Israeli transsexual wins Eurovision contest
May 18, 1998
Israeli transsexual pop diva Dana International won the Eurovision song contest in Birmingham, England, May 9, setting off wild celebrations in the streets by Israeli gays.
The contest, featuring competitors from 25 nations, was seen by 600 million TV viewers throughout Europe, where it is considered a major event.
"My victory is my personal birthday gift to the state [of Israel] on its 50th birthday," said International, 29, who performed her dance hit 'Diva' wearing a clingy dress designed for her by Jean-Paul Gaultier.
"It is a signal to all those around the world who harbor prejudices -- we are all equal. I am proud and happy. ... This just goes to show the world is open-minded and liberated," she said.
International, born Yaron Cohen, was a popular drag performer in Israel's gay clubs before her 1993 sex-change operation.
Her nomination to represent Israel in the contest angered some conservative legislators, with one calling her "an abomination" and another fuming: "Undergoing a sex change is worse than an act of sodomy. Choosing her is sending a message of darkness to the world."
But Israeli President Ezer Weizman gushed, "I stayed glued to my television set until late and I was very proud of her because it's a victory for our country."
International is scheduled to perform this August at the Gay Games in Amsterdam.
Former Eurovision winners include ABBA, who won with Waterloo in 1974, and C?ine Dion, who won in 1988 representing Switzerland. Singers need not be a citizen of the nation they represent.
from Rex Wockner's International News