the latest updates! Also, be sure to follow us on Spotify for the latest music from your favourite ESC and JESC acts.