(Blogmensgo, gay blog of March 27, 2019) Who are the 20 most influential LGBTI personalities in the world in 2019? On the website of the French edition of Vanity Fair, Bilal Hassani, a 19-year-old singer and this year's representative of France to the ESC, is at the top of a ranking that offers some surprises. Here are a few thoughts about this ranking and the people in it.
Information on the ranking
The people honored by Vanity Fair’s are ranked according to “their art, activism or political activism and because they “often put their voice at the service of minority rights”.
This immediately excludes people who have not come out and people like Tim Cook who don’t show any activism at all.
The news or actions should be somewhat recent, but not too recent either because of the editorial deadline: the exemplary behavior of Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, who openly talked about his homosexuality towards the leaders of the Arab League only recently, could therefore no longer be taken into account.
Quite varied list of winners
Loui Sand comes out as a transsexual in Swedish handball
Back to the list of winners. The 20th rank for Loui Sand is not so much due to the importance of Swedish women’s handball as to the current news from January 7, 2019, when Swedish handball player Louise Sand made public the end of her career and the feeling of a male identity. Louise Sand will now change into Loui Sand.
Her place on Vanity Fair’s list of winners means that Loui Sand represents all people who were born in a female body but consider their identity to be male.
In fact, trans persons make up a quarter of the list, with Loui Sand being the only one of the five trans personalities born into a female body.
The other people on the ranking list are gay, lesbian or bisexual. The entertainment industry is also very well represented with 12 stars and starlets: Singers (like Bilal Hassani), DJs, actors and actresses, television presenters and even a dancer.
Jean Wyllys will continue his fight elsewhere
With five places on the ranking list, politicians are well represented, too. Most of them were almost unknown a year ago, such as gay Brazilian MP Jean Wyllys. He finished third in the rankings after leaving parliament and fleeing Brazil for fear of a homophobic attack or persecution in his country. The LGBT rights campaigner in parliament believes that the election of Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil's leader has fueled the anti-LGBT sentiment.
Pete Buttigieg – a gay man in the White House?
The 8th place on the ranking is practically unknown both in Europe and in his own country, the United States. Pete Buttigieg, aged 37, mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2012, is running for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election. The openly gay Buttigieg believes his homosexuality will not affect his campaign.
Like any ambitious American politician, Pete Buttigieg has just published an autobiography with a strong electoral focus, and now the American press is taking him a little more seriously. In this book, entitled Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future, the author reveals his homosexuality only on page 40. It is only in chapter 16 that Buttigieg poses the important and very personal question: “How to reconcile my professional life with the fact that I am gay?”
Pete Buttigieg is a former professional soldier. He hardly knew the era of the infamous “Don't ask, don't tell” policy. He was a lieutenant in the US Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan, among other places (he speaks fluent Arabic and Dari). After the end of the prohibition for homosexual soldiers to live their homosexuality openly, Buttigieg had nothing to fear, especially since he is only a reserve officer now.
At the age of 33, he was already a Harvard graduate and was able to “order a sandwich in seven foreign languages” (besides English, Arabic and Dari, he speaks Maltese, French, Spanish, Italian and Norwegian fluently) and began his second term as mayor. (We can find many similarities with Jared Polis: The new governor of Colorado is also gay and studied at Princeton). At the age of 33 he was still in the closet, wanted to make his homosexuality official and find the man of his life.
Only in January 2015, at the age of 33, did Pete Buttigieg reveal his homosexuality to his parents – who had long suspected it. A while later, he also outed himself to his voters in the municipal magazine. This was quite bold because Mike Pence (today US Vice President), known for his homophobic beliefs, was Governor of Indiana then.
After his coming-out, Pete Buttigieg met Chasten Glezman on the Internet, and the two got married on June 16, 2018.
When a black man named Barack Obama published his autobiography in 1995, no one suspected that he would be elected President of the United States thirteen years later. When Pete Buttigieg published his autobiography in 2019, he was not the only one who believed he could become the first openly gay American president.
Bilal Hassani: A first victory before the Eurovision Song Contest
Bilal Hassani will represent France at the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 from May 14 to 18. Does the 19-year-old young gay singer have a chance to win? Judging by his voice and the song he chose, maybe not. After his media presence, his self-staging, his popularity, his activism, the lyrics and the way he won the French pre-selection, he may very well – and it would be a great and well-deserved victory.
Bilal Hassani likes to wear wigs and is a big fan of Conchita Wurst who won the ESC in 2014. The following year, Bilal sang one of her songs on The Voice Kids and is now participating in ESC 2019.
Bilal’s voice is different from Conchita’s of course. His song is called “Roi” and has a rather ordinary melody. And yet the official clip points to a compelling stage potential…
An unofficial version of the clip on YouTube, shows a very interesting and personal page of the young singer-songwriter:
In the song and clip Bilal shows his personal side not out of vanity but because of his personal commitment: He is the way he is (gay), always has been and always will be. He has suffered much from homophobic hostility and will continue to suffer for a long time to come, but he transforms all this into a positive message that he wants to convey.
In addition to mobilizing his fans, Bilal also uses the sympathy of other influencers (especially on Instagram and YouTube) and conventional media, including major newspapers such as Le Monde and Le Figaro.
Regardless of the outcome of Eurovision, Bilal has also planned a major tour of France for late 2019, including a performance at the legendary Paris venue Olympia on October 21, and a warm-up tour is already underway.
He has already published two more songs – like a real professional: Use the media, increase the pressure and gain more public sympathy.
One thing is clear: It is people like Bilal Hassani who can move the masses and influence opinions.
There have, of course, always been artists similarly committed to social aspects. Take Lara Fabian, for example, who at 49 is three decades older than Bilal Hassani. More than twenty years ago, she released a song called “La difference” (“The Difference”). Then as now, an important hit for the LGBT community, with an exceptional voice and a beautiful black and white video.
Since the release of this song in 1996, Lara Fabian has been singing this LGBT and anti-racism anthem in all her concerts, including in Russia several times. On her last tour in Russia, this song earned her a huge fine, even though it was performed in French and not in Russian – however illustrated with photos of LGBT couples. Therefore, Lara Fabian has been receiving more or less explicit threats in Russia despite her great popularity.
Here is the song again, along with the complete lyrics (in French). It might make it easier to understand Lara Fabian’s problems with the Russian government.
By the way, Lara Fabian also took part in a final of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988 (for Luxembourg).
The final of the Eurovision Song Contest will take place on May 18, 2019, the day after the International Day Against Homophobia (May 17). A victory for Bilal Hassani would of course have a very special symbolic meaning.
Frank-S / MensGo