It’s high time for Ukraine to show it supports and accepts all and everyone. In just a few days up to 20,000 tourists are expected to come to Kyiv for Eurovision, the extravagant song contest loved and watched by many members of the LGBT community. Especially after the groundbreaking victories of transgender woman Dana International in 1998 and, most recently, the bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst in 2014, the contest has truly and deservingly established itself as an all-inclusive event.
Kyiv seemed to be on the right track when it chose “Celebrate Diversity” as the Eurovision 2017 slogan, and the city’s state administration even made lukewarm attempts to live up to it.
The “Arch of Diversity” scandal aside, which would have one of Kyiv’s most controversial monuments redesigned as a rainbow, but came to an abrupt stop after some people’s complaints about propaganda, there was another notable case. Ukraine’s official Eurovision promo video, entitled “Come to Ukraine to Celebrate Diversity,” which shows about a dozen white, able-bodied and straight people singing along and dancing to a song with lyrics “let’s rejoice in our diversity.” The 30-second video clip, while missing the point of the slogan entirely, illustrates the situation in Ukraine perfectly: It’s fine to celebrate diversity as long as you’re white and healthy, and it’s okay to be gay as long as you’re not open about it.
And then there is the Livoberezhna metro station, the closest metro station to this year’s Eurovision venue, which had been closed down for renovation since mid-February. Just days before its scheduled reopening on May 1, it turned out the entrance doors were too narrow for wheelchair users to even get through them.
The Livoberezhna metro station entrance doors were hurriedly redone and widened. And Jamala, who represented Ukraine at Eurovision 2016 in Sweden, and whose victory there brought the contest to Kyiv, is the first Ukrainian Eurovision candidate to publicly support the country’s LGBT community.
But change, and acceptance of diversity, is coming to Ukraine slowly, and not yet fully enough to stop Kyiv’s Eurovision slogan from ringing a little hollow.