There are two momentous cultural events happening in Europe next week. The first is an Irish Referendum on Marriage Equality that looks set to pass with a large majority, and which has caused a political and social debate the likes of which have not been seen in the country for some time – well, at least since last summer’s Garth Brooks debacle. The second is Australia’s debut in the Eurovision Song Contest. Yes, we know that Australia is nowhere near Europe, but then again neither is Israel, but the Eurovision exists in a strange, spangled, glittery parallel universe. Vienna is hosting this year’s contest, and to get in the mood for an onslaught of kitsch, the city has installed gay-themed traffic lights. “Dozens of traffic lights in central Vienna have been programmed to show male or female gay couples with hearts – in red for stop and green for go – replacing the usual single, gender-neutral figure,” reports The Irish Times. “The campaign is intended to present Vienna as an open-minded city and also to improve traffic safety as the unusual symbols attract the attention of drivers and pedestrians.”
The Eurovision is probably the most high-profile gay-friendly event in the world. Last year’s winner, Conchita Wurst, is a bearded transvestite. Israel’s Dana International, who won the contest in 1998, is transsexual. To coincide with the contest, Vienna is hosting a “Life Ball” charity event on May 16th to raise funds for AIDs research. Charlize Theron and Jean-Paul Gaultier will attend. You can tune in to the song contest on May 23rd. Hopefully, everyone’s favorite Finnish punk band will be there.